Is Kenny Dalglish's legendary status keeping him in the Liverpool job?
Following Wigan Athletic’s first ever win at Anfield, there were indications that Liverpool supporters are beginning to divide in opinion over Kenny Dalglish. He has managed 24 points in his last 20 games; the same record as Roy Hodgson in his time at the club. With such damning statistics, is Dalglish’s iconic status helping him remain at the helm?
Following a good finish to last season, the decision to hire Dalglish on a permanent basis both made sense and pleased the fans. After this bittersweet campaign however, he is starting to feel the pressure as his expensive signings continue to underperform. The club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), like some supporters will be pleased with domestic cup success, but they know - at least with regards to affluence and stature - the yardstick of progression is returning to the top tier of European club football. Following five defeats in their last six Premier League matches, the thought from both the players and management that fourth place is still achievable reflects desperation rather than genuine optimism. The fact they currently sit closer to 14th placed West Bromwich Albion than they do to fourth-placed Tottenham tells its own story. This should help banish talk of an immediate Champions League return.
Season-long discussions at the club have centred on progression and transition, and to a degree this is acceptable. While this season’s cup runs should also not be overlooked, the Merseysiders still have fewer league points than at the same stage last season - 42 points from 30 games compared with 45 last campaign. It seems that some fans who once trusted Dalglish implicitly are now starting to wane in their support for him. There is repetition creeping into the Scot’s prickly post-match interviews with ‘bad luck’, ‘tiredness’ and ‘refereeing decisions’ often being cited - even after the clear and defining lack of both desire and craft in the Wigan defeat.
Moreover, Dalglish’s defence of his new signings is often baffling and must surely have a shelf-life. Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson have been underwhelming but they all arrived from top-flight clubs, therefore acclimatising to the pace of the Premier League is not a valid excuse. How long is required for players to settle? Multiple players have signed at other clubs with more instant success, while Dalglish’s failure to fully incorporate Carroll is an underlying hindrance.
The danger when hiring Dalglish was always the high-esteem in which he is held at Anfield, and if the project was to fail, there was the prospect of damaging a love-affair developed over decades. This is not an argument to sack the 61-year-old, as the club is certainly re-building, but as much as cup triumphs would help counter-balance finishing outside the top-four, a finish that demonstrates further regression is more concerning. Essentially, patience is not widespread amongst football club owners and Dalglish must hope FSG bucks that trend, or even his legendary status may not save him.
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