In a period of success born midway through the 1980s, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish delivered three first division titles in six years, but in this, his second tenure, the narrative seems less prestigious. Their latest defeat at the hands of Bolton Wanderers not only brought an incensed post-match reaction from the Scot, but also from supporters who are starting to scrutinize their esteemed manager.
The phrase ‘work in progress’ is continually uttered when discussing the Anfield side, but in one sense it is an indefinite notion; where as success can be measured, when does ‘work in progress’ become failure? Within the last year Dalglish has brought in just under £100m worth of players, a majority of whom incessantly fail to impress. At times this season Liverpool have shown promise but have generally been underwhelming and inconsistent. Their well-documented home form is a legitimate worry and with such a massive deficiency, all talk of Champions League qualification should be banished.
Dalglish and his assistant Steve Clarke have evidently shored up the backline – ignoring the Bolton defeat, which only signified how they miss Lucas Leiva – but there is a massive disparity between the defensive assuredness and their limp attack. Dalglish’s public backing for the underachieving Stewart Downing, proclaiming: [Downing is] better than I thought he was going to be,” was mystifying. This for a player who has contributed no goals or assists in 1671 minutes of Premier League football for his new club.
As co-founders of the original top four, Liverpool now find themselves – deservedly so – outside the top six and in an unfamiliar footballing territory. The cup competitions represent the best chance for success, although two Mancunian beasts stand in their way. They have a big hindrance of not scoring enough goals and a £35m striker who is central to that malaise. Dalglish was unequivocal in his damning report on the Reebok Stadium defeat and many will expect a response when Manchester City visit Anfield for the second-leg of their Carling Cup battle. Saying that, many expected this same wounded animal to appear following the unimaginative performance against Stoke, but they regressed further.
Liverpool supporters questioning their manager – and with him being one their club’s most iconic figures – is the embodiment of displeasure, and furthermore proves there is genuine cause for concern. Club luminary or not, Dalglish should not consider himself above criticism and if such a vacuous theme continues in his team’s football, he may be challenged further.
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