Kenny Dalglish has breathed new life into Liverpool
Liverpool are finally moving in the right direction once again following Roy Hodgson's turbulent tenure
Roy Hodgson’s short and catastrophic tenure as manager of England’s most successful club was ended in the wake of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat at Blackburn on a bitterly cold Wednesday night in early January.
His removal by Fenway Sports Group, the club’s new owners, did not come as a surprise to anyone who had been paying attention to the goings on around Anfield in the six months previous.
The football was dire at best, the players were bereft of confidence and Hodgson was increasingly isolating himself from Liverpool’s supporters.
Hodgson is not a bad manager by anyone’s standards, but in taking the Liverpool hotseat he took on a job he simply couldn’t handle. He was overwhelmed by the size of the club and by the task at hand.
Rafael BenÃƒÂtez’s final season at Anfield was a disappointment and with Tom Hicks and George Gillett close to gone, Liverpool needed someone who could rebuild from the ground up – that never was Hodgson, and his appointment was a poor one.
So, in stepped the man whose application for the job had been turned down by then managing director Christian Purslow last summer.
Kenny Dalglish was back in the Liverpool dugout, and his appointment was met by the unanimous backing of everyone surrounding the Merseyside outfit.
“We aim to gain as many victories as we possibly can. We will do our very best and hope it’s good enough,” Dalglish said when he was unveiled to the press.
It was a perfect statement of intent from the manager. He wasn’t falling in to the trap of promising a top-four finish -as BenÃƒÂtez did to his peril in his final season -and was not attempting to reduce expectations – one of the key criticisms of Hodgson in his short spell at the helm.
And thus far Dalglish has stuck by his initial pledge, tackling the remainder of the season fixture-by-fixture and overseeing a huge improvement in the football on display.
The Reds have won four of their eight league games under Dalglish, including a huge victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while losing two.
Even in their FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford -Dalglish’s first game back in charge -Liverpool supporters left with their heads held high having watched their side battle for every ball until the death – even in a match which had seen Steven Gerrard dismissed mid-way through the first half.
Liverpool are looking stronger at the back, with the appointment of Steve Clarke as first team coach helping to ensure the back four -or three, depending on the formation -are more organised than they ever were under Hodgson.
And while work still has to be done to improve Liverpool’s attacking game, the addition of both Luis SuÃƒÂ¡rez and Andy Carroll has helped overshadow Fernando Torres’s January exit.
Dalglish has also helped those already at the club come on leaps and bounds. Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles has notched up five goals since Dalglish moved him into a more attacking and free role while young full-back Martin Kelly has gone from an unknown prospect to a potential candidate for an England call-up in the space of a couple of months.
But most importantly, Liverpool look confident.
The drastic improvement is testament both to Dalglish’s man management skills and his ability to coerce a group of individuals into working effectively as a team, with every man moving in the same direction.
Liverpool’s last game at West Ham ended in defeat. In truth, the Hammers were deserved winners: Liverpool were sloppy at the back, lacked a cutting edge going forward and were outplayed in the middle of the park by a team propping up the rest of the league.
Indeed, there were many parallels to be drawn between Liverpool’s performance at Upton Park and the one which put the final nail in the coffin of Hodgson’s Anfield career at Ewood Park in January.
Yet even after last weekend’s loss Reds fans are still full of optimism.
With new owners, new signings and a new manager -the man they call King -at the helm, things are finally moving in the right direction again.