The Magpies manager has dispelled the air of scepticism which met his arrival at the club, while the Scot is no longer seen as infallible at Anfield after a poor league campaign
By Andrew Kennedy
Liverpool arrive at Sports Direct Arena on Sunday trailing their opponents Newcastle by eight points in the race for European qualification. The Magpies have sustained the form which saw them occupy the top four throughout the early months of the season while Kenny Dalglish’s side continue to falter in the Premier League.
Domestic success in the League Cup final back in February, and another trip to Wembley for next month’s FA Cup semi-final clash with Everton, have so far kept the Scotsman’s head above water.
Yet the side which the 61-year-old has assembled not only remains some distance away from competing for Champions League football, but has also subdued the fanfare which welcomed his arrival back in January 2011.
Alan Pardew on the other hand has successfully cut through the air of scepticism which met his appointment in place of Chris Hughton the previous month, with the former Southampton boss ensuring survival upon Newcastle’s return to the Premier League last season before taking them to the brink of Europe for the first time since March 2007 in the current campaign.
Ahead of this weekend’s meeting between the two sides, Goal.com assesses the impact of both managers at their respective clubs.
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With critics regularly taking aim at the Liverpool squad this season, and in particular the signings of their current boss over the past 15 months, Dalglish has routinely been forced onto the back foot when discussing the likes of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing & Jordan Henderson.
Much to his own detriment, the Scotsman’s most vehement defence came in the wake of striker Luis Suarez’s race row with Patrice Evra.
While Dalglish’s desire to protect his own is commendable, as with every aspect of the club during the debacle, the former Blackburn boss’ handling of the incident lacked strategy and discipline, and in turn only served to increase the focus on his own side.
Suarez may now have learned his lesson, but on February 11 when failing to shake the hand of Evra at Old Trafford, the Uruguayan showed complete disdain and lack of respect for the rod Dalglish has made for his own back in defending him.
Pardew, however, stepped into a dressing room which had been unified by Hughton during the club’s 2009-10 Championship-winning season, with the 53-year-old’s sacking threatening to derail Newcastle upon their return to the top flight.
Yet the ex-West Ham manager quietly maintained the positive mood on Tyneside, allowing the likes of Joey Barton & Kevin Nolan to remain at the fore, while ensuring the initial unrest over Andy Carroll’s departure did not dispel the unity amongst the squad.
In the summer, Pardew set about revamping the Newcastle first team, with Barton, Nolan and Jose Enrique, all of whom had shown signs of dissidence in the final months of the season, heading for pastures new.
In turn, the additions of Yohan Cabaye, Davide Santon and latterly Papiss Cisse have transformed the Magpies fortunes this season, but the 50-year-old has instilled them with the same sense of camaraderie which met his arrival at St. James’ Park.
And when big personalities begin to show signs of frustration, such as with French attacker Hatem Ben Arfa, Pardew has displayed the ability to exert seniority over his players while maintaining their belief in the cause – as shown by the former Marseille man whose recent form has rejuvenated Newcastle just in time for the Premier League run-in.
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The difference between the two club’s transfer policies, and also their relative success, can be traced back to January 31 2011.
Having already snapped up Luis Suarez from Ajax for £22.7 million, Liverpool were quick to reinvest the £50m they received for Fernando Torres from Chelsea with a £35m move for Newcastle’s Carroll – the hyper-inflated transfer fee justified by the money the Blues were willing to stump up for the Spaniard.
The fact that Dalglish has defended the signing of the Geordie striker as a ‘minus £15m’ net spend is testament to how underwhelming Carroll has been since his arrival, and unfortunately for the Scotsman, he is just one of a number of expensive flops.
Suarez, Enrique and Craig Bellamy have proved more than sound investments, but Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, signed for a combined total of £48.5m, have struggled adapting to the pressures of playing for a club such as Liverpool.
Deployed out wide instead of in his favoured central midfield position, Henderson has too regularly been bypassed this season, while Adam’s form has nosedived and the prospect of playing in front of the Kop every week clearly hangs like a weight round Downing’s neck.
The failure of Liverpool’s policy of signing English talent is underlined no more than the measured approach taken by Newcastle.
The Magpies did not rush into action following Carroll’s last-minute exit mid-way through the season, instead waiting to invest in the less turbulent summer market, and under the guidance of chief scout Graham Carr, their strategy has proven much more fruitful.
