Assessing Dalglish’s Impact On Liverpool
Liverpool fans are often claimed to be some of the most rational and intelligent in the world. They hardly ever turn on a manager (and Hodgson very nearly turned on them first) and they know the difference between a bad team and a team that is being badly managed. They do not expect quick fixes, just to see their squad play to potential. The same squad (minus Mascherano, an aging Israeli and an oft-injured Italian, but I doubt anybody sane would say those three keeping the team from the lower half of the table) that achieved seventh last year while playing large parts of the season in Europe without their best attacking weapons. If Bolton’s squad can be coaxed into playing attractive football and challenging for Europe surely Liverpool’s can.
Although the team lost in his first match in charge there were several signs that Dalglish will get the best out of his side. Not much can be read into his team sheet as Agger and Aurelio were already tipped to start, but how he laid out his side was a refreshing change from what fans have seen this season. Jonathan Wilson wrote that Dalglish often laid his sides out as a 4-4-2 in his previous stints as manager, but against Manchester United we saw that he has understood how the game has changed. There was a 4-2-3-1 with Gerrard behind Torres, and the successful midfield partnership of Lucas and Meireles kept together. The side was still quite narrow as there are no true wingers in the squad, but the fullbacks were far more aggressive than under Hodgson to compensate.
What was most encouraging was that Liverpool did not go to Old Trafford and sit back like a mid-table club. The offensive players pressed United high up the pitch using Lucas as cover and the defenders played the ball out of the back. If anything this proves that all players do is carry out their manager’s instructions to the best of their ability, and Dalglish’s instructions are much more aggressive. His substitutions were also all offensive, and made early enough to have an impact on the game. Tactics befitting a manager who has spent his career attempting to win titles, who understands how to handle squads with more technically gifted players. That statement may sound ridiculous but in both Hodgson’s previous appointments at “big” clubs, Inter Milan and Jack Walker’s Blackburn, he spent lots of money, alienated good players, and got bad results. His Rovers side was well on the way to relegation before his departure, and it’s worth noting that with similar funds Dalglish won the title at the same club.
As for the transfer market, Liverpool aren’t going to spend big like some of Dalglish’s previous sides, but the ownership has said there will be funds. His role in Liverpool’s academy for the last few years may also help in identifying young talent, evidenced by him bringing on 19 year old Jonjo Shelvey relatively early. However, Dalglish’s most important contribution might well go beyond tactics or recruitment. He understands what Liverpool means to it’s fans (who have now exercised their considerable power in removing both the previous owners and manager), and the fans love him because he will never downplay their aspirations.
Other clubs have gone the way of appointing a past legend only to see it blow up spectacularly but Dalglish is no Keegan. Keegan never won half the trophies Dalglish did or had his sides playing half the football. As for the transfer market he spent wisely at Blackburn and Liverpool. And to be quite honest there is no way he could get worse results, the remaining schedule is more or less as difficult than what Hodgson faced, with only Bolton and Blackburn played twice, and he will certainly be better for PR. At the moment Liverpool fans are certainly quite happy.