Liverpool’s lacklustre defeat to West Ham this week has only served to highlight that the second-coming of Kenny Dalglish has merely been papering over the cracks. Expectations were lessened around the club at the beginning of this season and yet the side have still struggled to meet them at times. So with that in mind, what should be considered a realistic expectation in terms of the club’s ambitions with concern to next season?
Dalglish’s much heralded return to the club after the sacking of Roy Hodgson has prompted a resurgence of sorts for the club both on and off the pitch. Dalglish has united the club in a way only a true club legend can. He’s galvanised the club and the players seem all the more happier on the pitch for it. His appointment on a full-time rather than interim basis looks all but assured at the end of the season, perhaps even sooner.
The Scot is often credited with being a master man-motivator, rather than an astute tactician. To be honest with you, that would appear to be being unkind to Dalglish who hasn’t been afraid to chop and change and experiment since he took charge of the club once again and to great effect. But his arrival and the improved results and performances on the pitch have left many fans giddy at the prospect of next season, as they estimate that Dalglish will have more of a chance to mould the side into one of his own making.
The fact of the matter remains though, that the playing squad is woefully under prepared to mount anything more than a sustained challenge for a European place at the minute, let alone a Champions League place. The arrivals of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in the January transfer window to point to a promising future, but that is all it is at the moment – promise. The arrivals of Suarez and Carroll have addressed the imbalance with the forward line at the club, yet the imbalance throughout the rest of the squad remains a pressing issue.
The side lacks sufficient depth and quality all over the park. It lacks width and at times a degree of guile. Dalglish will know more than most the effect a new manager can have on a club. It creates a competitive atmosphere that more often than not leads to an increased level of performance. The real test starts now.
To return to the subject matter, I’d say that 6th place in the league and a decent cup run should constitute the minimum expectations for next season and that anything more should be considered a bonus. Many of you may have realised that the above expectations were what the club had hoped to achieve this season and it’s worth noting that the club maintain on course, despite their troubles, to do just that this term.
It’s also worth remembering that Roy Hodgson was appointed as the club’s manager with the mission statement of achieving stability. He was thought to be a steady hand on the tiller. His tenure proved to be anything but stabile in the end, yet there needs to be a reality check with concerns to future ambitions.
A rebuilding process was always required for the club to achieve anything in the future. The same ethos remains today despite the improvement under Dalglish. It’s easy to get carried away by what many outsiders may perceive as the ‘cult of Dalglish’ and there must be a very real worry that a over-estimation of expectations may occur in the near future.
Upon taking control of the club from those that shall not be named, NESV stated that they came to the club with a long-term vision in mind and that they understood that the success the fans so craved, was not likely to happen over night. They espoused the virtues of incremental steps in terms of development on and off the pitch as opposed to a radical overhaul. This sensible leadership in the boardroom can only help foster sustained success on the pitch and their approach will pay dividends if it’s adhered to.
There appears to be a real sense of togetherness under Dalglish at the club and it feels as if a burden has been lifted. The West Ham result, while a setback, does not mean that all of the hard work since Dalglish’s return to the club has been undone; no, the bubble-bursting defeat merely serves to put the result and the club’s current relative standing into some sort of perspective.
The club finally appears to be heading in the right direction, but a modicum of realism needs to return to the club after the honeymoon period is over. This current Liverpool side is brittle and in need of serious investment. Their deficiencies are clear for all to see, but this change must come over a long period of time, as NESV quite correctly proposed.
Dalglish has done brilliantly so far since his return and he’s helped to create a positive atmosphere at the club, something which has been missing around Anfield for quite some time. But please forgive me for this dose of cynicism, but it may take the club a little more than the return of the King to truly challenge for anything in the near future. Liverpool can finally look forward rather than back for the first time in nearly two years, and the relief has been evident.
However, when it comes to next season, while the playing staff may need addressing in certain areas, the expectations placed upon them do not and fans of the club will be wise not to even consider altering them for the foreseeable future. The mission remains the same and the rebuilding process looks to be back on track under Dalglish, but patience is a virtue as the old adage goes, and it’s a quality Liverpool fans may have to rather reluctantly accommodate over the course of next season.