The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Is Rafa Possessed?

Listening to Rafa Benítez explain how Alex Ferguson has gotten into the heads of referees, causing them to call nonexistent fouls against his team, is amusing. Rafa is clearly losing it. If not the referees, Ferguson has clearly gotten into his head. It’s too bad because he seems like a football nerd who means well. Stubborn, though. I wonder when Benítez will figure out that there is something wrong with his coaching strategy. Liverpool are not a Spanish side playing in La Liga, but an English team playing in the Premiership. Even I’ve grasped this essential fact—as have the Liverpool fans and all other interested parties except Rafa himself. I wonder what Roy Hodgson or Sam Allardyce would make of the scattered bit and pieces that now constitute the The Red’s player pool. I doubt we’ll ever find out since Rafa seems destined to hang on to the bitter end. Glad I’m not a Liverpool fan. It’s going to be a long and dreary ride.

March 22, 2010   Comments Off on Is Rafa Possessed?

A Pat on the Back

I hate being right. I really do. Having predicted that Liverpool’s fortunes would fall this season and that Rafa would be a goner after the first of the year (when the pundits were saying Liverpool would become champions), I’m actually surprised and disappointed that it’s working out as I imagined. It’s sad in a way. After Liverpool’s loss to lowly (though feisty) Reading in the FA Cup this week, Rafa Benítez cannot possibly have any support left in the city or in the boardroom. He’s finished.

Last year Steven Gerrard had a fantastic season and carried the team. He was at his unstoppable best whenever the team needed a lift. Sort of like Ronaldo had been for United. In my opinion, Gerrard was the best player in Europe. His trial for assault, however, changed him, I think, even though he was acquitted. On the pitch he’s the same player as before—full of pride, determination, and an ability to thrust through defenses at any vulnerable spot—but something intangible is missing. Perhaps it’s having to deal with the distantly cold Rafa, who can seldom be bothered to offer so much as a pat on the back for a job well done.

January 14, 2010   Comments Off on A Pat on the Back

Predictions for the EPL

  • Rafa Benítez, the sweet Spaniard everyone loves to hate, will be fired as Liverpool manager sometime after the first of the year, when it becomes obvious even to the Americans running the club that his system and the players he’s chosen will not win anything. You’re lucky you’re at Liverpool, Rafa. Roman Abramovich would have gotten rid of you years ago. The really unforgivable thing is your system is boring, boring, boring.
  • The bookmakers have got it right. Chelsea will win the league, but if and only if Drogba remains healthy.
  • Wayne Rooney will finally have a 20-goal season. Even so, Man U will be forced to find a proven goal scorer from abroad, because Berbatov, even though he has exquisite touch and is working his ass off this year, can’t seem to find the net. Where is Robbie Keane when you need him? Oh I know. Back at Tottenham.
  • Clint Dempsey, though an oddly awkward looking American footballer, will continue his scoring ways, perhaps with a team other than Fulham.
  • Everton will finish in the bottom half of the table. Anyone who saw them play the U.S. All-Stars will know why. By the way, so will Aston Villa.
  • There is a 99.9 percent probability that Burnley F.C. will go down. It’s sad, of course, but even Hull and Stoke can crush them. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, Burnley’s chairman, Barry Kilby, will be voted sweetest old guy in England.
  • Not a single English referee will be suspended this year for gross negligence, even more than a few of them will be guilty of it.

August 18, 2009   Comments Off on Predictions for the EPL

The Amazing Kop

Oh campione,
the one and only,
we’re Liverpool,
they say our days are numbered, we’re not famous anymore,
but Scousers rule the country like they’ve always done before,
Oh campione…

I missed this madness when I went to see Barça at the Camp Nou. There wasn’t much chanting or singing, just the occasional “Barça, Barça, Barça Fútbol Club” and shouts of “cabron” by the woman sitting behind me whenever the opposing keeper touched the ball.

English football is a mad comic opera. These days the ranks of Rafa detractors are growing–not just those of opposing teams like Aston Villa–but also the Scousers themselves. He hasn’t managed to win a match since calling out Ferguson as a cheat. Even his three surgeries for kidney stones have garnered scant sympathy.


January 29, 2009   Comments Off on The Amazing Kop

The Other Keane

Watching Liverpool play PSV last night, I was struck by how much Robbie Keane resembles Steven Gerrard on the pitch. That is, they naturally take positions behind the principal striker, pass well, and generally control play (if given the opportunity). The problem for Keane is that Gerrard is better. Beside possessing all of Keane’s skills, he can shoot from long range, and when required, take a game by the scruff of the neck and win it. Unless Gerrard is injured (heaven forbid), Robbie Keane has no place at Liverpool. He does not play well in the lone striker role (where Torres is so adept) and is not a natural winger. I wonder why Benítez bought him.

Because a number of the first team selections were out, it was possible to see how Benítez thinks. He tried N’Gog upfront—who except for his goal (from a brilliant Robbie Keane pass) was dreadful—played Lucas in place of Alonso, put Babel on the right side, and experimented in goal. Riera was brilliant, Keane very good, Mascherano at his marauding best, and the defense was solid. I especially enjoyed watching Agger, the smooth Dane, making forward runs. I do think Rafa Benítez sees how it all fits together (the players and their individual skills, the positions they take up, how they match up with opponents) with consummate skill. But I can see why the fans are demanding his head, even though his team are at the top of the table. His mindset is continental, not English. It is always defense first. It’s why I always prefer watching Man U.

December 10, 2008   Comments Off on The Other Keane