You don’t realize it immediately, do you? You’ve watched the game, walked out of the stadium or switched of your television set. You get back into your car in the parking lot or you sit even in this pain, it hardly takes a second for that love to kick in. You are then down on the couch with a thud. You take a deep breath. And then it hits you. Yet, for a minute you are speechless in your mind, trying to compose a reaction void of diplomacy after watching Liverpool lose. As a fan, you are hurt. But caught in a web of criticism as well as compassion – one that you spun yourself. And unless someone else asks you, you keep these words in your head – ‘Yes. We played badly. When we can do better, we should’ve.’
This is pretty much what must be running through every Liverpool fan’s mind over the past few months. It has come to a point that the thought running through the head manifests itself into a question. Now, that question has no answer. Why aren’t Liverpool playing well enough? No one seems to know the answer. People have perspectives but no answers. The biggest proof of this is Dalglish’s recent admittance that the Reds are indeed facing problems.
Now, when the manager takes this long to admit something that most of the residents from the football world are aware about, it is indicative of his consciousness to the issues Liverpool are facing and also says that he himself does not know the solution.
When you are playing on a stage like the Premier League, your talent is your biggest strength and weakness. Strength of course, requires no explanation, but, for whatever reason you don’t perform on the pitch on a consistent basis, especially when you take a step up to a bigger club, your talent is the softest target for everyone around you. Why are we saying this here? Liverpool brought in big money signings at the start of this season who are now victims of this very scenario.
Signing on for a top club competing in a top League is a two-way street – the club trusts your talent and believes you will be a value-add to the squad and on the other hand, you trust the club to serve as the basis for you to rise to prominence and turn into a name taken across the streets of football.
At Liverpool, the likes of Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll have been entrusted with a vision in mind. However, no matter how highly one can speak of their individual skills, it is difficult to put in place, why exactly aren’t they leveraging this chance to shine?
Stewart Downing has created the most of number of goal-scoring chances but their failure to be counted gives him the worst conversion rate. The video on his crossing abilities might not hold any veracity to it, but his life span in the Premier League made him a phantom signing. Did Liverpool shoot in the dark with the former Aston Villa man? It is beginning to look like it, isn’t it?
He looked sharp and dangerous in the Carling Cup final against Cardiff City but after that, all hope seems to be going downstream; of course, he was mysteriously dropped from the first eleven as well. We would be lying if we say his partnership with Jose Enrique at left-back has blossomed since the start of this season. He has been employed on both sides of attack – right and left albeit it doesn’t look like he can even find a sweet spot.
Charlie Adam might be just a seven million-pound buy but after what seemed like a bright start to the season, he started to fade out like a shooting star. He was one of the players who had that gusto going for him but he too, soon became a victim of the endemic mediocrity creeping into the team.
Adam was brought into a new system at Liverpool. At his former club Blackpool, the entire setup made Adam a pivotal player. He dictated terms for most part of the game, he was given the space to shoot those long, accurate, diagonal cross-field balls to either wings. At Liverpool, he entered a system of pass-and-move; a system he is completely new to.
Yes, for a good time in the beginning, it looked like he was fitting in well but his dip in ‘this’ form off-late raises the question – he put in the efforts but was he ever comfortable with this system? If not, then is that day drawing close when he will start to frail? He has the talent no doubt and also has age on his side, but is he putting in his best performances in the Liverpool shirt? If you want to see Liverpool contest for the Premier League crown, then you ought to know the answer to this question.
Jordan Henderson – failed as much as expected to shine. The criticism thrown on him is a classic example of ‘The higher you go, the harder you fall’. Henderson was nothing short of a budding star at Sunderland but soon after his move to Merseyside, the young England international has grown to earn a title of misfit.
No one knows his best position on the pitch. He has failed when deployed on the right and has blown the chances he has got in the center of the pitch, in the hole behind the front two strikers. This, after it is widely claimed that central midfield is his preferred position. One might preclude his performances on the right because he is not a winger and doesn’t have the pace and trickery to get ahead of full-backs but when you buy a player who hasn’t even broken into the senior national team, for 20 million pounds, you deserve your returns, which means the player must deliver at some point.
To be or not to be?
