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.