The Transformation of Liverpool Under Kenny Dalglish
Since returning to the managerial spotlight at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish has set about constructing a Liverpool team with a solid core and an old-fashioned British mentality. Although several of Liverpool’s squad possess overseas passports, the transformation of the sides core has a particularly home-grown feel.
At the back we can expect to see the ever reliable Jamie Carragher turning in more of the heroic performances that have made him a living legend on Merseyside. Further forward we’ll see the equally legendary Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, a player who is now relishing life under the management of his boyhood hero and is armed with a renewed belief in his dream of lifting the Premiership trophy with his home-town club. At the ages of 33 and 31 respectively, both Carragher and Gerrard will be well aware that they have precious little time to realise their collective dream of bringing the league title back to Anfield. As a result we should expect a fresh enthusiasm for success from both these key players come August 13th. At full-back Dalglish is likely to look to Glen Johnson on the right side whilst a move for Newcastle’s energetic Spaniard Jose Enrique is still very much on the cards. Missing out on Enrique would not spell disaster, with both Fabio Aurelio and Danny Wilson capable of operating at left-back, however Dalglish will want to be certain of his back four before the season begins. Having tasted several successes in the game, both as player and manager, the Scot knows the importance of a consistent and familiar defensive unit when trying to compete at the top end of the English game.
Another issue that Dalglish appears very much aware of is the need for a fluid and balanced midfield. In Gerrard he can of course rely however, since the departures of Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano to La Liga, Liverpool have looked disjointed in the centre of the park and perhaps relied on Gerrard too much. This season they will not be short of quality in that area at all, with the impressive Raul Meireles looking to build on his tireless performances of last season and Lucas Leiva finally looking to have found his feet in the Premier League. Twenty-one year old Jordan Henderson will be desperate to live up to his billing as the ‘next Steven Gerrard’ by turning in the box-to-box midfield performances that earned him a regular place at Sunderland and an array of admirers at across Europe. Add into that mix the creative and technical prowess of new signing Charlie Adam, a player who possesses the natural football intelligence to pick apart the very best defences, and the Liverpool midfield oozes an appetising cocktail of energy and quality.
Dalglish will also be hoping that he can help Stewart Downing realise his potential as a deadly attacking force. Downing has always promised great things and can deliver match-winning performances on his day. Unfortunately he has suffered from inconsistency in the past, but his big money move from Aston Villa this summer offers him his best opportunity yet to prove his true value in a top quality team. The relentless work-rate of Dirk Kuyt will be a reliable source of consistency for Liverpool this season, though it remains to be seen how involved the Dutchman will be in a side that is now packed with options in midfield and attack. That Kuyt may be relegated to the bench on occasion speaks to the strength in depth which Liverpool now possess, a key component of any title challenging side. The squad includes players who all have something to prove and will be eager to try and force their way into the starting eleven.
Up front, Liverpool’s hopes rely very much on the two players who arrived in January 2011 and impressed before the end of last season. Luis Suarez is a menace to opposing defences with an impressive work ethic, dazzling footwork and a keen eye for goal. Indeed, few would argue that in Suarez Liverpool have found a more than suitable replacement for Fernando Torres. The Anfield faithful have already taken the Uruguayan to their hearts and this is in no small part down to his gutsy performances at the back end of last season. His strike partner Andy Carroll is another player who will have hunger in abundance following his staggering £35million move from Newcastle in the final hours of the January transfer window. Unlike Suarez, Carroll was unable to show his true ability, struggling to find his best form after a succession of injuries. The Liverpool number nine will be desperate to justify his price-tag and recapture the kind of form that earned him a move to Merseyside. At Newcastle Carroll displayed his abilities as a target man, proving that when he is fit and at his best he can be unstoppable. If Liverpool can provide Carroll with top quality service, and with the likes of Adam, Downing and Gerrard they should be able to, he is a good bet to be the leading scorer in the league this year. Should Carroll and Suarez strike up an effective partnership and both stay clear of injuries, Liverpool’s season has the potential to be hugely successful. In Kenny Dalglish they have an experienced tactician and perhaps more importantly for the fans a popular and likeable leader. With King Kenny at the helm, the Anfield club can realistically set their sights on a top four finish and without the rigours of a European campaign to worry about they must be considered very real contenders for the Premiership crown.