Kenny Dalglish watched his Liverpool players delivering one of their worst performances of the season, a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland, the team’s third straight Premier League loss. No talk of Champions League, and even the seventh position isn’t a done deal, with Sunderland, Stoke, Everton and Fulham all capable of beating Liverpool to the spot at the current rate.
Even saying they’re undefeated at home doesn’t work anymore after last week’s 2-1 loss at Anfield to Arsenal, despite another encouraging performance in front of the home fans against one of the “Top 4” clubs. Liverpool’s season looked much more promising when the season just began. Nothing too flashy, but aggressive and direct. A 2-0 win at the Emirates against a shattered Arsenal squad seemed to show Liverpool were on the right path.
But non of last season’s enthusiasm has remained. Whatever dragged on to this year seemed to peak at the Carling Cup final against Cardiff and evaporate. They won their place in Europe, and Liverpool didn’t look like an urgent group against the Black Cats. Sure, they were unlucky to concede that goal, but they didn’t deserve to walk away with more than a point, managing to create only one substantial chance. Luis Suarez, of course, missed it.
Suarez has been a disappointing case, to say the least. The Evra scandal took him out of his groove. He wasn’t scoring in loads anyhow, with only six league goals in 20 matches, very Dirk Kuyt like numbers. But Suarez played very well, creating non stop, only to find the upright deny him time after time. Scoring was just a matter of time for the £22.8 million man, a price forgotten only for Andy Carroll and the most expensive price tag on a British & Liverpool player ever.
Three league goals in 24 matches for the £35 million man. A complete and utter failure, with Dalglish not really knowing what to do with him in the lineup, on and off the bench. Dalglish seems clueless in tactics these past few months as well. Look, he did have plenty of injuries to deal with. Steven Gerrard is never, and probably will never be, really, fully, fit. Daniel Agger can’t play more than a couple of months without hurting something on his tattooed body. Lucas was the key to the midfield, and went down for the year.
And here come more failures in the transfer window – Stewart Downing, who cost £20 million. No goals so far, although he does play well, at times. I think Dalglish made more use of him playing on the right side of the attack, but who am I to teach the decorated manager and player? Jordan Henderson cost another 20, and has still not figured out what is his best position, or what is it like to play with actual confidence. Charlie Adam has been the worst of all of them, but he cost only half of what Downing and Henderson did.
Defensively, Liverpool are a good team. Conceding only 26 goals so far, with the Skrtel – Agger duo doing very well, with Jose Enrique as the purchase of the summer. Jaime Carragher doesn’t belong, as his failure against Robin van Persie showed, in the lineup. Sebastian Coates did a better job in the few chances he has received. But up front? Only 30 goals in 27 league matches. Terrible. Liverpool play well at Anfield, with pace and intent, but have managed only 15 goals, at home!
Answers? Despite the direction, Liverpool are still a one man team. The confidence in which the club plays when Steven Gerrard is on the pitch compared to when Adam and Henderson steer the middle of the park is incredible. Dalglish has tried every possible lineup, and nothing has stuck. He hasn’t given one lineup a real chance for more than two matches. With no European commitments, excluding injuries, there’s no real need for rotations and destroying confidences by pulling players on and off the pitch.
Europe is a sure thing for next season, but only the Europa League. Winning the FA Cup will leave a sweet taste and a big smile going into the summer, but as the losses piles up and the goals aren’t coming, I have to wonder if Kenny Dalglish, being a huge part of Liverpool’s glorious and not so distant past, is also the man to lead them into a glorious future.