This article first appeared on The Tomkins Times on 21st October 2010.
Following my recent piece comparing Roy Hodgson’s stats this season with Rafa Benitez’s last season, an idea was posted that I hadn’t considered. As Roy was inheriting Rafa’s squad, how did Rafa get on in comparison when he inherited Houllier’s squad?
The fixtures are actually fairly comparable – two promoted teams at home (West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City for Benitez), two trips to top four sides (Manchester United and Chelsea), with the other games being Tottenham, Bolton and Fulham away, and Manchester City at home to open Rafa’s Anfield account. So comparing the two sets of results seems reasonable. Here are the stats:
Fairly similar results. What’s interesting is that Rafa’s Liverpool came from behind to win two of the five games where they conceded first (Manchester City at home, and more famously, from 2-0 down at half time away at Fulham). Whilst Liverpool did claw back a two goal deficit at Old Trafford this season, though ultimately losing in the end, Roy’s back-to-basics English approach hasn’t appeared to make Liverpool any more spirited or resilient than they previously were; I’m sure most people would say considerably less so.
In this respect, Benitez once again comes out on top. Whilst the two eras have two clean sheets a piece, Rafa’s team have double the number of goals (14 to 7) and a much better first half scoring record (5 to 1). As with when I looked at Rafa’s figures from the same eight matches last season, the Liverpool of 2004 had scored two first half goals in two games (West Brom and Norwich at home), and so effectively won the games.
My final stats relate to substitutions:
Rafa never had the chance to make a tactical substitution at 0-0 in any of his eight opening league games, though we can see he intervened around six minutes earlier on average, and made slightly more substitutions. As there were no 0-0s, I broke it down to average time for a substitution when Liverpool were winning, drawing or losing:
Clearly I don’t need to point out that the ‘Rafa’s 65th minute substitution’ myth is shattered yet again. Personally, I think that by not intervening until late in games when Liverpool were losing, Roy has done himself no favours at all. To not bring on a substitute away at Everton until 21 minutes after the second goal was conceded, and similarly 26 minutes after the second goal away at Manchester City baffled me (and that’s putting it politely).
As with the previous piece, I’ll sum up with the match stats for the eight games in question, if only to prove what you’re probably all already thinking:
Rafa 04/05 – Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 3, For 14, Against 8, Points 13.
Roy 10/11 – Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 4, For 7, Against 13, Points 6.
A final point: a lot has changed at Liverpool in the six years that separates these two sets of eight games, with the ownership issue clearly being a cloud over Roy’s head that Rafa didn’t have to cope with straight away.
That said, Rafa had at that point never managed in this country before (so certainly didn’t know what to expect away at Bolton in his third league match – he soon learned!) and had lost both of the previous season’s first choice strikers, inheriting a worse squad than Roy did (despite what ex-players and pundits might tell you) and yet he still doubled Roy’s points tally from comparable games.
Quite an achievement if you ask me.
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.