This week Liverpool’s incredibly generous and unquestioning owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) stated that ‘it would be a major disappointment’ if the team failed to qualify for the Champions League in the forthcoming season. Is it fair of them to expect this level of success from Kenny Dalglish so soon?
When Dalglish replaced the world weary Woy Hodgson as Liverpool manager on the 8th January this year, the side sat 12th in the league, four points above the relegation zone. Nobody really believed they would sink further, (it seemed hard to imagine they could get any worse) but then the idea had been for Hodgson to halt the slide at 7th not push them on down.
Dalglish succeeded in restoring a passion and identity to the side that had been noticeably absent under Hodgson and the side’s improved form and the impact of Luis Suarez in particular were enough for Liverpool to finish the season with a sense of optimism. The squad still looked unimpressive though, after a very messy 2010 calendar year there were too many expensive flops and inexperienced youngsters to consider this a side capable of competing for the Champions League.
Now Dalglish has spent, and he has spent a lot. It is natural that FSG’s backing should come at a price and with pressures so high and patience so thin at the top of the Premier League, their expectations are unsurprisingly high. FSG would have been considered mad if they’d spent all this money and then set their sights on Europa League qualification!
If Dalglish spends yet more money in strengthening Liverpool’s defence, which he should as they’ve conceded 15 goals in 5 friendlies, then he can have little grounds for complaint. His problem will not lie in the owner’s ambitious but justified expectations but with the actual task ahead, knocking out one of the current top four. Based on Arsenal’s dramatic decline at the end of last season, they would seem like the team to beat however their consistency in top four finishes is phenomenal, (a straight run since 1997 now). Dalglish will not only have to hope they pick up from how they finished last season, he will also have to ensure that his side gels incredibly quickly.
FSG have set Kenny Dalglish a tough target but they have given him a huge amount of help in reaching it. Liverpool’s considerable spending this year has already put pressure on them to achieve Champions League qualification, with or without FSG saying it explicitly. It is only right to start the season with great expectations.