Kenny Dalglish Sacked: Five Reasons Why This Was the Right Decision
Liverpool’s owners have terminated the services of Kenny Dalglish, who failed to improve the club's performance in his 17 months as manager. Specifically, the squad could not regain the Champions League form demanded by the owners and their £100 million overhaul of the team roster.
Dalglish has pushed the limits of his imagination to come up with justifications as to why the season has not been a bust. Most memorable was his insistence that sponsorship and kit deals count towards a successful season, even as the club plummeted down the League table.
Even so, questions were being asked of the manager even before the announcement, with some reports suggesting that overtures were being made to Wigan boss, Roberto Martinez to be Liverpool’s new manager.
That line of inquiry prompted an angry response from the Scot, but even he could hardly be surprised by the turn of events. He would be hard pressed to argue that the speculations were unwarranted, which he seemed to have acknowledged by traveling to Boston to hash out his future with ownership.
Now that the axe has fallen there will be strong reactions on both sides of the debate, but having seen the club to its worst-ever Premiership campaign, few should be surprised by the turn of events. Should supporters still question the move, here are five reasons why this was the absolute right call.
5. Diminishing the Brand
I wrote earlier that the modern football manager has to be savvy with not only managing his players, but managing relationships with the press as well. Given the club’s desire to establish Liverpool FC as a global brand, Fenway Sports Group needs an astute manager to help promote the club brand.
Broadcast deals with the likes of Sky Sports and ESPN help ensure that all clubs have money to compete within the League. European competition however, provides not just the stage, but also the financial vehicle for attracting and retaining the best players. Heightened visibility promotes the brand.
This is what forces clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United to embark on arduous preseason tours in North America and Asia, so as to increase the club’s global footprint among new audiences.
Kenny Dalglish has been a colossal failure in protecting that brand, and it’s particularly hard to argue with that assessment in light of the embarrassing handling of the Suarez controversy. A post-match dressing down of Sky Sport’s Jeff Shreeves resulted in a forced apology, and a later concession that he would do things differently given the chance all over again.
His petulant stance was a disservice to the club on several levels; for one it unnecessarily ginned up supporters into believing that there was some sort of conspiracy against the club. Secondly it divided the fan base into adversarial camps of pro- and anti- Suarez factions and arguably diminished the club’s international standing.
Pass and Snooze
- Liverpool has won 6 penalties in the Premier League this season, and have converted just one of those chances.
- The team had 514 shots on goal this past Premier League season, but only 206 of these have been on goal, for an accuracy rate of 31%. Of the 206 shots on goal, only 47 of those actually resulted in goals for a conversion rate of 23%.
- Fans have also grown accustomed to seeing wayward shots, with Liverpool hitting the woodwork on 32 occasions, not counting the Swansea match. In this category, Liverpool are the runaway leaders among current Premiership teams.
- Manchester United have had 51 shots fewer than Liverpool in the league this season, but have remarkably scored 41 more goals than the Reds.
- The club has also been shutout an alarming 34 percent of their matches this season. Only on one other occasions have Liverpool been worse, failing to score in a shocking 37 percent of their games last season. In this regard at least, the club has been improving.
- Sub-par performances against weaker teams are emblematic of mediocre teams, and this is one area where Liverpool struggled.
Rather than improving offensively, the club has struggled under Dalglish, a repudiation of everything that Liverpool football once stood for.
Not Up to Speed with the Modern Game
Dalglish was away from managing for over a decade before his return to Liverpool last season. His hiring was met by concerns from some that he lacked the tactical innovations and man management skills needed by the modern manager. As the following demonstrates, those fears may have been well-founded:
1. The Transfer market
All things considered, Luis Suarez has performed well since his arrival from Ajax 16 months ago, and Andy Carroll has finally started to give fans a glimmer of hope that the club’s £35 million investment in him will pan out.
Those two aside, it is fair to say that Dalglish got the overall transfer acquisitions horrendously wrong. Charlie Adam had an already poor season cut mercifully short by a knee injury (not to make light of the injury, we certainly wish him well in his recovery).
Meanwhile, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson have only compounded the underachievement, as has Jose Enrique who started the season so brightly, only to regress at the end.
2. Line ups and Formations
Injuries and suspensions are part of life in professional football and managers do their best to mitigate against both. That said, of Liverpool’s League matches, only once did Dalglish field the same starting eleven as in the previous match.
Liverpool lost 2-0 to West Bromwich Albion on October 29, and then the same lineup drew nil-nil with Swansea City on November 5th, one week later. The results suggest that even then, Dalglish still got the lineup wrong.
All of this without even mentioning the tactical alignment of the squad fielded. Of the 38 League matches, Liverpool fielded the same formation in less than a third of the fixtures. Liverpool played 18 matches in a 4-4-2, followed by 10 in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
The remaining 10 fixtures featured a 4-3-2-1, 4-4-1-1 or some other variant. Still, while the tactical alignments numbered only a handful, there were only 11 back-to-back instances where the formation was kept consistent.
