By George Ankers
So Liverpool’s season, over which they have gradually shed all manner of staff, ends with the King toppled from his throne.
It has certainly been an extremely trying year for the Reds, no question, but the decision to jettison Kenny Dalglish is ultimately a harsh one for Fenway Sports Group to take. A reasonable one, where you can see their thought processes, but a harsh one nonetheless.
Strip away all the various layers to look at the results, and you can understand why Liverpool would sack their manager.
Eighth place in the Premier League, six points down on last year’s disappointment, four points behind Everton, just six wins at Anfield and a goal difference in single figures. Nobody will pretend that that is a good record for this club.
But Dalglish, despite his errors, seems now to have been a club icon hung out to dry by FSG, to soak up the criticism, only to be dumped before he can attempt to fix the glaring holes in his team.
|FSG LIVERPOOL TIMELINE
|COMPLETE PURCHASE OF LIVERPOOL FC
||Fenway Sports Group complete their £300 million takeover of Liverpool football club|
|BRING IN COMOLLI
|NOV 2010||Liverpool announce Damien Comolli has joined the club as director of football strategy|
|SACK HODGSON AS MANAGER|
|JAN 2011||The club dismiss Hodgson after a poor run of results and bring in Dalglish as caretaker boss|
|APPOINT DALGLISH ON FULL-TIME BASIS
|MAY 2011||FSG decide to hand the reins to Dalglish on a permanent basis after an encouraging start|
|APR 2012||Comolli is let go after the Reds seemingly fail to make sufficient headway in the transfer market|
|GIVE DALGLISH VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
|APR 2012||The Scot is assured of his position at the club despite a disappointing league campaign|
|MAY 2012||Club icon is let go after Liverpool finish eighth and miss out to Chelsea in FA Cup final|
While Dalglish’s approach was at times misjudged to say the least – the T-shirt campaign in which he participated and his raking over of the old coals just when it seemed that we had all moved on spring to mind – but FSG, by and large, just stood back and let him become the face of the club’s siege mentality.
Lurking in America, the owners should have been more proactive in driving the club’s response to help quell the bitterness that at times engulfed them. They only stepped in after the Reds’ reunion with Manchester United nearly five months later to force apologies from manager and player.
FSG resumed their back-seat role as, despite the continued awful league form, Dalglish somehow pushed his side to League Cup success and one incredible Petr Cech save from a cup double. The former may not be the world’s most glamorous competition but it surely counts for something.
Liverpool’s problems, while pronounced this season, are far from unsolvable. They already have the most important thing, a strong defence – though Pepe Reina could do with some good competition in goal – and, when Lucas Leiva returns to training following his serious knee injury, will have more bite in midfield.
What has been missing is the lethal touch up front. Suarez has performed very well at times but it is now clear that he is a far-from-infallible finisher who may need two or three opportunities to score.
The Uruguayan needs to be playing alongside someone who can be relied upon to hit the net every time - how enviously the Reds must be watching Nikica Jelavic excel for Everton. But this issue could be solved with one unclasping of a wallet.
Liverpool do not need to be perfect, they just need to have flaws fewer or equal to their supposed rivals. In this Premier League, high on entertainment but lacking in genuine quality across the board, that is far from an unclimbable mountain. One classy striker and one or two serious creative talents in midfield, and they should improve considerably.
Clearly, though, FSG do not trust Dalglish to handle the money this summer, and that is a reasonable opinion to hold of a man who saw the likes of Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll, both with potential but still, despite the latter’s Euro 2012 call-up, far below the level that Liverpool require. That is to say nothing of the horrendous mistake that was spending £20 million on Stewart Downing, who is plainly not good enough.
But didn’t FSG address this problem already? They fired Damien Comolli not long ago. The Frenchman was their man, the director of football whose job it was to oversee transfers. You would have thought that sacking meant Dalglish would be spared, but now it is clear that the owners want a total clear-out.
While John W Henry et al will be expected to implement a Plan B straight away considering the sweeping, decisive change, Dalglish walks away with his status at the club he loves more or less intact.
|KOP A LOT OF MARTINEZ
|5/2||Roberto Martinez is 5/2 with Sportingbet to be the new Liverpool boss|
Fans are certainly frustrated with the year's trials but they know that they are not truly so far behind. Who knows what Dalglish would have been able to achieve having learned the lessons of 2011-12? To be so ruthless with a man so dearly adored by the Anfield faithful means that the owners now walk a very thin rope, with the pressure immense for success next year.
FSG might be keen to wipe the slate totally blank, but the man they used as a lightning rod will only leave Liverpool in the most literal way.