Kenny Dalglish Sacked: 9 Decisions That Cost Him His Job as Liverpool Manager
But to see the official confirmation that Liverpool had indeed dispensed of their club icon was still a sad realization that the King’s second coming had not turned out the way everyone hoped it would, and a clear reminder that, for all of Liverpool’s storied history, the future remains most important.
It is a testament to Kenny Dalglish’s stature and iconic status at Liverpool that he alone would attract such divided opinions between the pro- and anti-Dalglish camps among the most passionate of Liverpool supporters. The dismissal of any other manager with Dalglish's record would have been met with fewer dissenting voices.
But, in hindsight, sometimes analyzing a difficult situation requires taking a step back and looking at the big picture. And the big picture at the end of the 2011-2012 Premier League season was, unfortunately, that Liverpool were simply not good enough.
Here are nine decisions that Dalglish has taken in the past year and a half, to his ultimate peril.
Shelling out for Andy Carroll
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In hindsight, perhaps it was understandable that Liverpool decided to pay the £35 million for Andy Carroll last January.
Not because his recent impressive upturn in form finally justifies his price-tag—far from it—but because sending a message to the supporters and to the club’s rivals was important in the wake of Fernando Torres’ messy departure.
That FSG were willing to dispense of the big bucks to bring Carroll in is a reflection of the fact that they too wanted to get off to a good start with the fans in terms of transfer dealings. And at the time, there was no better prospect to spearhead a young British squad than Andy Carroll.
But it was always going to be a risky decision.
To come anywhere near full value, Carroll would have had to hit the ground running, replicating his form at Newcastle and then some. He came in injured.
That was not a good start, and the lull continued for the best part of a year.
A Summer of Disastrous Acquisitions
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The problem with the Carroll transfer was that it was not a one-off, but merely set the precedent for a series of overpaid British signings that arrived last summer.
The trio of Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam have now become legendary in terms of Anfield transfer failures, and the extent to which Dalglish courted them will not have reflected well on his judgment of player ability.
Ex-Director of Football Damien Comolli paid the price for some heavy investment that hasn’t borne fruit, but, contrary to the patience afforded to Dalglish by many Liverpool fans, the manager was just as culpable in the signing process, as it was he who identified his targets.
Comolli was merely the one who pushed through the financial side of the transfers.
As for his other signings, Jose Enrique, who enjoyed such an impressive start to life at Anfield, has dipped so much that he has been displaced from his left-back slot by a specialist right-back. Craig Bellamy’s fitness problems caught up with him in the tail end of the season.
Dalglish’s only signing who can be considered an unqualified success is Luis Suarez. And even he has had his fair share of troubles.
Letting Go of Alberto Aquilani and Raul Meireles
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All’s well and good when you are strengthening a squad, especially in the midfield area, to improve it.
Not when you are signing mediocre replacements for superior outgoing options.
Such was the case of Raul Meireles.
The fact that Meireles hasn’t replicated his goal-scoring exploits at Chelsea has led to suggestions that perhaps he wasn’t that good of a player after all, but it is undeniable that his contribution to the team in the second half of the 2010-2011 season was vital to Liverpool’s charge up the table.
His attacking positioning, goals from midfield, eye for a pass and efficient ball usage have not been replicated by any of his replacements.
Also baffling was the decision to not even consider Alberto Aquilani, who had been out on loan under Roy Hodgson.
The Italian midfielder, now at AC Milan but might find himself back at Anfield this summer, possesses creativity, flair and passing like no other Liverpool midfielder does at the moment.
He might not be a Xabi Alonso, but he could’ve provided that little bit extra to unlock a defence, something that Liverpool have failed too often to do this season.
Too bad the bridges have probably been burned there as well.
Misguided Handling of the Luis Suarez Incident
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And then, there was the Luis Suarez incident.
Without spending time on recapping the events from that case, we can see in hindsight that Kenny Dalglish, while acting with the club’s interests at heart, unfortunately opted for an anachronistic way to defend his star striker.
Because, with the prevalence of political correctness and public relations, simply defending your man to the hilt is not good enough, not modern enough, not corporate enough.
Of course, Suarez had a big role in the outcome of the incident as well. His decision not to shake hands with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra despite assurances to the contrary put Dalglish in hot water.
But looking back, there were so many things Dalglish could have—and should have—done better.
Modern football, where the football is as important as the business, requires more balanced and big-picture thinking.
Failure to Cover for Lucas’ Absence
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Back in November, when Lucas Leiva suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury and would be out for the rest of the season, Liverpool suddenly had a whole other personnel problem in midfield: The lack of a dependable defensive midfielder.
Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing were all tried in the DM role.
Understandably, given that none of them are specialist DMs, they failed to plug the Lucas-shaped gap in the middle of the park.
So it was up to Dalglish, then, to find either a short-term option for or a long-term alternative (or complement) to Lucas.
It didn’t happen. And so, the story will go, Liverpool’s midfield hopes suddenly rested on Jay Spearing.
