Rafa Up for Chelsea Challenge, and Other Tuesday Notes

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At the time of posting, it's Tuesday for 99.3% of the world's population, which means it's probably fair to call this Tuesday's news and notes. And for this Tuesday day, night, morning, evening, or afternoon for 99.3% of the world's population we've got Suarez and Rafa and the media to get to, so we might as well get right to it…


* On the Guardian's Sport Blog, Zonal Marking's Michael Cox has found himself toying with the idea that Luis Suarez' drop in form this season has less to do with distractions and demonisation and more to do with the role he's being asked to play. Or, more precisely, that he's being asked to at the same time play every role and no specific one for Liverpool in attack:

Suárez's best role is up for debate—his good form at Ajax came when moving inside from a right-sided position, then with Uruguay he excelled at the Copa América last year when used as the primary striker. Importantly, he seemed to have much more of a defined role in the side, much stricter instructions. At Liverpool his role has varied between playing up front alone, and just behind Andy Carroll. He's generally been Liverpool's best attacking player this season—though Craig Bellamy has also played well—but too much of the play is dependent upon him, and he becomes the main man responsible for both creativity and goalscoring. To do two things at once is to do neither, Publilius Syrus once wrote, and Suarez's six goals are supplemented by a single assist.

Cox points to Suarez' woeful conversion rate—hovering south of seven percent—but also the fact that, in comparison to most strikers, Suarez himself creates the vast majority of his own chances. He provides his own best service; he's the one best suited to beat defenders; and with those around him also struggling to put their chances away, he's often the one left having to score in the end. And that has led to a season filled with situations like Saturday's when he beat three Arsenal defenders in the box before poking a tame shot towards goal as his balance began to fail from all that had come before.

It's a situation that finds a timely parallel in Arsenal's Robin van Persie, whose finishing has become increasingly clinical as he has shifted his focus from being involved in every aspect of the attack to relying on others to do most of the build-up while he worries only about putting the ball in the back of the net. In any case, though, for Suarez to take up a more defined role would likely require those around him to step up, and on the evidence so far this season there's ample reason for Suarez to think he needs to do it all in attack for Liverpool to have a chance.

* Something recent discussion about Jamie Carragher's place in the current Liverpool squad has served to remind everyone is that most don't make it in the highest levels of football without a self-belief that can border on the surreal. And when it comes to ridiculous levels of self-belief in football, it's hard to beat the belief of every manager thinking they can be the one to survive and thrive at post-Mourinho Chelsea. Despite struggles with ownership that led to rocky endings at both Liverpool and Inter Milan, then, it somewhat surprisingly turns out that Rafa Benitez is amongst those who want to have a go at being Roman Abramovich's second in command, convinced he can both do the job and also that Liverpool fans would be okay with him managing a rival club:

If they want me to have the best, they can say you can manage a team at the bottom of the table or manage a team at a top of the table and try to win trophies. That is my idea, to have the option of a top side and try to win trophies. If they love me, they will understand.

I have had two or three offers from clubs and one from a national team. I want to win trophies; it's not just a case of wanting a job and having some money. It has to be something. They have now Roberto Di Matteo in charge, and I have to respect the manager in charge. I have to wait and, if something happens in the future, as a manager with experience in the Champions League, in Spain, and in Italy, I am open to offers.

Perhaps Benitez believes he really can be the one to lead Chelsea to the domestic and European glory Abramovich craves. Perhaps Benitez truly believes that despite the enmity he faced from the London press he'll be able to win their mind games if given a second chance. Perhaps he truly believes he can overcome a fanbase with largely negative preconceptions of him, a fanbase that dislike him because he managed a club that blocked their path to glory in the past while simultaneously buying into many of the media's narratives of Benitez as a reckless spender who never understood the English game and eventually lost the plot. And perhaps he truly believes that after a revolving door that spat out Avram Grant, Felipe Scolari, Carlo Ancelotti, and Andre Villas-Boas over five years that have also seen three caretaker managers named in Ray Wilkins, Guus Hiddink, and now Roberto Di Mateo, he is the one who can finally claim the job in something resembling a permanent manner.

Most Liverpool fans do at the very least have a soft spot for the man who won them a fifth European Cup, and most further understand he would like to remain in England and that he never wanted to have to look for a job away from Liverpool. Most understand that a driven football man like Benitez will one day find himself a new job, and that there's a fair chance it will end up being at a competing club. Beyond a general feeling of unease at the idea of a highly regarded former manager working for a club like Chelsea, though, the real issue for Liverpool fans will likely now be wondering about Bentiez' sanity if after his experiences at Liverpool and Inter Milan he were to push for a position at Roman Abramovich's managerial meat grinder. Perhaps to make it in football requires a faintly ridiculous level of self-belief, but even accounting for that, for a man with Benitez' history it's difficult to understand his apparent desire to manage Chelsea.

* Finally, if you haven't gotten in on it yet, this week marks as good a time as any a time to give a listen to the Anfield Wrap's weekly podcast. Amongst other things, the latest episode digs into one of the messes that has dominated Liverpool coverage of late, talking the media's responsibility to an honest and fair discussion with Oliver Holt, one of the worst offenders when it came to sensationalising recent issues of race in football with an eye to selling papers and few concerns for journalistic integrity.

We'll be back later with any breaking news, but in the meantime, while you're trying to figure out just how crazy you'd have to be to think you had a chance of surviving more than a week as Chelsea's manager…

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