It would be definitely pinch to do this but if Liverpool are to sell any of their players in summer, then Henderson should be considered in this list. None of the previous Liverpool owners have dug their pockets this deep in order to bolster the club. When FSG took over the club, John Henry & Co. admitted that they were still learning the English Premier League. Hence, safe to say that they will make a few mistakes before learning what’s best for Liverpool FC. Jordan Henderson could be one such mistake.
Andy Carroll is a saga that has been stretched to its limit right in the player’s first, full season. Glimpses of the player’s composition were on display in the second half of last season when he was signed from Newcastle on ‘Deadline Day’ of the winter transfer window. His screamer against Manchester City followed by his header off a Raul Meireles cross were more than enough to make him a harbinger of tough times for the rest of the Premier League defense.
Just Carroll’s move to Liverpool and his price tag made him a big bundle of expectation. Again, just like Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll also comes from a system where everything was designed to revolve around him. He was a ‘Target Man’ in every sense. The ball flew in from all sides of the ground like missiles launched in the air and Carroll would either knock them down, or deflect them into the back of the goal.
The lad sure has talent but hasn’t spent much time in the League to become an established player. From here, it is not hard to deduce how he turned out to be a 35 million-pound gamble. When things started to look grim for the Geordie at the start of this season, recommendations tried to screen the player’s slip ups. The player has been expected to stand up and deliver with and without Suarez by his side. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t won the hearts of the Scousers as yet.
Let’s remember one thing about Andy Carroll – he is getting used to the Premier League on the whole and in this monumental responsibility, he also needs to get used to a new, top club, at a very early point in his career. These moves usually can make or break a player’s future. But whatever happens is an impact of the player’s will. Walking out on your manager on being substituted in a game against your former club is not a sign of confidence, happiness and trust. And the biggest of them all, it is not a sign of being a team player. The question is, can all of this be changed in a person aspiring to emulate the greats in football?
Finally, we come to the man where it all ends – Kenneth Dalglish. In the present, where sacking managers has become as much a habit as wearing a bib to training, it hasn’t taken long for the Kop legend to also come under the scanner. Agreed, at the start of the season, Dalglish identified areas of reinforcement and passed on his requirements to Damien Comolli but pitching Liverpool to any of the targeted players was a problem since the club was devoid of Champions League football.
So are they the culprits?
So, with the option of bringing in world-class, recognized talent now ruled out, Liverpool had no choice but to go for younger talent from relatively low-placed clubs. The owners have a vision of building a team that boasts of longevity and stars of the near future. The likes of Adam, Downing, Henderson and Carroll were brought with the hope to fit this mould.
But if you are a Liverpool fan while reading this, then before you throw dirt on Dalglish, ask yourself – ‘Do these players go a long way in fitting into the club’s progress after the ill-fated reign of Hicks, Gillett and Roy Hodgson?’ If yes, then you have the right to keep patient and wait for things to change. If no, then you are now aware of the problem Dalglish has learnt this season.
It is not to say that Kenny hasn’t made mistakes from his end. The manager has failed to effectively use the depth in his team. Especially, with this season bearing potential fruits only from domestic competitions, it really shouldn’t have been hard for Dalglish to pick his starting XIs. Ineffective use of the rotation policy has tainted the pass-and-move philosophy that he induced in the latter half of last season.
Last year, when Dalglish was reinstated as Liverpool manager after a long hiatus, the squad he had to work with fit well with his pass-and-move tactic. As a result, the likes of Meireles and Maxi also contributed to the goals scored. But this season has been so bad that no Liverpool striker has reached double figures and the midfield seems to have ebbed away from the goal.
Knowing Dalglish and his love for the club, one cannot doubt that he doesn’t want to, in full capacity, steer the club in the right direction. But when you see Steven Gerrard ask the manager to walk away from the pitch when his keeper’s red card has caused unrest on the pitch, it makes you wonder – ‘Where are things headed?’
The Reds shouldn’t succumb to the sacking-manager syndrome like other clubs. Kenny is at a point where he knows it all, but right now, he just doesn’t know how to fix things for Liverpool. Well, time isn’t really on his side but more importantly, it is not all his fault. He will fail the fans if the players on the pitch fail him, simple.