The book of rotation - inspired scripture or apocrypha ?

Posted by a partridge in seat_5c on September 24, 2007, 11:23:34 PM

A long time ago there was this book and it had different chapters and this was supposed to be the best book in the world, right, but then someone said "aye aye, I reckon some dodgy book mechanic's done a cut and shut 'ere and I reckon these chapters have been salvaged from the wreck of another book and don't really belong in the best book in the world at all and I hereby name these other bits the apocrypha"

Fast forward a coupla thousand years and some of the disciples of their best book in the world, the Rafa Benitez footie bible, appear to be casting doubt on the authenticity of the chapter known as the book of rotation. Is it inspired scripture, or apocrypha ?

The latest huffing and puffing appears to surround the rotation of a solitary player, one Fernando Torres : he of the key to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ; he that was brought in to succeed where others couldn't ; he that hasn't been picked to start in the last 2 league games for reasons I'd rather not know. It's left LFC fans at least mystified, some a little bit irritated, and some downright annoyed.

In the summer, as Torres put pen to paper, many Reds' fans finally started to believe that after re-painting the Forth bridge for 17 years we'd finally got enough of the right quality paint to have a proper go at it and then all go out and get extremely drunk next May.

But then, last week, El Gran Pintor decides that despite having enough of the right quality paint to paint the nicest bridge in the country, he's going to try to see if he can do it using some of the lumpy stuff that we've tried using before.

Putting the lid back on the analogy tin and talking straight football, I'm going to make a statement here that may or may not be true but I feel it is more true than not : that our three nearest rivals rotate less than we do. When I say rotate, let me be totally clear here what I mean. I don't mean not picking a player because he's either injured or suspended. I mean changing a player because the manager simply chooses to, in all likelihood due to a desire to rest said player.

I'm going to take it as a given, that, all things being equal, injuries will apply more or less evenly across the squads of the big 4 over time. I also believe that, given average injuries to each of the 4 squads, our manager, more than his three rivals, will purposefully choose to leave out some of his best players in favour of fresher but not as talented players.

This leads us to one of three possible conclusions :

1) that we have to build a squad of reserves of sufficient quality to be better or at least as good as our rivals' first team players (and of course our own first XI)

2) that we are relying on our 3 rivals having severe injury crises allowing us, once every four seasons on average, to take advantage of having more good players than them available and consequently winning the league in rather an unsatisactory way (but bugger that who'll care less when we're all 526 pints to the good)

3) that Rafa believes that for, oh I don't know, lets say a quarter of the games, a fifth, who really knows for sure, we can play a few players (2? 3? 4? 5?) of inferior quality to our rivals, but who are fresher, and consequently will outperform their more tired superiors over that X game period.

1) is surely the realm of the madman. Are we to believe that we can find a better second eleven than the first elevens of three sides with more money to spend than we've got, even if one of them chooses not to because frankly it appears that they can afford to with the collective eyes for talent at their disposal. Nah.

2) was thrown in facetiously but I'm starting to wonder if there isn't an ounce of truth in there somewhere. It's a war of attrition, lets make sure we don't get as attrited/attrittified/attritched/whatever as our rivals.

3) this is the one we're all supposed to believe isn't it. This is the inspired scripture. What's so irritating about it is that while my gut feeling is that it is a load of old hogwash, my brain can't actually destroy the whole argument by finding a flaw in the logic. I mean, Rafa may just be right, and God knows I want him to be or we're screwed aren't we.

Whereas I mostly lost faith in Houllier the moment I read his theories about having space being more important than possession of the ball, I'm right behind Rafa's ethos on the game, in so far as they are based on logic. Where they appear to be based purely on faith, I'm struggling to believe, and I don't like it.

Some of his recent decisions, looking at them logically, made a bit of sense. If you're going to rotate, Birmingham at home seemed fair enough before kick-off. If you genuinely believe you're going to need a fox-in-the-box and a between-the-lines player, then Kuyt (who has been in good form) and Voronin made sense enough.

Torres' omission at Portsmouth was unforgivable though. He should play every away game. One, because he was bought to make a difference and away games are where he can make most difference. Two, because he's more suited to playing in the bigger spaces away from home.

Back to Birmingham. Having drawn game one of two, at Portsmouth, plan A therefore being 2 points short of a good plan, there were arguments for putting Torres in against Brum, particularly given the upcoming games. A Torresless plan B would no doubt have included having a properly fit Finnan, Carragher, Mascherano and Gerrard. Given the lack of these (Finnan was sensibly left out), the argument for putting Torres in as plan C became more compelling. If you've got nearly half a side of your best players not looking 100% sharp, surely you don't make things worse for yourself by leaving out an apparently perfectly fit star player ?

It's  a storm in a teacup we're told, possibly with lots of justification, after all we are only 4 points off the top (from 6 games sounds less impressive), we are unbeaten and we haven't conceded a goal from open play. Add to that, it's only September and we're above or level with the top 2 from last season. This in itself doesn't fill me with any reassurance whatsoever. I'm not really a faith man, I'm a logic man, and for reassurance I'll search for signs that logically, somewhere, somehow, I should believe that we can do it.

Is there any such sign to draw hope from ? Well, yes I think there is. Much as I feel the rotation policy theory has its flaws, there can't be too much arguing with our form in the second halves of the seasons under Benitez. So, if we COULD, perhaps defying all logic along the way, just stay there or thereabouts until New Year (so only another dozen or so games to defy the logic gods - and odds), there does seem to be an empirical basis to believe that we CAN match the results of our rivals in the 2008 run-in and possibly, just possibly, finally paint that sodding bridge LFC red again.

Is the book of rotation inspired scripture ? or the philosophical arse end of a Renault Laguna ? I don't know but, as downright worrying a read as it can be, if its tenets are applied sensibly I'm not going to write it off just yet...

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