Why did Benitez buy Aquilani?

Benitez blundered in buying Aquilani if he's not going to play him; photo by A. Mieszczak

As regular readers of this blog know, I have preached relative patience with Manager Rafa Benitez even as Liverpool’s struggles continued to mount. Cruel fate has intervened and all of Liverpool’s woes can’t be placed at Benitez’s feet. But that doesn’t immunize him from criticism of the moves that he has made or the things he hasn’t done that could affect Liverpool’s chances of moving up the table. And that brings us to the 0-0 draw at Blackburn Saturday and the fundamental question of why did Benitez spend £20 million on Alberto Aquilani if he isn’t going to play him?

While the departure of Xabi Alonso was not totally unforeseen, it certainly threw a wrench in Benitez’s summer transfer plans. Funds that he was expecting were not forthcoming, further hampering Benitez’s attempts to position the side for a title run. Once the season began, injuries wreaked havoc on the side, knocking out the two most important players and keeping Aquilani on the sidelines for longer than expected. And then there’s the beach ball incident…

All those things don’t change the fact that Liverpool should beat Blackburn, period. Only one of Liverpool’s major players is still out with injury. Granted its Fernando Torres, but still, it’s only one player. If one player being out, especially one as prone to injuries as Torres, disrupts the side so much that we can’t expect to beat a plodding, bottom half of the table side like Blackburn, that’s on the manager.

And here is the crux of the problem for me: £20 million man Alberto Aquilani is not out with injury any more, he’s just on the bench. Liverpool have money to spend, but they can’t throw it around like Chelsea or Man City, especially if funds were less than anticipated and there were several holes to fill in Liverpool’s most crucial season in more than a decade. How can you justify spending that much on a player that will miss at least half the season when the manager thinks he has suitable cover in Lucas and but has no second striker? Klaas-Jan Huntelar was bought by AC Milan for €15 million. Obafemi Martins was bought by Wolfsburg for £9 million. Ruud van Nistlerooy is available for a song.

Making matters worse, we learn he is set to get his first start for the club in the dead rubber against Fiorentina on Tuesday in the Champions League. If he can play from the start on Tuesday, he can play at least some part in a game just three days earlier.

Liverpool’s defense has been uncharacteristically shaky this season, but it had begun to right the ship in recent games with two clean sheets in a row. Blackburn are no pushovers at home, only losing twice in Big Sam’s 26 games at Ewood Park. But at this point in the season two points gained are much more valuable that one point saved. Two holding midfielders from the start against Blackburn with a guy like Aquilani on the bench is befuddling. Subbing in Nabil el Zhar and David N’Gog rather than Aquilani is malpractice. But buying him in the first place now looks like Benitez’s worst mistake.

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2 Responses

  1. […] good enough. But even the best managers at the best clubs make head scratching decisions (see Ken on Benitez). But beyond this nitpicking, I think the international soccer community tends to see the larger […]

  2. […] I have said here, here, and here, I have never understood why Lucas has been favored over Aquilani. By any measure, Lucas […]

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