Liverpool’s revival under King Kenny has fans eyeing Premier League crown

by Charlie Coffey

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011
 

While yesterday’s blog was an ode to Sir Alex Ferguson, the man who looks to have fulfilled his promise of ‘knocking Liverpool off their f***ing perch’ with a record-breaking 19th title just one point away, today’s is about a fellow Scot he knows well; the man who pipped him to the Premier League title in 1995. Kenny Dalglish gives Liverpool the best chance they have had in years of picking themselves off the floor, dusting them off and fighting Manchester United for that perch once more.

Since ‘King’ Kenny took over at Liverpool for his second spell as manager of the club (albeit still officially in a caretaker capacity) on the 8th January, Liverpool’s revival from stagnation under the ill-fated tenure of Roy Hodgson has been nothing short of amazing. In fact, in the time since he has been in charge Liverpool have won more Premier League points (33) than have probable champions Manchester United (32), and are only behind Chelsea (35), the club that recently went on a run of picking up 23 points from 25 games.

Dalglish has Liverpool playing the kind of attacking football that its fans desire and demand. In their last three games (at home to Birmingham and Newcastle and away at Fulham last night) they have scored 13 goals and taken maximum points. While Hodgson’s defensive organisational skills have been vindicated with a successful few months at West Brom, he simply did not suit Liverpool’s style. Kenny Dalglish is Liverpool and played a huge part in defining that style in the first place, as a player who scored 118 goals in 355 appearances for them over 13 years in the 80s and late 70s.

There are many ways in which Dalglish has already taken huge strides in such a short space of time. Firstly, tactics. When he took over this time he had not managed a football team for 11 years. Some feared that he would be out of touch with the modern game. When he won the title with Blackburn in 1995 he did so with an expansive 4-4-2, old fashioned wingers in Jason Wilcox and Stuart Ripley, and two fantastic strikers in Chris Sutton and Alan Shearer. The game is now more negative, with two holding midfielders the norm and a switch in emphasis to counter-attacking football.

The doubters need not have worried. Those close to Dalglish knew how much football he watched, and as a Liverpool fan and Club Ambassador for the previous two seasons he knew the players better than anyone else. His tactical choices have been excellent, and most importantly dynamically pragmatic since he took over. He even surprised everyone and rolled back the years to play a 3-5-2 with which he defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. After that match there could be no doubting that the King was back.

Secondly, Dalglish has almost instantly ridden the club of their dependency on Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard. When he arrived Liverpool were still capable of beating anyone on their day, but only when these two performed. Torres’ startling loss in form and Gerrard’s injury problems were a huge factor in their poor performance in the first half of the season. Although he could have forced Torres to stay against his will, Dalglish understandably only wanted players who were hungry to play for Liverpool. The £50 million recouped from Torres’ sale went on buying the highly-rated Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll.

Dalglish also found a new striker in his own dressing room. Dirk Kuyt had been almost permanently converted into a winger under Rafael Benitez, but he was a prolific striker at Feyenoord, scoring 71 goals in 101 matches. Perhaps the most impressive part of Dalglish’s four months or so in charge is the improval in the performances of players who had until then failed to live up to their reputations and potential. He has always been known for his man management skills, and so it has shown. Kuyt went on a goal spree under a new lease of confidence. After scoring two in 15 matches up until the middle of January, he has now scored nine in nine for club and country.

Raul Meireles has also been a player transformed under Dalglish, and went on his own run of five in seven having previously not scored for the club at all. Now it is the turn of Maxi Rodriguez, who has scored an astounding seven in his last three games, including two hat-tricks, having previously netted just three all season. Lucas has gone from zero to hero and Brazil regular. Dalglish has also put faith in local youngsters Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jay Spearing who have more than repaid that with their performances. The development of these players is absolutely essential to the identity and mentality of the team in the long term, and was a big reason why Manchester United have been so successful with their Mancunian spine in recent years.

Although these last three games have not been against top sides, not many teams score five at Craven Cottage. Mark Hughes does not often concede five goals as a manager, if at all. The most impressive thing is that these routs were achieved without Torres and with Gerrard injured. Dalglish has ticked all the boxes of deficiency that were so obvious under Hodgson and in the latter stages of Benitez’s reign in just a few months, and has given a much maligned club a reason to be positive about the next season.

It is unlikely that Dalglish can break Manchester United and Chelsea’s stranglehold on the Premier League title next season, but with the momentum they now have, and a couple more signings in the summer, he should be able to at least compete with Manchester City and Arsenal for the other two Champions League spaces. If that is achieved then King Kenny would have every right to have his eyes on that perch once again.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Ballan

    Well said about the Reds but your comments about mounting title challenge next season againt manure is way out as I would like to remind you that we beat manure, chelski, mancity and hold arsenal without gerrard and torres. If we continue this form into next season, with a few additions, we will wrap up the title with still few games to play next season. Watch us!

  • Chambers

    I would have thought that after viewing the display of many EPL teams this season it would be noticeable how improvements have come about. There is a more “level” playing field and I would venture that this will continue into next year. I do not agree that simply picking United or Chelsea as likely winners will suffice. There are six or seven teams that have shown and will continue to show great improvement. Who can see what new purchases during the summer recess will do to their fortune next year?

  • billy

    I think the first thing they should do is cash in on Gerrard, it’s time for him to move on. You’ll get 25m for him, sign a decent full back, creative midfielder, winger and you should be challenging. All depends if Carragher has got another season in him, he was woeful under Hodgson

  • Steve

    I love it when the dippers build themselves up for a fall! Looking forward to next season already!! Won’t be long before they’re booing their team again

  • Tommy P

    i think next season will be Liverpools year hahahahahahaha

Previous post:

Next post: