Webster: Dalglish needs to find blend
When Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish looks at the fixture list in July with his fat red marker pen, Chelsea are the first team he circles. He knows from experience that they’re nothing more than a three-point ATM machine after all he won his first league title as a manager at Stamford Bridge.
In a way, the result on Sunday takes me back to the heyday of Liverpool when Dalglish as a player and manager. The Reds, back in the mid 1970s to late 80s would always find a way to win regardless of the performance. Now whether the Scotsman can get them back to that level, we’ll have to take a 'wait and see' stance.
Judging by the 90 minutes I saw at the Bridge I think he’s still looking for his preferred starting XI. Consider the money spent on Andy Carroll, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing. Over $100 million dollars of talent cooling their heels on the bench in a match that many considered was a ‘statement’ affair.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be concerned by this tactical decision but these three young players are England internationals and were bought by Dalglish to provide the future foundation of the club Carroll has scored a paltry two goals in 10 appearances this season and he looks like the shadow of the player that was terrorizing defenders in the black and white of Newcastle.
His few touches on Sunday reminded me of a pub player, but Dalglish has publicly stated He still has belief in the big Geordie - but then what else could he say?
With Carroll increasingly looking like option B, it does feel like he is a very expensive experiment that has gone badly wrong. Dalglish, who was once a very expensive striker himself, is well aware of the qualities a striker needs and how he should be delivering. I think it’s up to the manager to restore belief in his center forward and he can only do that by playing him.
The problem of starting with Carroll is that he changes the style of football the Reds play.
It reminds me of when John Toshack and Kevin Keegan used to lead the line, which in today’s era might be a little too primitive.
Then there is Stewart Downing who has played in every match but has flattered to deceive. I don’t think you could say that he has truly established himself as the answer to the age-old width problem that the Merseysiders have experienced over the last 10-15 years. And if we’re to believe the press around the time of his signing from Aston Villa, he was brought in to supply crosses for Carroll!
Henderson looks bright and promising in spells but I think that Dalglish might have some concerns as to whether his personality is big enough to boss the engine room.
At 20-years-of-age, he has time to grow into that role but when you pay the kind of money that the Reds paid Sunderland for his services there is a sense that he should be able to stamp his authority from the start.
I’d be interested to know what role the Director of Football, Damien Comolli, played in these purchases because with a third of the season almost in the books, could you say that this trio look and smell like Liverpool players? I’d have to say that was open to debate.
On the other side of the coin, saving Dalglish and Comolli from some uncomfortable moments in press conferences regarding their buying habits, are the three players who truly seem to have Liverpool pulsing through their veins.
Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy and Charlie Adam have all slipped seamlessly into the Anfield way of life and they feel like the soul of this current XI.
Suarez, despite his problems, reminds me of Dalglish in his prime. The Uruguayan is full of life, tricks and that extra ingredient. He is a match winner in the Dalglish mode and without a doubt one of the most exciting players in the Premier League.
Bellamy, who also knows a thing or two about on and off the field misdemeanors, has shown that if you give him the right amount of love, playing time and pair him with the right partner, anything is possible. I’m certainly not going to compare him to fellow Welshman Ian Rush. But, like Rush, Bellamy is getting a second chance at Anfield and he’s relishing it.
And then there is Adam. I know it’s very dangerous to compare players from different eras but he does have a bit of the Graeme Souness about him. He has a great work rate, he’s a super passer of the ball and he also has that mean, nasty streak that makes him the mirror image of the former Liverpool hard man.
Dalglish can get the best out of his expensive buys while keeping the above three out of trouble, then Liverpool will eventually figure out how to take three points from the lesser teams because against the big boys, notably Chelsea and Arsenal, they just pop in the ATM card and take all three points.