Kenny Dalglish Has Revitalised Struggling Liverpool Side
It took Kenny Dalglish four games to record his first victory in his second spell as Liverpool manager, but his influence upon the club was felt much sooner. Ever since Dalglish was handed the job on a caretaker basis, there has been a feeling of optimism around the club. With the iconic forward back in charge, belief has returned to the red half of Merseyside, a belief that perhaps wasn't there during the short and unsuccessful reign of Roy Hodgson.
As soon as Dalglish was announced as the club's new boss, an excitement gripped the city, and fans began to dig out their old "Dalglish" shirts for the impending trip to Old Trafford.
Liverpool ultimately lost that day, but did so only to a dubious penalty, and did not face the humiliation that many would have expected if Hodgson had remained in charge. Certainly, given the side's 3-1 loss to Blackburn in their previous outing, the trip to Manchester was not viewed with great optimism prior to Dalglish's appointment.
Next up was Blackpool, who had humiliated Liverpool at home earlier in the season in one of the lowest points of Hodgson's reign. Fernando Torres opened the scoring, but Liverpool were eventually beaten by brave Blackpool. Still, there were positives to take from this, in particular, the return to scoring form of star man Torres.
It was in the next game that the Dalglish revival really began. It was the Scotsman's first game at Anfield, billed as "The Return Of the King", and what better opposition than Liverpool's local rivals Everton?
Liverpool dominated the first half, and would have triumphed if not for a disastrous opening period to the second. As it was, the game ended as a draw, but the style of football Liverpool played was refreshing: They were playing the ball out from the back, and attacking with a newfound energy and invention.
It was in the away game with Wolves that Dalglish's side's performance was finally rewarded with a result. Liverpool's recent away record has been dire, both in the latter days of the Rafa Benitez reign, and throughout Hodgson's.
Facing a Wolves side who had triumphed just a few weeks previously at Anfield, Liverpool were dominant, playing pass and move football and putting together some excellent attacking moves. Indeed, 31 passes were strung together in the move leading to the third and final goal.
In midfield, Raul Meireles, often wasted on the right wing under the previous regime, was superb. He laid on the first goal for Torres, and scored an absolutely breathtaking goal of his own.
So what is it that Dalglish does so differently to Hodgson? Well, it appears the two men have very different approaches to the game. Whilst Hodgson likes his teams to be well-organised and safety first, Dalglish favours attacking football.
Indeed, with his side 2-0 up yesterday against Wolves, Dalglish replaced holding midfielder Christian Poulsen with the more attack-minded, inexperienced Jonjo Shevley. This may not seem like much, but it shows the difference in the entire mentality of the two men.
When Hodgson arrived, he said he liked his teams to play pass-and-move football. The claim that Hodgson didn't have enough time, or the right players, to implement this system has been completely disproved by how quickly Dalglish has his team playing in such a style.
Dalglish also seems to show a greater belief in his players, and, in particular, the young Martin Kelly. The £18 million man Glen Johnson has been shifted to left back in order to accommodate Kelly, and he has rewarded Dalglish with some excellent performances.
Torres also looks a different player under Dalglish. This could be explained by the team's more attacking approach, which clearly suits his style of play more. Or perhaps he is simply more motivated to play for a legendary forward such as Dalglish. Whatever the reason, the Fernando Torres of old seems to be returning.
Finally, Dalglish's handling of the media is in stark contrast to Hodgson's. It is difficult to envisage Dalglish criticising the Liverpool fans, or describing an away win at Bolton as a "famous victory." There was also his lack of public support for the players. He criticised Glen Johnson's form to the press, and didn't immediately defend Torres against Sir Alex Ferguson's claims that the Spaniard dived.
Though Dalglish will of course speak to his players in private if their form is below par, it is rather unlikely he would tell the press of his concerns.
It may appear that this article is overly critical of Roy Hodgson's time at the club; this is not meant to be the case. Hodgson comes across as a nice guy, and is obviously a talented manager. However, he was clearly not the right man for Liverpool.
Is Kenny Dalglish? Only time will tell. But the early signs are certainly promising, and suggest that the Return of the King will indeed be a triumphant one.
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