Assessing Dalglish’s Impact On Liverpool

Kenny Dalglish, drawn by Ethan Armstrong

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.

11 thoughts on “Assessing Dalglish’s Impact On Liverpool”

  1. Whilst it is imperative to note that yesterday was an improvement. I am always against changing the facts to fit your narrative as you have done a few times here.

    1. Aquilani – Superb midfielder who contributed several assists last season as he adapted to a team minus their attacking imperative as you noted. Aquilani has been one of the players of the Serie A season and a big reason in the turnaround of Juventus. As for his injury status, I remember them buying him already injured and he didn’t get to full strength till after Christmas when the season was lost.

    2. Tactics – puts it down as a 4-1-4-1 with Lucas in the holding role and Meireles on the left to track Nani.

    3. Shelvey- Already used 9 times this season 6 times as a sub by Hodgson. No word on him progressing the youth.

    4. Record – Blackburn spent a significant amount in 95 Shearer and Sutton spring instantly to mind. And you neatly avoid talking about his subsequent record at Celtic and Newcastle.

    That being said, they certainly showed much more intent. A commitment to attacking, possession play and a bit more desire than usual. It would be hard to assess an impact this early but Comolli will be calling the transfer shots.

    1. I don’t see how any of your criticisms change the overall point, and I am always against arguing over small things that have no bearing on the overall point, as you have done a few times here.

        1. 1 – Irregardless of his accomplishments elsewhere, he didn’t look great at Liverpool and was injured a lot while he was there, which was the authors point.

          2 – Whether it was a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1, it wasn’t a 4-4-2, which was the authors point.

          3 – Implicit here is not a contrast of Hodgson vs. Dalglish, but rather just the statement that Dalglish has been heavily involved in attracting youth to the academy AT LIVERPOOL IN PARTICULAR for a year and a half already, so a youth movement under him is a more natural continuation than it would be under a brand new person coming into the fold, which was the authors point.

          4 – Dalglish had short stints at both clubs, but each club did taste at least some success with him at the helm. I wouldn’t say his record at either place was particularly bad, just maybe not AS good as at Liverpool and Blackburn, and certainly not good enough or bad enough to add to or subtract from the authors point.

  2. I will reinforce indeed that based on Sunday’s match; Dalglish has the courage to start young players, TAKE OFF Torres and other under performing players, or drop them altogether.

    Dalglish has the cult of personality to return the culture of the club to its days of ONLY buying players that are good enough; not the bargain basement, stop gap, inconsistent alternatives we have seen since the days of Souness. The fact that Konchesky didn’t even made the bench for Sunday’s match, says it all.

    Dalglish may have been away from management for a while but he has been at practically every Liverpool game for years – he has a footballing brain and I think he is up for it. The wheels may still fall off on his reign or the owners may decide to go in a different direction this summer but if King Kenny came inch the culture of the club in the direction of its former glory then – mission accomplished.

  3. “Liverpool fans are often claimed to be some of the most rational and intelligent in the world.”

    I don’t know about that claim. Maybe inside the city they’re claimed to be that way, but the perception from outside the city and outside England is harldy that of “rational, intelligent fans”.

    And you completely lost me at “They hardly ever turn on a manager (and Hodgson very nearly turned on them first).”

    Really? He almost turned on them first? When the fans did not even wait for him to get into the city, let alone play a game, to turn on him. In fact one could say they didn’t have to turn on him, since they did never accepted him in the first place.

  4. He met up with the players on the morning of the match in Manchester, and one assumes didn’t even get a training session with them, so little can really be read into tactics or formations.
    What can be said is he turned to positive substitutions at an early enough stage to make sense, something Hodgson wouldn’t have done.
    Also the club have very wisely got ex-Chelsea assistant Steve Clarke in as a first team coach. He is credited with being a huge part of the defensive soundness of Mourinho’s Chelsea.

  5. I agree with much of what is being said here but just want to note that losing Mascherano was a huge loss to the club. While not the entire reason for the slip from 2nd to 7th, losing one player, Alonso, in the previous season affected us under the same manager.

    During the Alonso and Mascherano time, there used to be a song, “Greatest Midfield In The World” sung by the Kop. I’m sure it’s still sung now but not quite as often.

    Also, Dominjon, the latest news of Steve Clarke is exciting. It’s a good decision by the club.

  6. I thought that the first paragraph was satire or parody. Maybe there is a large silent contingent that makes up the rational, intelligent portion but not from what I’ve witnessed. And god help you if you disagree with their preferred narrative.

  7. Right from the start I never believed Roy could do much in improving the fortunes of Liverpool. The club was simply way out of his league. About Dalglish no much optimism but he would be certainly better than Roy.

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