Posts Tagged ‘kenny dalglish’
I wasn’t surprised to see King Kenny shown the Anfield exit yesterday. However, nor would I have been surprised if Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s Boston-based owners, had opted to stand by the man whom they themselves appointed only a year ago.
There were strong arguments supporting each course of action and whatever decision Liverpool’s American owners were to make would involve taking a risk.
Liverpool’s 2011/12 season is not an easy one to assess. Reaching the final of both domestic cup competitions in the same season is no mean feat, and in Liverpool’s case, it involved having to overcome the best two club sides in the country as well as Chelsea and Everton.
That the Reds couldn’t repeat their Carling Cup win over Chelsea when the two sides met in the FA Cup Final at Wembley may be the source of some regret at Anfield given that their opponents were far from being at their best. Once Liverpool got themselves going they were already 2-0 down, and the task was just too much of an ask in the time remaining.
As disappointing as it was, the FA Cup loss is unlikely to have had anything to do with Dalglish’s sacking, even though a return of two trophies would certainly have made FSG’s decision much more difficult – possibly resulting in a different outcome.
However, while the club’s results in cup competitions have been excellent, results in the Premier League have ultimately cost Dalglish his job – and that’s where progress really becomes difficult to measure.
Performances have generally been better than in either of the two previous seasons. It’s hardly an exaggeration to suggest that, with a couple of notable exceptions, Liverpool dominated all of their league fixtures in the first few months of the season.
Progress was clearly evident, as was the quality available throughout the squad despite the team’s difficulties in converting the many chances that were being created.
By February, Liverpool may have trailed the top three by some distance but fourth place remained a realistic goal. Only after a home defeat to Arsenal – another match in which Liverpool dominated and should have won – did the target of Champions League qualification appear unattainable, but even at that stage of the season it would have been unthinkable to imagine Kenny Dalglish losing his job.
Liverpool’s form in the three months following the loss to Arsenal is more likely to be the period of the season that has led to doubts in the minds of the owners as to whether Dalglish is still the man to get the most out of his players. Performances were poor, and were reflected by the results which followed.
Fulham won at Anfield for the first time in their history and in doing so, completed a league double over Liverpool without conceding a goal over the two games. Fulham were one of four teams that Liverpool failed to score against – a list which included Stoke as well as newly promoted Swansea. Meanwhile, West Brom won their first match at Anfield in 25 attempts dating back to 1967 and Wigan, who were being kept off the bottom of the table only on goal difference, also went home from Merseyside with all three points.
For all of the positives on show, there have been too many signs of a team simply not making the progress expected of them, which gave FSG two important questions to answer.
Firstly, was there a confidence that Dalglish would be able to guide Liverpool back into the Champions League next season with largely the same group of players who have been involved in the club’s lowest league placing for 18 years?
Putting aside all loyalty to Dalglish, it would be easy to understand why the owners would have doubts, especially when bearing in mind that having recognised at the turn of the year that all Liverpool were missing was better finishing, Dalglish found himself unable to bring about an improvement during the second half of the season.
Secondly, was there a trust in Dalglish’s ability to invest wisely, particularly after spending large amounts on players who have yet to represent good value for money?
Again, there are difficulties in defending last summer’s transfer dealings, when huge sums were invested in players specifically brought to Anfield in order to boost Liverpool’s prospects in the league.
The players brought in were those who knew the Premier League and who wouldn’t need the time to adjust to the style of English football. It’s not fair to make a final judgement of each player on the basis on one year, though not one summer signing can yet be considered a success at Liverpool.
When considering issues such as the above, John W Henry and co have clearly concluded that too many question marks remain over whether Dalglish is the man who they trust to help realise their ambitions for LFC.
Whilst I feel that any manager appointed at any club should be given at least two full seasons before he is under threat, it’s obviously important that the manager has the board’s full support at the start of the season. Any lack of confidence in Dalglish would only be highlighted further if, for example, Liverpool were to start next season badly, and uncertainties over the manager’s position once the season had started would only contribute to an unhelpful atmosphere at the club and threaten to destabilise the whole campaign.
For that reason, and taking into account the doubts that quite clearly exist in Boston, removing Dalglish immediately is probably the right move, even if it means losing a few friends on the Kop in the process. The success of FSG’s next managerial appointment will determine whether any frustration towards them for dismissing a Liverpool legend can be quickly forgotten.
Dalglish won’t leave the Anfield dugout as a manager who has failed, but rather as one who has succeeded in steadying a ship which has endured much turmoil over the last 2-3 years.
