On Wednesday night Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool side play hosts to Roberto Mancini’s highflying Manchester City side in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi final. Again, this is a must win match for Liverpool if they have any aspirations of silverware this season. Let’s not even consider the FA Cup for now.
Dalglish is right to say that there is no game more important than the next one and we’ll all see if the team’s “one eye on the next game” approach, that was so clearly disastrous in the last match, will pay dividends against City. It’s fair to say that the players have been their own worst enemies this season and through their own fault have heaped pressure upon themselves due to sub-standard performances and a poor attitude in games.
If there was ever a time for Andy Carroll to pull his finger out and start scoring it’s now. I don’t want to pick on the lad but the teams biggest problem is, after all, in scoring gols. The club’s record signing has to put it mildly, been below expectations thus far this season and it’s high time he started to repay the huge faith that Dalglish has put in him. The time for excuses is over. Dietmar Hamann (pronounced dit-ma hummann as my German other half tells me) was quoted in the papers this weekend as saying about Carroll that “Now it’s time to deliver”. I agree one hundred percent on that. It’s time for Carroll to let the goals do the talking. I think it’s safe to say that nine out of 10 Liverpool supporters have lost patience with Carroll anyway so for me, being one of the “nine who expressed a non-preference” it’s only a matter of time before the team and staff do too.
In terms of line up, I’d expect the same team to start, more or less, that did at the weekend. For me, this would be a good psychological play by Dalglish to ask his players to show what they’re made of. Personally, I’d prefer to see Jonjo Shelvey (above) start the game in place of the ineffectual Jordan Henderson. Martin Kelly taking Glen Johnson’s place wouldn’t bother me either. Unfortunately there remains no further realistic changes to make. Perhaps Fàbio Aurélio could come in if he’s not injured. The emphasis is really on which tactics to deploy seeing as there’s not much else at Dalglish’s disposal.
The problem is, with the absence of Lucas Leiva and Luis Suarez the lack of depth in Liverpool’s squad is painfully evident and has become apparent by recent performances. Also, other than Shelvey and Kelly, there doesn’t appear to be many real replacements that Dalglish can draw on whether in midfield or defence, let alone in attack. Ok there’s Sebastian Coates – maybe too young, and Jamie Carragher – maybe too old. The other subs from Saturday, Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt are under performing and past it respectively. Without harking back to the past it has to be borne in mind that the last time Dalglish was Manager at Liverpool he had an embarrassment of riches in his Liverpool squad. This is very much not the case now.
Contrary to the popular belief, for Liverpool to improve, I think it’s best if Dalglish doesn’t sign any of the 4,572.6 players from around the world that the club is constantly being linked with. His time would be better spent taking a more closer look at the players who will really make a difference. Not just in terms of ability but also in attitude and desire to play for the club. This is what’s lacking from the side right now. It probably wouldn’t surprise me if the reality is that Dalglish hasn’t been given any money to spend because he and (mainly) Damien Comolli have pretty much wasted what they’ve had up to now.
Being a Liverpool supporter of years gone by and certainly for years to come, I don’t think it’s time to panic for Liverpool. It’s more of a time to just get real. Dalglish is the right man for the job. For now anyway, and he needs another season or two to get things really moving and to get the players he wants. He needs to be given time to realise what mistakes he’s made (and let’s face it there’s a 6ft 3in one knocking around at the moment), and do something about them. Perhaps it may even be time to bring in an eventual successor to take over in a few years time? Step forward Dit-ma.
By Ben Green
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