Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catch 22 for Benitez

After yesterday's shock win at Anfield, for Barnsley, a lot of criticism has been leveled at Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, mostly surrounding his deicision not to pick striker Fernando Torres.

However, aside from the fact that the side Benitez fielded should have been good enough to win the game anyway (both Kuyt and Crouch are internationals costing £10 million and £7 million respectively), Benitez was positioned in a 'no-win' situaton when it came to deciding whether or not to pick Torres.

The facts are that Torres lasted little more than 20 minutes in Spain's international friendly, last Wednesday, after pulling up with a hamstring injury. Given that Liverpool play a highly important game against Inter in the Champions' League, playing Torres against Barnsley would have been a huge risk, especially after picking up an injury like a strained hamstring.

If Benitez had picked Torres and Liverpool won 5-0 but featured Torres pulling up with a recurrance of his hamstring injury, putting him out of the Inter game and possibly a lot longer, then Benitez would have been slammed for risking Torres in a game that Liverpool should have won with the other strikers available to them.

However, Benitez decided not to risk his top goalscorer and Liverpool lost. The result? A mass media assault on Benitez's decision not to pick the Spanish number nine. If Liverpool had won then nothing would have been made of it.

The fact is they didn't win and credit must go to Barnsley, especially their debutant 'keeper Luke Steele, who withstood a barrage of Liverpool shots before snatching a win.

However, while Benitez is criticised left, right and centre for not picking Torres, if Manchester United lost 4-0 to Arsenal yesterday, would Ferguson be criticised for not picking Ronaldo and Tevez? I very much doubt it.

Like so many other managers hounded by the press in the past, like Martin Jol, no matter what decisions Benitez makes he cannot win. Benitez is in catch 22.

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