And despite the lowly Premier League finish, Liverpool FC is a much more attractive job to a potential new manager than it has been at any stage during the previous two years.
For that, Dalglish deserves more credit than anyone.
Aside from the financial considerations, there’s a number of reasons why, after years of being an ever-present at Anfield, I started to grow fed-up with the modern game – and two of them were perfectly illustrated at Newcastle yesterday.
The first reason was the issue of cheating, and I’ll cover that in a separate article later today.
The second was the manner of Liverpool’s performance. I’m not of the opinion that paying spectators deserve to be entertained, or have a right to see good quality football. Despite the hype and promotion of “the product” by the Premier League and television companies, the game of football, even at the highest level, remains first and foremost a sport.
But the one thing which supporters should be able to expect is effort and determination – even on a bad day, as yesterday undoubtedly was for Liverpool. Such a quality was lacking from too many players to name individually, and that has been a theme during too many recent league games even if the manager has cited other reasons for an alarming run of league form.
Tiredness can’t be blamed. Liverpool have enjoyed progress in two cups, but have still played fewer games than many – if not all – of the teams who have competed in Europe this season.
Clubs with ambition should expect to be playing twice a week at this stage of the season, and it’s a certainty than Man United won’t be happy with not having a European game to play this week – or an FA Cup semi final in two weeks time.
Nor can blame be levelled at the quality of squad that Kenny Dalglish has available to him. While it may lack the same depth as some of the teams further up the league table, it is much stronger than it was in January 2011 when Dalglish took over.
The progress on the pitch was evident for much of the first half of the season, when only poor finishing cost Liverpool the points that their football often merited. The club’s season-long problems in converting chances is much more a reason for their current league position than a relatively recent run of poor results.
Contrary to the belief of some, it’s not yet a crisis. But the Reds face a difficult FA Cup semi final and also a fight to finish seventh, and only with a greatly improved attitude from Liverpool’s players will the club manage to stop a run of form which threatens to give the season a disastrous feel to it.
Whether or not luck was against Liverpool in their defeat to Sunderland, as Kenny Dalglish has suggested due to the comical goal which decided the game, the Reds are in a poor position in the league due to problems which have existed from day one of the season – and which have simply not been sorted out.
It was Sunderland themselves who provided the opposition at Anfield on the opening day, when a dominant first half performance from Liverpool saw only a single goal to show for their efforts.
A stunning second half volley by Sebastian Larsson earned the visitors a point and although Liverpool’s performance gave cause for optimism, it was a disappointing result.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, there has been a similar feel to many of their 12 subsequent league games at Anfield, with lots of good football played and plenty of chances created – but rarely resulting in victory.
Only a week ago, during Liverpool’s fixture with Arsenal, there was an all too familiar pattern to the match as two rivals for the much coveted fourth place went head-to-head.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny admitted that his side had been “getting killed” during a first half which saw Liverpool create a host of chances but take only one.
After Robin Van Persie’s equalizer, the game became much more even. Martin Kelly missed a sitter from the edge of the six yard box for Liverpool. At the other end, Pepe Reina had to be at his best to ensure the score remained level but he was beaten by Van Persie’s second goal of the game in injury time.
If that loss virtually ended Liverpool’s bid to qualify for the Champions League, then losing to Sunderland – their third league defeat in a row – could see them end the weekend in a league position which is closer to 15th than to Newcastle in 6th place.
The comments made by Reds’ boss Kenny Dalglish after the game also suggest a continued refusal to acknowledge the club’s biggest problem: scoring goals.
Such a problem is highlighted by the fact that despite creating more chances than any side with the exception of Manchester City, Liverpool have scored only 30 goals, and 28 Premier League players boast a higher goalscoring tally than Liverpool’s joint top scorers.
It’s not bad luck which is to blame for such a poor chance conversion rate, nor is bad luck to blame for the six penalties missed by four different players this season.
A cup may already be in the bag and a place in next season’s Europa League to go with it, but so much more was promised for this season than to be so far adrift of teams such as Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea by early March.
Between the highs and the lows of Liverpool’s season, there have been plenty of “what ifs?”, most of which have been a direct result of a failure to score enough goals. Dalglish now has 11 league games left in which to resolve such a striking problem that threatens to overshadow much of the undoubted progress that has been made on the pitch.
After the game, the Liverpool boss said: “If we could maybe get fourth spot, it would be fantastic for the football club.”
