When past players, punditry panels and onlookers alike look at the current Premier League stadia they will often recall Anfield as one of the most special venues in the land. Whether it’s the steep-sided Kop, the hair-raising ambience of Jerry and the Pacemakers blasting out before kick off or simply the vast history surrounding the place, Anfield truly is one of those magical locations in world football. However, the current Premier League season has been one of toil and struggle for Kenny Dalglish’s Reds and despite lifting the Carling Cup, Liverpool remain frustratingly miles away from where many think they should be realistically challenging in the division.
Despite having one of the best defences in the league, Liverpool have uncharacteristically struggled at home, failing to put many middle-of-the-road sides to the sword and suffering from a distinct lack of goal scoring and an inability to go on a long winning streak. Coupled with this, many of Dalglish’s big money signings have flattered to deceive and have only been used as scapegoats in Liverpool’s disappointing league campaign. Understandably, loyal Reds fans have grown frustrated at the club’s transitional state and have aired their concerns, despite a reluctance to shoulder the blame solely with their idolised manager Dalglish.
But have the Liverpool fans and Dalglish built such a high pressure environment that it is no wonder the players are continuing to struggle? Arguably, yes. Whilst we could embark on an in-depth comparison between whether the team inspires the fans or whether the fans inspire the team, there is no doubt that negative energies in the crowd are usually counterproductive for any team. Anfield has no longer been the intimidating fortress of old this term for opposing players but has seemingly become intimidating in the sense that many Reds’ squad members consistently fail to impress in their expectant and impatient surroundings.
The groans for a poor Stewart Downing cross and the sighs for a misplaced Jordan Henderson pass have been more deafening than ever, and a large majority of fans are still umming and arring just whether to cut their losses with Andy Carroll or not, who despite playing better of late, still would be more at home in a long ball system. These unanswered questions have undermined Liverpool’s season, and add in Luis Suarez’s conflicts with Evra and you have a very distracted campaign. Manager Dalglish still maintains his ‘us against them’ tact in the media too, with his recent Sky Sports interview with Andy Burton after the Blackburn game representing for the umpteenth time the Scot’s old school attitude and blunt nature that the press are troublemakers and that he won’t work with them and give too much away.
Perhaps a more socially astute manager would deflect further criticism by not making himself an easy target and conveying more honesty instead of a defensive nature when quizzed about the obvious poor performances of his team. In this respect, Dalglish fails to negotiate a mastery of the mass media in the way a Jose Mourinho or Harry Redknapp does.
The ‘us and them’ ideal as enforced by Dalglish can be conceptualised more greatly also. The outsiders in Henderson, Downing, Adam and Carroll are still yet to be truly embraced by their public and are always seemingly one bad performance away from a widespread show of dissent by fans turning on them. Their designation alongside more Liverpool-familiar squad members in Steven Gerrard, Jay Spearing and Jamie Carragher serves to suggest they still need guidance and to learn just what it means to be a Liverpool player. It is not premature to surmise both Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson have struggled particularly with the so-called step up to a ‘bigger’ club and it should not be underestimated just how much the new daunting surroundings of Anfield can be for an individual. Adam was the star and most technically gifted player at an unfashionable Blackpool outfit but now he finds himself alongside an idol in Steven Gerrard and precocious talents such as Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey. Is it any wonder, his performances have stood out far less?
The very nature and history of Liverpool Football Club means by default that they should be cutting it nearer the top end of the division. In order to get nearer to their targets, this season has to be forgotten and more astuteness and a sensible negotiation of the transfer market has to be the way forward. Liverpool have shown in the past that they can attract the right sort of player with Martin Skrtel, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina setting the tone, but failing to reach the Champions League is inevitably going to have negative repercussions. The club just might need to win the FA Cup to truly convince their fans and potential imports that this season has been a one off.
Has the high pressure environment of Anfield had an adverse effect for certain Reds stars? Follow me @ http://twitter.com/Taylor_Will1989
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