Refusal to Play Experienced and in-Form Players
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In the post-match interview of the FA Cup Final, Kenny Dalglish put Liverpool’s loss down to the relative youth and inexperience of his team.
A valiant attempt to deflect attention from a poor first hour against Chelsea, but a statement that has all but summarized Dalglish’s second reign at Anfield.
Because it is simply an unfounded statement, a quite laughable sentiment when you have Maxi Rodriguez, who has scored in the World Cup Finals, and Dirk Kuyt, who has played in the Final itself, on the bench.
Add to that Dalglish’s misplaced loyalty in his British charges—three of whom have made this observer’s Worst Signings of the Season list—favoring under-performing players over those in form, and you have a recipe for a disastrously inconsistent season.
Which is, ultimately, what Liverpool have endured since last August.
Conservative Tactics in the FA Cup Final
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While Dalglish has put out some innovative tactical formations to counter the threat of some opposition (notably his 3-5-2 against Stoke and Chelsea in his first few months in charge), the FA Cup Final against Chelsea this May was a clear example of a wrong selection.
Against a strong Chelsea midfield that contained the tireless running of Ramires, the creativity of Juan Mata and the deceptive positioning of Frank Lampard, Dalglish’s decision to go with youthful energy in the guise of Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson was misguided. His (relatively) early substitution of Spearing said as much.
On the attacking side, the decision to start Suarez as a lone striker was always bound to backfire.
His lack of an aerial presence enabled Chelsea’s defenders to hound him on the ground, thereby limiting his influence and reducing his effectiveness.
It was only when Andy Carroll was sent on—when he should have started the game—that Liverpool began to pose any problems for the Chelsea defence, and as well all know, it was too little, too late.
Maxi Rodriguez, Liverpool’s resident Chelsea assassin this season, didn’t even take to the field.
Confrontational Approach Toward the Media
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Apparently, Kenny Dalglish the person is friendly and down-to-earth with a great sense of humor.
That makes his thorny persona in front of the cameras and during interviews all the more baffling.
His confrontational approach toward the media has won him few friends and has attracted unneeded attention—journalists and former players alike have expressed their disappointment with this aspect of Dalglish’s game.
The reality of the modern game is that sometimes it’s all about how you present yourself.
Accepting Cup Runs over Mediocre League Form
Perhaps the defining decision that Kenny Dalglish took, whether he wholeheartedly meant it or just said it to take the pressure off his players, was to be satisfied with Liverpool’s Cup runs this season, labeling a Carling Cup win as more important than a top-four battle.
Make no mistake—to end Liverpool’s six-year trophy drought was an achievement in itself.
Given Liverpool’s illustrious history, which at times weighs on the Anfield club, getting their hands on some long-overdue silverware was an imperative.
But that should never have come at the expense of the league campaign.
Because, as John W. Henry will know all too well, to keep up with the rest of the pack, Liverpool need to be able to dip into the vast riches offered by the Champions League, to provide those ambitious players with a chance to play against the best teams, and of course with the best wage packages.
Ultimately, no matter how good you are in a one-off game, the true measure of a team’s ability is its consistency over the course of a season.
Kenny Dalglish lost his job because he misplaced his priorities.
Opinion: Past, Present and Future
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As one of the most successful football clubs in history, Liverpool rightly have a fascination and obsession with the past.
Kenny Dalglish came from that past. And what a glorious past it was.
Perhaps the fairytale finish would have been that the club legend, parachuted from the past into the current hot-seat, would bring about such a change in fortunes that he would be in charge of Liverpool’s return to their glory years.
For merely having the conviction, the passion and the commitment to even consider stepping into the breach and steadying the sinking ship at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish must be commended.
But the context must also be considered.
Merely a few months into their ownership, John W. Henry was faced with fans calling for the head of an under-performing manager (Roy Hodgson) and for the appointment of their idol.
Kenny Dalglish was asked to take over from Hodgson, but he was never FSG’s first choice.
Still, the improvements that Dalglish oversaw in his first six months meant he had to be the overwhelming favorite for the permanent role.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
For all the doom and gloom that might loom over Anfield, the vacant managerial position at Liverpool should be an attractive one, with sizable and record-breaking commercial ventures established despite the lack of a high-profile European presence, and with the club owners willing to bankroll the Reds to victory.
Kenny Dalglish will be gutted to not be in charge of Liverpool’s resurgence, but the fairytale—that his departure will lead to better things for the club he so loves—is so romantic that it might just happen.
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Such are the long, drawn-out thoughts from a Liverpool fan, who is awaiting FSG’s next move with admitted apprehension.
Were there any other decisions and reasons that led to King Kenny’s fall? And—more importantly—do you see Liverpool’s future as bright or dark?
Let us know in the comments below.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in 10 Things that Have to Change at Anfield Next Season. For more Liverpool opinions and match reactions, please check out and subscribe to my blog, The Red Armchair.