Liverpool Club Focus - Another year for Dalglish?
This season was not supposed to pan out like this for Liverpool. Even Kenny Dalglish’s biggest admirers will admit that an eighth place finish - the Reds’ worst since 1994 - cannot be branded as a success.
The Anfield outfit approached the campaign hoping to challenge for a place in the top four, but in truth, Liverpool have hardly looked capable of reaching that target based on performances this season. In the end, the Reds finished a huge 17 points behind Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy that fourth spot. Given that Dalglish’s men ended the 2010/2011 season just 10 points behind fourth-place Arsenal, some would argue that they have taken a backwards step this term.
But the highly-respected Liverpool legend will point to two Cup finals as a sign that things are improving. The Merseysiders clinched the Carling Cup back in February - their first trophy since 2006. Will principal owner, John Henry of Fenway Sports Group, accept that as a good return on his investment? After all, the Americans have funded Dalglish’s huge spending spree, even though a fair chunk of the £100m+ splashed out by the manager and former director of football Damien Comolli was clawed back through player sales.
On paper, Liverpool appear to be just a few players short of having a more complete, competitive side. Defensively, the Reds have been sound, conceding fewer goals than all the Premier League teams apart from Manchester City and Manchester United. Therefore, Dalglish is unlikely to tinker with his back four. However, there are question marks over the midfield. Not only will the manager be seeking a long term replacement for the ageing, injury-prone captain Steven Gerrard, but the likely departures of wingers Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt will leave a gap down the flanks. Able replacements are needed.
Many Liverpool supporters would also like to see a new striker arrive at Anfield this summer. The Reds’ problems in front of goal this season have been well documented, with even relegated Blackburn Rovers managing to find the net more often than the Merseysiders this term. Crafty Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez has been splendid at times this season, while Andy Carroll has also been more impressive in recent weeks. However, a third forward, who can poach goals and make the most of the several chances created, would be welcome.
For the moment, it remains unclear whether Dalglish will still be in charge for next campaign or not. Given the Reds’ poor league season, it would not be totally unbelievable if Henry did find a replacement for the current manager, but based on Dalglish’s legendary status and Liverpool’s success in the Carling Cup, it would be somewhat surprising if he was not given another season to try and guide the Anfield outfit back into the Champions League. An interesting summer lies ahead.