Benitez commands respect at Anfield

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Rafael BenitezNo player is exempt from criticism, not even Mr. Liverpool

Rafael Benitez

“Rafa Benitez must keep Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher on his side at Liverpool.”

This was the suggestion of one football analyst in the wake of Liverpool’s loss at Stamford Bridge last Sunday. It brought to mind the age old saying: “There is no man bigger than the club”.

It’s a statement that rings true, especially with regards to power hungry players. Rafa Benitez has been entrusted with the reins at Anfield and despite public spats with the owners, the Spanish tactician remains in charge and his authority is unquestionable.

Of course the manager wants to receive the support of his two key players when making managerial decisions. The players are getting paid in an excess of £100,000-per-week, it’s the least they can do.

It is natural that Benitez would confer occasionally with the superior players at the club like Gerrard and Carragher. The pair provide an indispensable insight into the atmosphere in the dressing room and also in the local community.

It has been pointed out on many occasions that Carragher is noted as a football obsessive, even more so than Alistair McGowan. A future candidate for the gaffer’s role at Anfield, Benitez would take on board any suggestions from his tenacious centre back.

Liverpool slumped to a home 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in late August. In the post match press conference Benitez was indirectly critical of Carragher’s defending and said of the spot kick his captain conceded: “Gerrard gave the penalty away and it was a clear penalty.”

It has been suggested in the media that the comments Rafa Benitez made showed a lack of deference to the two men who “held Liverpool together from Istanbul to Barcelona”. No one can undermine the contributions of the duo to the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club.

Both of the two local lads have already left an eternal mark on the clubs history and will remain in the analogues of Anfield along with other legends like Tommy Smith, Emelyn Hughes, Kenny Daglish and Alan Hansen, to name but a few.

But it hasn’t only been the two Merseyside players who have helped Liverpool consolidate their position amongst the Premier League and European elite. Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt and Fernando Torres have all made vital inputs into the success of the club.

The manager’s disparaging remarks towards Carragher and Gerrard will not be taken to heart by either of the players. Gerrard has admitted that Benitez is a hard man to please.

Surely in this sense, having endured five years under the stewardship of the Spaniard, Gerrard has grown accustomed to the lack of affection shown. Indeed earlier in 2009, Benitez proclaimed that the English midfielder was the best player in the world.

But no player is exempt from criticism, not even Mr. Liverpool.

The manager is entitled to criticise the more experienced members of his squad. It is preferable to chastise the likes of Gerrard, Carragher and Torres as opposed to more fragile characters like Lucas.

During the spell Benitez spent at Valencia he was earned a reputation for being meticulous with his work. He left nothing to chance, he demanded the utmost professionalism from his players and it was a prerequisite for playing under the determined Benitez.

Some quarters of the media have suggested that the Liverpool manager should “loosen” up. But this tactic proved successful during his term at the Mestalla: two league titles and a UEFA Cup success.

The suggestion that Benitez was incorrect to publicly criticise his two senior players is unfathomable. Each manager has his own methods.

Just because Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson prefer to do their berating in an internal environment doesn’t necessarily mean that Benitez was wrong for airing his discontent publically.

Personally, I find it refreshing to see a manager castigate his big name stars in the media. It shows that there is no debate to who is in charge of the running of the team.

Former Liverpool centre back, Mark Wright, was publicly criticised by then Reds manager Roy Evans after a poor start to his Anfield career. A manager’s humiliation of an experienced player would inevitably spur on the player in question to answer his manager’s criticism with some stellar performances.

Vincent Del Bosque and Avram Grant are two examples of managers who were alleged to have succumbed to the wishes of the players on more than one occasion. In these two case, Fernando Hierro and John Terry acted as the shop stewards for the respective clubs’ players.

Benitez doesn’t need to publicly protect Carragher and Gerrard at Liverpool. Two thorough professionals, their loyalty to Rafa is unquestionable. The Spaniard is at liberty to use whatever tactic he feels necessary to ensure the results arrive on the pitch.

After all it was only a few weeks ago he criticised Torres. Liverpool’s number nine answered the manager in emphatic fashion: a brace against West Ham and a hat-trick against Hull City.

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