Today on The Kop Times, we begin a new feature here where we discuss the burning issues, and questions relating to all things Liverpool. This week, we’re begin with a question that may appear to be a no-brainer to some, but perfectly fair to others. Is Kenny Dalglish the right man to take Liverpol Forward?
So, let’s get the show on the road. Firstly, in favour of Kenny Dalglish:
Since Kenny Dalglish started his second spell as Manager at Liverpool the transformation in the club, the players and the fans has been remarkable.
Under the reign of Rafa Benitez, the club had gone stale. Transfers such as Alberto Aquilani for £20mln and the apparent lack of harmony among the players left the regime desperate for change.
The introduction of Roy Hodgson seemed only to make things worse. The style of play was poor and lacked invention. His transfers, such as Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen, were woefully inadequate for a team with Liverpool’s ambitions. This was a clear hint that unless a change of direction was made, the club was heading for permanent mid-table mediocrity.
Step forward Kenny Dalglish. The first Match was against Manchester United and despite a 1-0 defeat the change in the mood and attitude of the players was clear for all to see. Kenny Dalglish took no time to identify and secure Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in an effort to inject some invention into a stagnating outfit. During the first weeks in charge, Dalglish was at pains to bring the club together. Team, staff, board and fans, all moving in one direction. The single most important achievement for Dalglish since his return has been to instill a sense of togetherness in the club. Missing arguably, since Roy Evans’ departure.
Dalglish has, with the help of assistant Steve Clark, gained the respect of the players. They are willing to break down walls for the man. This was not the case under Hodgson, and toward the end of the Benitez era. This respect has been cultivated by a string of tactical triumphs. Notably the 0-1 win away to Chelsea in February, the 3-1 trouncing of Manchester United and the emphatic 3-0 triumph at home to Manchester City in April. These are all results that show the players, fans and the cubs new owners alike Dalglish’s tactical ability. In so doing gaining the trust of the dressing room.
Further evidence of Dalglish’s credentials is the way in which he has also tapped into the clubs pool of youngsters that lay unnoticed under Benitez and Hodgson. Players like Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson and John Flanagan have all come to show maturity beyond their years and that the manager is not afraid to put his faith in youth. It was well documented that Dalglish makes regular visits to watch the youth games in order to demonstrate to them that he has an interest in their development and like the three lads mentioned here, will get their chance in time.
During the close season, Dalglish secured the services of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jose Enrique. Arguably all of these signings have become integral members of the current squad. Perhaps with the exception of Carroll who is still struggling for form, the others have performed well. Jordan Henderson has improved recently, and this looks as if it will continue. Adam is now a permanent fixture in the midfield alongside Lucas Leiva, and Jose Enrique is proving to be a bargain following his superb and consistent displays since signing. Not to mention young Sebastian Coates who, although has not had much playing time has shown glimpses of his quality when called upon.
Dalglish has also shown that he is not afraid of leaving out those who’s performances have been below par. Most notably Jamie Carragher, who at 33 is now beginning to show his age. Whilst Dalglish is a keen supporter of Carragher, he has kept faith in the current central defensive pairing of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel who are proving to be nothing but solid and capable of forging the kind of partnership not seen since Sammi Hyppia and Stephane Henchoz.
In summary, Dalglish is the right man for the job, and this is showing in the team’s performances. Resilient, organized and more consistent than has been the case for some time now. I would challenge anyone to provide a decent argument to the contrary.
Now let’s look at the arguement In Opposition:
First and foremost, I’m not going to argue that Dalglish has not been an improvement over Hodgson – he has, emphatically. However, I think by the end my little brother who doesn’t even like football would have been an improvement over Hodgson, that doesn’t mean he can take Liverpool back to the top of the game. Second, I bow to no-one in my recognition of King Kenny as arguably the greatest player to have ever pulled on a Liverpool shirt, and what he has done for the club over the last 35 years or so has been remarkable. However, again, past credentials and history do not mean Dalglish is the right man for the future. My argument that he is not rests on a couple of key points, which don’t include his often spiky and annoying TV interviews.
First of all, Kenny has a great track record, but that was 20 years ago. He has won championships in the past, but I have my doubts over whether he has the nous to do it again. Even his last championship in 1995 was in a very different setting to the way the game is played now, and while it is refreshing that Dalglish is in many ways a throwback in the same mould as Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp, I wonder that he has been out of the game for just a little too long, and may have lost a metaphorical yard of pace in the managerial game which could prove telling come “squeaky bum time”. This is more of a gut feeling however, and there are far more pertinent reasons to doubt Dalglish’s ability to lead Liverpool back to glory.
Most importantly for me, are the signings he has made. Suarez and Enrique aside, I have serious doubts about the player’s Dalglish has brought in, and the money he has spent doing it. We don’t know much about Coates as of yet, but Henderson has offered precious little despite being played almost every week; Downing is a winger who doesn’t take on defenders and whose decision making is dubious; Adam, whilst promising, is slow and slow players are not what the Doctor ordered in modern day football – Manchester s City and United’s as well as Tottenham’s midfields are full of pace, ours is not. Finally, I don’t care what the deal was with Newcastle regarding Torres, but paying 35 Million for Andy Carroll is absurd, from what we’ve seen so far, he’s barely worth a tenth of that. A manager who brings in players like the ones above, and spends an inordinate amount of money doing so, is not a manager with the ability to turn a top six team into championship challengers or winners.
I also have doubts about Dalglish’s tactical nous. Buying Henderson is one thing, playing him on the right side of midfield ahead of Dirk Kuyt is something else entirely. Henderson is a central midfielder, he has none of the attributes which make a high quality wide midfielder, and if Dalglish does not recognise this then it’s worrying. Similarly he seems to fail to realise until far too late when the game needs shaking up by a new face or new tactics. In home matches against Swansea and Norwich, both disappointing draws, he waited until the very last moments to make potentially game changing substitutions such as bringing on Andy Carroll. I may not be a fan of Carroll, but if you’re going to bring him on at least give the lad 20 minutes or more. Speaking to older Liverpool fans, one thing that has consistently come up is that when Dalglish was manager in the 80s, he would chop and change a winning team constantly. Yes it may have paid dividends in Liverpool’s bygone glory days, but a repeat of the same now is unlikely to be so successful.
Finally, there is the question of Kenny Dalglish’s legacy. I mentioned at the start that he is renowned as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Liverpool player of all time, and saw phenomenal success both as a player and manager. And now, like a boxer tempted back to the ring for one last fight, I worry that this new challenge may prove too much for him. No-one wants to see such a legend presiding over a team which ultimately fails to achieve success, and I fear that this may be the sad outcome if King Kenny continues. Ultimately, there are many reasons why Dalglish is not the right man to lead Liverpool back to glory – as for who is, that’s a question for another time.
By Ben Green & Matthew McNally
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