The constant tinkering with the lineup and formation suggests not only a club that is unsettled, but also a manager searching for answers. In light of the club’s overall failure this past season, it is fair to conclude that whatever the answer, Dalglish never found it.
3. Cups and Kit deals
Of all the public relations missteps committed by Dalglish this season, perhaps none would haunt him as much as his proclamation that the negotiation of sponsorship and kit deals, as well as the club’s performance in the cup competitions, should be used as a gauge of success.
On the surface this seems reasonable enough, but in today’s high stakes environment the comment carries more than a ring of naiveté. Yes, the sponsorship deal with Reebok subsidiary, Warrior Sports is significant (reportedly worth £300 million over six years) and will go a long way towards offsetting the £49 million loss incurred in recent years.
To suggest however that such deals and winning second-tier cups could even begin to balance the ledger against the precipitous fall from the top that the club has seen, is in a word, delusional.
The best players in the world don’t flock to Real Madrid and Barcelona for the chance to play for the Copa Del Rey, but rather to win the domestic titles in the best leagues, and play for a chance to win the Champion’s League.
The Carling Cup, and to a degree, the FA Cup as well will do nothing to attract the world’s best players and to improve the squad, and in this regard Dalglish’s response was found most wanting.
Worst Ever Premier League Campaign
Liverpool may have endured darker days in its history, but judging just by the performances on the field, this has been unquestionably its worst ever Premier League campaign:
- Liverpool’s 14 League wins are its lowest win total ever, matching the mark for futility set during the 1998-99 and 2004-05 seasons.
- The club’s 52 points are its lowest point total since the advent of the Premier League 19 years ago. The only other time the Reds came that close was again, the 1998-99 season with 54 points.
- The plus-seven goal differential ties for second lowest ever with the club’s performance during the debut Premier League season in 1992-93. Only in the club’s second season in the League, did Liverpool achieve a lower point differential with plus four in 1993-94.
- 37 points from top is the largest gap between Liverpool and the title winner, tied with the 2004-05 season.
- The club’s 14 losses ties for third highest loss total, also suffered in the 1998-99, 2004-05 and 2010-11 seasons. Only in 1993-94 (16 losses) and 1992-93 (15 losses) did the club suffer more losses.
Individually, most of these marks are not unprecedented, but what the club has achieved is to match previous records of futility all rolled into one season… a season of historic ineptitude.
Are We Better Now Than We Were 17 Months Ago?
Kenny Dalglish took over the reins at Liverpool on January 9, 2011. This being an election year in the United States, a quadrennial question on the campaign trail is “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?”
This is a question worth asking as we reflect on Dalglish’s second stint as Liverpool manager. The answer will not be comforting to his supporters:
+/- Top of Table
+/- Top 4
+/- Top of Table
+/- Top 4
On January 9th of this year Liverpool were two victories better than they were at the same point last season, but then proceeded to win only 5 of 18 matches (28%) to finish with 14 wins.After a poor start to the 2010-11 campaign that saw Liverpool win only seven of its first 20 matches, Dalglish took over on January 9th and turned things around significantly to see the club win 10 of 18 matches (55%) in the second half of the season, to finish with 17 wins.
Liverpool finished below Everton for the first time since 2004-2005, closer to relegation (16 points) than to the top four (17 points). In 2010 they were a respectable 19 points clear of relegation, and only ten from the top four.
More damning, while credit has been given to Dalglish for Liverpool’s climb up the table, the club failed to close the gap on both the top spot, as well as Champions League contention, in fact, the gap increased in both instances.
This suggests that Liverpool’s movement up the table during the latter half of the 2010-11 season was more likely due to the clubs ahead of them doing poorly, rather than the Reds’ success itself. This is buffeted by a look at the abject performance in the latter part of this past season. Any gains by Dalglish over the Roy Hodgson era, appear illusory in light of this analysis.
Wither Kenny? Wither Liverpool?
Kenny Dalglish will always be a Kop hero. His service to the club, arguably is without par, his achievements on the pitch and off will live on as testament to his quality as player, manager and simply as a person.
In light of the foregoing however, it is entirely fair that ownership have now effected a separation and thanked Kenny for his service. In order for the club club to continue rebuilding for the future, this is the right decision that has been made.
Attention now turns to rebuilding the front office as a new Director of Football needs to be in place before the transfer window opens in five weeks. Before that one would imagine that a manager would have already been in place, with many worthwhile names being mentioned.
Among the leading candidates from the English game are Wigan's Roberto Martinez and ironically, Swansea's Brendan Rogers. Whomever is decided upon they will find before them huge shoes waiting to be filled.
The responsible thing for supporters to now do is stand behind whomever is hired, regardless as to the agreement/disagreement with the sacking. Liverpool will be great again, how soon before that day comes remains to be seen, supporters must be resolute, but patient until then.