Rafa player criticism, wise, folly or irrelevant?

It’s oh, oh so predictable. We lose a game and the knives are out. Sack Rafa, sack the board, the players are cr*p in fact let’s just dock Liverpool all their points, flatten Anfield and build a big Tesco on the sight and have done with it?

That said there was something slightly unusual about the aftermath of Monday’s, admittedly disappointing (and that’s putting it mildly) performance. Instead of adopting the usual post match blather about trying hard, controlling the game, the referee being cr*p (he wasn’t especially) and just thinking about the next game, Rafa resorted to new tactics – publically criticising the players.

“I’m really disappointed. In the first half we didn’t do anything and didn’t show the attitude required. It’s difficult to explain. At half-time we talked about the things we weren’t doing well – the attitude and the character. We made too many mistakes and played too quickly.”

I always remember Kenny Dalglish, when he was our manager, saying that regardless of how bad a performance his team put in; he would never publically criticise the players. Any remarks in that direction would be saved for behind closed doors. I guess this is part of the so called “Liverpool way” as I also seem to remember Bob Paisley and others using the same policy. So was Rafa right to depart from this and be so publically forthright?

Firstly I have absolutely no truck with Rafa saying that we made too many mistakes and played too quickly. In the second half we were forcing things far too much. As the game went on there was an increasing desperateness about the way we played which was seen in the five yellow cards we picked up (it could have been more) and Gerrard’s alleged two fingered gesture at the referee. Something of nothing that no doubt many will be keen to make a lot of?

Where I believe, or should that be hope, Rafa is wrong is when he gets slightly personal with his comments concerning the attitude and character of the players. One of the advantages of watching the game on TV is that you see close ups of players. The frustration was there for all to see on the players faces suggesting that the attitude and desire to win was certainly there if not the wherewithal? He was wrong to generalise in this way. I certainly don’t think the likes of Carragher and Gerrard will take too kindly to Rafa’s remarks. They are Liverpool through and through and will be long after Rafa has moved on.

That said perhaps the attitude issue Rafa is referring to is that we were wrong to let the circumstances get to us. Instead of being patient, keeping cool heads, and trying to play the way we can play we became visibly flustered as more and more things didn’t go our way. At the end of the game we were even resorting aimless up field punts in the hope that someone, anyone, in red would get on the end?

Of course no one outside the Liverpool dressing room has an insight into what the player’s attitude is. We can only guess however, although we not doing as well as we can to me the attitude, fight and desire to get back into the swing of things since Christmas has been there. Only the other week Rafa was praising the character of his players after the win in Romania and their positive reaction to going out of the Champions League. To suggest they had a bad day at the office on Monday is one thing but to say that this was down to not being bothered, careless and generally not giving a sh*t about the Wigan game is entirely another?

Perhaps Rafa like his players just lost it slightly? Because of the disappointment and frustration of the defeat, he spoke words that otherwise he wouldn’t had? However, his comments were an indication of what he, and I suspect many others were thinking? It not the first the we’ve put in a poor performance this season so maybe this approach, after plenty of instances of standing up for the players often against a large wave of media opinion, was justified?

I see good and bad. I don’t like managers publically criticising players unless they‘ve been really out of order. That sort of game is for the likes of Phil Brown although Rafa thankfully stopped at bollocking them on the pitch, even though it was lush and freshly laid! There is an argument that Rafa isn’t in the side and that the players alone should take the blame. The side he picked was certainly good enough to beat Wigan however, there is a collective responsibility for performances, and the manager plays his part and should stand up and be counted alongside the team rather than blame them?

Whatever the case the “damage (if there is any) is done and the key issue is how the players will react, professionally one hopes. No one would really say Monday’s performance was a sublime tour de force so, regardless of what they think of Rafa’s comments the best thing that they can do, rather than take offence, is to acknowledge them, try to understand, if not necessarily agree with, them and try to put things right starting at Lille on Thursday.

In short, if they think Rafa is wrong then prove him wrong. If they think Rafa is right then try to improve. The only talking that should be done is on the pitch there is no time, at this vital stage of the season, for any other option..

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