Image courtesy of NeverOffside whether he knows it or not.
I wanted to take a minute to talk a little bit about Rafa Benitez. Such a great manager and inspiration he has been for this club. He's delivered the Champions League, the FA Cup, but now faces another challenge, the league. For many clubs, his performance would be iconic, but not for a club like Liverpool.
The big four are held to a higher standard and that standard is that you must win trophies, maybe not every season, but often. Even the fans understand that a team can have a bad year, but when the year turns into years, they'll get a little impatient. Rafa knows this. After not delivering any silverware and having to deal with a divided boardroom that tends to leak information to the press, why on earth would this manager who could be anywhere stay at Liverpool? I think it's because he believes in what he's doing. I think he believes in his players and knows that glory is only a short step away.
Rafa continues to build the current squad and sign young players to develop. That's what many clubs are missing. The youth system is shoddy at best in England. Only a few clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd seem to do it consistently and have had success because of it. Rafa seems to be trying to push this ideal through Liverpool and I for one am a big fan of it. Let's teach the youngsters how to play our way instead of signing someone from Spain or Italy and then having to wait for them to adapt to our system and the pace of the Premier League.
But the fact remains, that even after all the good that Rafa has done and continues to do, he must deliver something this season. The ultimate goal of course is the league. If we don't get it, we'll probably get close. There's no other team in the league who has more motivation to capture it than Liverpool. You might say that Arsenal will be hungry for it after being so close and having it slip away in the final weeks, but I just don't see them having the leadership to seal the deal.
To go from being one of the big four to being a champion, you need leaders on and off the field. You need players that thrive on the sound of fans screaming "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the tops of the their lungs, drowning out the home crowd at an away game, but above all, you need Rafa.