Given the club’s recent slump in form, perhaps Dalglish should be concentrating not on fourth place, but on ensuring that Liverpool don’t slip even further down the Premier League table.
Liverpool cemented their position as the most successful club in the history of the League Cup yesterday with an eighth triumph in the competition.
As has become the norm for cup finals involving the Reds, it wasn’t as straightforward as it might have been and required the lottery of penalties to decide the eventual outcome.
That in itself was the fourth time since the turn of the century that Liverpool have won a trophy on penalties, and the second shoot-out win in the final of League Cup following the win over Birmingham – also from a division at the time – in 2001.
The law of averages suggest that Liverpool are overdue a loss in a shoot-out, and they could be said to have pushed their luck to its limit at Wembley yesterday after missing with their first two kicks.
That Liverpool managed to net their next three to claim the trophy was quite a feat given their recent record from 12 yards with Luis Suarez, twice, Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt and Charlie Adam having all failed from spot kicks already this season.
How his team secured the win will be of secondary importance to manager Kenny Dalglish, who collected the one domestic trophy missing from his managerial collection.
It was a fully deserved reward for an approach to the competition that has seen Liverpool go all out in search for silverware, facing challenging ties at Stoke and Chelsea during the way, as well as having to overcome the might of Manchester City in a tense semi final.
The current side may be further off the pace of the country’s leading clubs than Gerard Houllier’s team of 2001 were when they lifted the League Cup to earn Liverpool a first piece of silverware for six years.
But there’s nothing stopping Dalglish and his team from building on the win and achieving further success this season, from which the club can then look to build on in the summer.
On Sunday 26th February, Liverpool make their first trip to Wembley in almost 16 years.
In that time, 90 other English league or non-league clubs have played at the country’s national stadium including 60 different clubs since the newly constructed stadium was re-opened in 2007.
It is a mark of how long has passed since Liverpool graced the famous Wembley pitch that not only have Merseyside rivals Everton participated in a final at the stadium more recently, but also Tranmere Rovers and Southport!
Liverpool’s League Cup semi final win against Man City changes that, but prior to this season the Reds have rarely looked like reaching another Wembley final over the last five years.
Domestic cup form has been poor and resulted in Liverpool winning only three FA Cup ties in five years – against Luton Town following a replay, Havant & Waterlooville and Preston – as well as failing to reach the quarter-final stage of the League Cup during the last four years.
Barnsley and Northampton Town have left Anfield celebrating cup progress, while in the meantime, fans of sides such as Morecambe, Scunthorpe United, Stevenage Borough and Exeter City have tasted success at the stadium formerly dubbed “Anfield South”, as have Ebbsfleet United and Whitley Bay.
Not that reaching Wembley itself is a guarantee of success and a good day out, as Arsenal fans will testify. The Gunners have failed to win any of their three games at the revamped arena, and were stunned by Birmingham City in last year’s Carling Cup final.
As Arsenal were last year, Kenny Dalglish’s men will be strong favourites when they take on Cardiff, but the Reds’ manager will need no warning on what can happen in a one-off final having been in charge when Liverpool suffered one of the biggest FA Cup final shocks of all time in losing to Wimbledon in 1988.
There is also irony in that Liverpool’s opponents for the day are a Championship side from the very city in which Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez led Liverpool to a number of cup wins whilst England’s national stadium was being redeveloped.
Liverpool’s success during the six years in which Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium replaced Wembley as the venue for the nation’s showpiece finals was unrivalled. In seven appearances – bettered only by Arsenal’s eight – Liverpool won six, more than any other club. Their FA Cup triumphs of 2001 and 2006, both achieved in memorable fashion against Arsenal and West Ham United respectively, book-ended the Millennium Stadium era.
It’s been a long time in coming, but finally Liverpool have another opportunity to add to the many trophies that Wembley has seen the club win.
Ron Yeats was the first man to walk up the famous steps to lift a trophy for Liverpool following their first FA Cup in 1965. The steps may no longer be those climbed by Yeats, but Steven Gerrard will be hoping to emulate another of Anfield’s greats in four weeks time.
If you had seen the scoreline of Liverpool’s visit to Manchester City earlier in the week without having watched the match, you would have been forgiven for thinking that it was a bit of a mauling.
In reality, the contest was a perfect summing up of each respective side’s season so far, and Kenny Dalglish found exactly the right word to describe the difference between the sides when interviewed immediately after the game: clinical.
Man City were, Liverpool weren’t.
