There’s still a chance we can add the FA Cup to our trophy room and make it a cup double, but Liverpool’s chances of a return to the Champions League appear slim to none.
It was said at the start of the season that returning to the top four was Liverpool’s minimum requirement this year, and as that looks increasingly unlikely to happen, questions are being asked of Kenny Dalglish from both the fans and the media. The fans in particular seem polarised in opinion; I’ve seen some fans suggest that Dalglish has performed as poorly as Roy Hodgson and should be dismissed, while other fans seem to believe that Dalglish can do no wrong and that no one should dare to question “The King”.
Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. I accept that results this season have not been good enough, especially given the money that was spent during the summer. However at the same time, I appreciate Dalglish’s efforts, in particular the way he has unified the club, encouraged positive football and brought Liverpool our first trophy for six years. I don’t think he is untouchable but I do think he’s the right man for the job and that at the very least, he deserves the chance to manage the club for at least one more season. If there has been no improvement in Liverpool’s form and league position by the end of next season, it may be time for Kenny to move on… but to dismiss him before then would be unfair and unjust.
The four defeats in Liverpool’s last six games have been very frustrating, in particular the losses to QPR and Wigan. And given the sums paid out for Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam, I can understand why they are under the spotlight. However after their early struggles, Downing and Carroll have improved – if they continue to improve they could be important players for Liverpool. Henderson is still young and at 26, Adam isn’t exactly old – so I hope they can both cut the mistakes out of their game. Questions will always be asked of the manager if expensive signings falter but most managers make expensive mistakes at some point in their career. Like Dalglish, his signings deserve more time to settle into the club.
It should not be forgotten that when Dalglish took over from Hodgson, the Liverpool squad was arguably the weakest it had been for quite some time. Dalglish had to show the likes of Paul Konchesky, Christian Poulsen and Alberto Aquilani the door; despite his recent dip in form, José Enrique is still an infinitely better option than Konchesky at left back and I’d rather see Adam and Henderson in central midfield for Liverpool than Poulsen and Aquilani.
The current Liverpool squad is far from perfect but our main problem this season has been a failure to convert chances. Some of that has been down to wasteful shooting but there’s no denying that bad luck has played its part too. Robin Van Persie admitted that Arsenal were lucky to win at Anfield at the start of this month and The Gunners are one of a number of teams that have been fortunate to take points away from Anfield. There isn’t much Dalglish can do about bad luck, but as one of Liverpool’s most prolific ever strikers, I daresay he knows a thing or two about chance conversion. Dalglish and Clarke have been praised both inside and out of the club for their work on the training ground and I’m sure target practice will be a high priority during pre-season training in July and August. If you look at the number of points Liverpool have dropped this season when they’ve dominated matches but failed to hit the target, it’s not inconceivable to think that a better performance in front of goal could be the difference between qualifying for the Europa League and earning a place Champions League.
I don’t think winning the FA Cup would make up for missing out on the Champions League, but nor do I think our season will have been a total disaster if we don’t win the FA Cup. When Hodgson left Liverpool, more among the fans and players was at an all time low. Dalglish still has most of the fans on his side and if there are players who have a problem with him, they’re keeping quiet about it. The respect of the dressing room is important, which goes some way to explaining why Roberto Di Matteo has improves Chelsea’s fortunes since Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed. We have improved under Dalglish and I honestly believe that the club is heading in the right direction. We’re a long way off where we want to be – a top four team challenging for the title – but Dalglish deserves more time to try and get us there. Too many managers have been dismissed too quickly and I hope King Kenny doesn’t become one of them.
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