Here is something every critic of Rafa Benítez should consider. The Spaniard has won 57.38 per cent of his 305 games as Liverpool manager.
Quite remarkably, Bob Paisley's figure over 535 games stands at... 57.38 per cent.
It is precisely this kind of statistic - a kind of 'ultimate stat', based on winning football matches - that suggests the amount of criticism Benítez receives in the media is ill-informed, and at times, moronic.
Indeed, Paisley's win-percentage record in the league is actually inferior to Benítez's, to the tune of one per cent. Times have changed, and you need to win more games in the modern age to win the league; but it still shows that the current Liverpool manager is doing a fine job when compared with the very best.
Very recently it occurred to me that I saw my role as akin to a defence lawyer. (And no, not because I like to wear curly blond wigs in my spare time.)
This is because I believe that Rafa Benítez gets an unfair press, and especially unfair criticism within the sports TV world. So my starting point is usually after some misleading comment in the media that undermines the manager, yet has no basis in fact.
I don't think there's a bias against Liverpool in general, but I do very much believe that anyone (particularly from overseas) with non-standard methods gets treated like a leper, particularly in England; we've never really trusted new ideas, with our island mentality.
With pretty much every accusation labelled against Rafa Benítez, I've been able to address a metaphorical judge and say "Excuse me, M'lud, but the facts seem to suggest otherwise."
That doesn't mean that he is therefore infallible, and that every decision he makes is right. But every man deserves defending when under attack, to see if the attack is justified. That's why we have courts of law: to see if the accusations stand up to scrutiny.
For instance, zonal marking. At the end of 2005-06 I pointed out that Liverpool actually had the best record for defending set-pieces; at a time when everyone was decrying it as the devil's doodoo.
Now, that doesn't mean that zonal marking is perfect and man-marking is useless. I just say, "Well, if you're going to castigate Rafa for his ideas, at least back it up with strong evidence."
And yet only this season, when Liverpool began conceding too many set-piece goals, were figures roundly produced by the mainstream media. This ignored issues like the fact that Liverpool are no longer an especially tall team, and the figures included things like penalties, for which even zonal marking cannot surely be blamed.
The trouble is, a lot of football punditry is based on outdated theories and ingrained ideas. Ex-players are notoriously bad for failing to move with the times.
Whereas people like Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, both ex-players, moved with the times when continuing to work within the game, those who leave the coal face tend to find their ideas frozen in time; even some within the game do so, although they tend to not last.
My favourite example is of Shanks and Bob realising in the early '70s that the old British stopper was a thing of the past; the way forward was the elegant ball-playing centre-half who could move into midfield.
Neither man said, "But in 1947, we used to do it this way." They said, "This is the future." Almost two decades of Emlyn Hughes, Phil Thompson, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, and results proved that they were right. "In my day" should be banned from all football commentary.
Alex Ferguson's success has also been down to the fact that he doesn't base his thinking on 20 years ago.
And that brings me to another argument: although Rafa gets castigated for rotating, over the past three seasons Ferguson has made more alterations to his league line-up, and especially so last season.
Therefore, when Rafa is criticised for every little change, I point out that not only does he rotate less than certain other managers, it's actually the method that league-winners use; and that the 'big' side that rotated least last season, Aston Villa, visibly tired in the run-in.
Now, there are different issues relating to squad strength, etc, as well as when and how to rotate.
But my research shows no great difference between the approaches of Ferguson and Benítez in this respect, and if anything, Rafa keeps a slightly more settled core to his team (which critics claimed was the other way around, again based on perceptions rather than evidence).
But the idea is in people's minds that Benítez is the main sinner, and lazy journalists and ex-players can leap on this without having considered the evidence.
Too much football opinion is based on the repetition of unfounded beliefs and the old tried-and-tested, yet research can point out that the counter-intuitive view is the wise one. (Often it's only counter-intuitive because you've been brainwashed into thinking a certain way.)
What I tend to do is offer up the case for the defence by entering into evidence well-researched findings.
The burden of proof - the core of the democratic justice system - is as follows: "the necessity of proof always lies with the person who lays charges."
But funnily, in football, it seems to be the other way around. The prosecution base their thinking on hunches and hearsay. And often, what we think we see is coloured by other factors.
The reason DNA is exonerating so many convicted murderers and rapists is because they were sent to prison based on eye-witness evidence in the days when everyone was satisfied that this proved their guilt. Wrong.
In 2005 I wrote that Michael Shields' conviction in Bulgaria had to be unsound, because he was found guilty purely on such dubious evidence. The human mind is terribly unreliable in this sense, and plays tricks on us. I've read studies of eye-witness experiments when people even identified the wrong sex of the person! Our perceptions can easily be altered by other influences.
Shields was chained up in full sight of those who had arrived to identify him in a parade; they saw a man in shackles, who vaguely matched the assailant (in the way that people from other cultures can 'all look alike'), so when they were all in the room together, they drew the wrong (but for them, obvious) conclusion.
There was even a case in America where a man served 20 years for a near-fatal attack on his wife; on emerging from a coma she had no doubt that he did it. But while he'd popped to the shops an intruder had snuck in and committed the crime.
While bearing no comparison in terms of severity, I think something similar happens when watching football.
While nothing beats being present to get the full effect (atmosphere, running off the ball, and lots of other subtleties), you can also - whether there or at home - fall into the trap of believing what you see; or what you think you've seen. Or, indeed, what you want to see.
For me, I find that my memory and my perceptions are affected more by the adrenaline of being present, when it becomes harder to detach oneself from the emotion. I also find my emotions affected by those around me; just as the crowd in Istanbul greatly lifted my spirits, I've been to many a game where I've been dragged down by negativity or edginess. It's still a far better experience, but not always more reliable for thinking straight.
Even if you're at the game, you can be looking for the guilty; therefore, when someone like Lucas Leiva makes five good passes, critics might not be hyper-vigilant; but as soon as he makes one mistake, his guilt is secured.
When we have a preconceived notion, we look for evidence to prove us right.
Andy Gray (along with a host of other ex-pros) offers the perfect example, with zonal marking. He is very biased - he prefers man-marking, as we hear every week - so we are not being fed neutral information. We are being primed.
When zonal is breached, it's highlighted, even if the ball, run, jump and header were 'undefendable' (as seen with the giant Carlton Cole earlier in the season). When man-marking is breached, the quality of the opposition play will be highlighted, as seen at the other end, when Kuyt turned in Gerrard's free header.
Indeed, zonal marking is often being criticised even before the delivery is made, so people are lulled into a sense of doom. I watched the Denmark vs Sweden game at the weekend, and Leroy Rosenoir said upon the Danes' first corner: "It's zonal! I really don't like it", before listing only its drawbacks.
The reason all top managers use technology like Prozone is to capture what the eye cannot see. Even if you're at the game, although you have the choice of where to look (unlike TV), you can only be looking in one direction at a time. Prozone is objective; it shows who moved where, and when.
So when it's later pointed out that a referee has actually run more than most of the complaining manager's players, we can rest assured that it's right. And that is the beauty of most data. Statistics can of course be twisted, but if analysed properly (and that's the key), they can give special insight.
That is why I recently created The Tomkins Times, where I can study issues in depth, and present sufficient amounts of evidence; creating standalone pieces, or a linked series of articles, that go beyond the superficiality of the sound-bite age, and present the kind of analysis that I'd previously only use in my books.
So this is my approach: to defend, but to defend with great precision, even though the burden of proof should rest with the prosecutors; a prosecution that, in many cases, amounts to little more than a witch hunt.