On the balance of play, Liverpool coped well with City. Stewart Downing could have opened the scoring for the Reds even before Sergio Aguero’s speculative strike dipped under the body of Pepe Reina to make it 1-0 early on.
And Liverpool’s play continued to impress even after going behind and looked capable of getting back into the game until Yaya Toure doubled the home team’s advantage.
From that moment on, Man City didn’t need to take risks pursuing further additions to the scoreline and while Liverpool tried desperately to find a way back into the game, there was the absence of a cutting edge up front, as there has been all season.
There have been contentious decisions along the way, such as disallowed goals scored by Andy Carroll against Sunderland, which would given Liverpool a 2-0 lead in a game eventually finishing 1-1, and Luis Suarez at Fulham, wrongly chalked off for offside with Liverpool in the ascendancy and the scores level. A late Fulham goal sent Liverpool back to Merseyside without even a point.
That game at Craven Cottage also included the controversial sending off of Jay Spearing, but Liverpool benefitted from an equally poor decision during the Merseyside derby when Jack Rodwell was wrongly dismissed.
Liverpool can’t complain about their league position or points tally based on a couple of costly errors by the officials though. Every team will suffer some injustices over a season, even if not all prove to be costly.
Nor can Liverpool claim that they’ve been on the end of too much bad luck. Sure, they were unlucky not to claim stoppage time goals against both Norwich and Man City thanks to world class goalkeeping in denying winning goals for Suarez and Carroll respectively.
Instead it is down to the quality of the team’s finishing. It’s not bad luck to miss four out of five penalties, with four different players guilty of failing from the spot, and although hitting the post or crossbar can often be deemed unlucky, it certainly can’t be said for a club to achieve such a feat no less than 18 times in half a season. That is clearly more an indication of inaccurate finishing than simple misfortune.
Yet there have been many positives throughout the season for Liverpool. Their general play and ability to create chances has been impressive to the point that in almost every game in which they’ve drawn, they would have been worthy winners.
The same can even be said of their defeat to Stoke, in which Liverpool failed to put away any of their 20 shots at goal and went down to a penalty scored at the other end, Stoke’s only shot on target in the entire match.
Indeed in Liverpool’s 20 league matches so far, just three have involved them enjoying less possession than their opponents, only four games have resulted in Liverpool having fewer shots on goal, and only three game saw the Reds register fewer corners than the opposition.
Statistics don’t always tell the whole truth but in Liverpool’s case they show up exactly where Liverpool’s weakness has been and the reason why they are competing for fourth place rather than the title: the team is simply not clinical enough in front of goal.
If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, it threatens to undermine the undoubted progress being made under Dalglish.
With the transfers of Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing completed this month already, Liverpool’s 2011/12 squad is fast taking shape.
Based on the arrivals so far, the priority has appeared to be focussed on bringing in players who will create more goalscoring opportunities. Adam and Downing certainly delivered in that area last season as did Jordan Henderson, the youngster signed from Sunderland.
Over the last couple of years, Liverpool have been involved in too many games during which they have failed to register a meaningful chance in front of goal until very late in the game, if at all.
Supported by the generous funds provided to him by the club’s new owners, Kenny Dalglish is clearly looking to ensure that such patterns don’t continue into yet another season.
He’ll also be aware of the effect which the Reds’ lack of service is having on the club’s record signing, Andy Carroll, a player who relies on the creativity of others.
There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of trimming the squad down and offloading those who simply don’t have a future at Anfield.
But those who have arrived offer plenty of hope that the upcoming season will mark the next stage of a Reds revival under the new men in charge.
What better way to kick start a new blog than with a post about the influence of Kenny Dalglish on Liverpool FC since taking over as manager in January.
As a Liverpool fan, the season was practically a write-off at the time of his arrival, with seemingly the only realistic goal being to achieve a position far more respectable than that which the club was in after such a dismal first half to the campaign.
Sixth place, which at the time was occupied by Sunderland, appeared the limit to what was possible, but even that was a touch unrealistic.
Four months later and Liverpool are now in a position in which they may be able to secure 5th place with a game to spare. And there is even a prospect of 4th place, albeit a remote one.
A pair of owners, out of their depth and unable/unwilling to make the right decisions for the club have been forced out. A manager has left – a good manager, but one unsuited to Liverpool FC. And a player unhappy with lack of silverware has moved on to new things – specifically, to not win trophies in London instead.
It’s all added up to a positive atmosphere around the club again, and those involved have their smiles back.
The impact of Kenny returning has been massive. And that’s why he needs to be given the job on a permanent basis.