Frustration met the board’s patient approach, but Pardew added a depth of quality to the side with a number of swiftly sealed deals – no longer would Newcastle conduct their transfer business on the back pages of tabloid newspapers.
Yohan Cabaye, Davide Santon, Gabriel Obertan and Demba Ba, all who have played crucial first-team roles at Sports Direct Arena this season, were acquired for far less than the £20m spent by Liverpool on Downing.
This cautious approach continued throughout January and once again proved successful. Despite the need for cover at the back, the right player did not become available, so Newcastle were prepared to wait until the end of the season for defensive reinforcements.
Yet when a target did become available, this time in the form of then Freiburg striker Papiss Cisse, owner Mike Ashley quickly released the funds to acquire a player who scored consistently in the Bundesliga over the past two seasons. Once erratic, Newcastle are now quickly becoming synonymous with sound investment.
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With the club’s fans already predisposed to a dislike of Mike Ashley, the decision to dismiss Chris Hughton following a 5-1 away defeat to West Brom was roundly disapproved, and Pardew’s arrival was seen in the same vein as that of Dennis Wise and Derek Llambias – just another member of the ‘Cockney Mafia’ who had become the focal point of criticism in the north-east.
A 3-1 home win against Liverpool in his first game in charge may have eased proceedings, but the 50-year-old still had some way to go to show he was not merely a stooge of Ashley.
Unlike his paymaster, Pardew kept his counsel while sympathising with the fans over the departure of Hughton, fully aware of the precarious circumstances under which he had been appointed.
The club’s fine form this season has no doubt been biggest thing to endear the south Londoner to the Geordie faithful, who at the beginning of this season remained sceptical over squad depth and quality, but the former West Ham boss’ personality, or ego, is also suited to the club.
Pardew seems to be revelling in a region whose mood is dictated so strongly by its football, and for the first time since Sir Bobby Robson there could be a mainstay at the club’s helm.
The return of Kenny Dalglish to Anfield was in complete contrast, with the legendary Scotsman swooping in to relieve Liverpool from the nightmare they were enduring under Roy Hodgson.
‘King Kenny’ proved to be just the tonic, as he united a fragment side and frustrated supporters to pull the club from 13th place in the Premier League table to finish in sixth come the end of the season.
Yet Liverpool cannot simply be galvanised back into the top four, and Dalglish has been left wanting.
Wasted transfer money, a series of draws on home turf and their most recent dip in league form has seen a number of fans begin to question the previously infallible icon, with some reluctantly conceding the 61-year-old’s limitations while others are already clamouring for Dalglish to return to boardroom level.
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The Newcastle boss has by and large stuck with a 4-4-2 formation throughout the season, with Pardew often opting for changes in personnel to alter his side’s tactical emphasis.
Hard-working wingers such as Jonas Gutierrez have been key for Alan Pardew this season, with the likes of the Argentine and Gabriel Obertan not only able to provide ammunition for Demba Ba, but also covering defensively when needed.
The arrival of Cisse has provided perfect foil for his Senegalese team-mate, while deployment of Cabaye and Cheick Tiote in central midfield has been a vital factor in Newcastle’s success, with the Frenchman taking on the creative onus while the Ivorian provides the engine and breaks up the opposition’s play.
While the Magpies can sometimes look fragile on the road, the 5-2 defeat away to Fulham having led 1-0 at half-time being a notable example, Pardew has done well to ensure bad runs of results do not get on top of his side, with the former Southampton man making the very most of what is a limited squad.
Liverpool have been defensively sound this season, with Martin Skrtel in particular impressing, while Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique have both in fine form for the majority of the campaign.
However, it has been at the other end of the field where Dalglish has failed to make his side tick, with the Reds frequently unable to finish off multiple opportunities in front of goal which has proved detrimental to their league position.
Again, the issue lies with the quality of the signings made by the Scotsman, and also his persistence to keep the faith with them.
The former Celtic boss has at times been reluctant to risk the effective Craig Bellamy, who has struggled with fitness, while Dirk Kuyt has also found himself out of favour despite the lack of striking prowess in the first team, with Dalglish continuing with Downing, Henderson and Adam despite their lack of form.
Even Andy Carroll, the striker who Dalglish has so often had to defend, hasn’t truly been afforded a significant run of games in the starting XI, which is due to a lack of tactical foresight as to how the 23-year-old would fit into the Liverpool line-up.Follow Andrew Kennedy on