Have Liverpool improved since Dalglish?
Liverpool has been in transition for a few seasons now. Dalglish was unable to stem the tide of expectation in his second spell in charge. This was even with being afforded extra time to work his magic as a club legend.
Brendan Rodgers walked into somewhat of a poisoned chalice. Those who looked from the outside in expected Liverpool to challenge for a top four finish, despite having a set of players that are some distance off that level. A squad had already been assembled for a large amount of money creating the illusion that little work needed to be done and so far less funds were to be available.
The FSG group believed that the Reds weren’t far off being the finished Champions League article once again. There was a feeling that if the form in cups was translated into League form, then Liverpool would breeze into the top four. This is important to bear in my mind before we go lunging into criticising Rodgers.
There may have been some trophy success at Anfield last season but the despite the awareness the club’s league form was abysmal by their standards, the owners may have let go of the thought that a large dismantling needed to take place. Rodgers has realised that the way to deliver success was to try and seek an exciting brand of football to suit their two star players in the form of Gerrard and Luis Suarez. There has to be an element of understanding that miracles weren’t going to happen straight away, when judging Liverpool.
I am not saying that where they are now is acceptable. 12th place in the Premier League is not where Liverpool football club should be. The fact that Liverpool’s influential play still is reliant upon Gerrard and Suarez, with no supporting cast, suggests stagnation. Raheem Sterling was hardly found by Rodgers his talent and was already at the club. I accept it takes courage from a manager to throw him the deep end. Not much courage here though when you consider the sparce options in supply at Anfield. There seems to be flashes of things the new manager has got right such as developing the young players Suso, Shelvey and Sterling. The switching of Downing to left back and Jose Enrique to left wing is one which has worked well on occasion. Joe Allen has stunning pass ratios too. It is not enough though. Potential isn’t what Liverpool fans should have to settle for.
The striking situation is a mess; even if he wasn’t going to be able to slot in long term, letting Carroll leave on loan heaped pressure on the other strikers at Anfield. Borini didn’t look as if he was ready to dazzle the Premier League, even when he was fit, and Suarez has been somewhat isolated. It seems all too familiar, and even if you have to tip your hat to the display of Benteke on the weekend, 3-1 losses at home to Aston Villa shouldn’t occur. The failure to finish off teams and have a cutting edge has cost on Merseyside. The lack of clinicality at Anfield is again another issue which has refused to go away and the lack of direction in a lot of Liverpool’s play has been evident. After watching ‘Being Liverpool’ I was left even more confused as to what Brendan Rodgers actually does rather than having clarity. Instructions for Suso such as “I’ve asked him to play in that false winger, that seven-and-a-half role, where he’s more on the inside” leave me extremely at a loss to explain.
At this current moment in time I would say Liverpool are at about the same stage they were with Dalglish. The cup victories whilst welcomed, never quite staved off the frustration about the Premier League. Brendan Rodgers is so adamant that his plan for the long term will pay off, but there needs to be some short term product too. The dithering at the end of the last transfer window and the failure to lure in Sigurdsson and Dempsey hardly fills fans with confidence that he will go out and get his man this time round. Rodgers clearly has a grasp on what is good at Anfield but where I can imagine fans remain muddled over is what he brings to the table. This January transfer window and Christmas period is so crucial for the Former Swansea boss if he is to prove he is worthy of managing a big club.
There was an element of truth in his comments about them not being far off the top four but it means nothing if Liverpool are 7 points off the top four at the end of the season. Being close is not good enough. Liverpool have Lucas back to full health to add balance to the midfield a luxury Dalglish was rarely afforded in his final season. There is qualification secured in the Europa League, where several youngsters were blooded in, but now is the time for the Northern Irishman to prove his managerial worth. Rodgers has to right his wrongs and bring in some firepower to back up Suarez in January, if you are to expect things improve at the end of the season. I am not saying Champions League is the aim, but you would think top 6 is a minimum if he is to improve on Dalglish and justify his position. If this long term project of re-building Liverpool and being in transition ends in a 12th place finish this season, I am not sure if I was a red that I would be all that anxious to let Rodgers see it through.