Kenny Dalglish or Damien Comolli – Who’s To Blame?
With Liverpool languishing in seventh place this season and several high profile signings struggling to justify their price-tags, we look at who is to blame.
Is it a little bit of both? Liverpool are in seventh place after spending upwards of £100 million on players in 2011 (no matter how you spin it) and are looking increasingly unlikely to catch Chelsea in fourth place. Some Tottenham fans think the best thing they ever did was get rid of Comolli, but Dalglish is a long way from the saviour he was last season and his team selections and tactics leave many scratching their heads.
Being on the brink of a Carling Cup Final is never a bad thing, but Liverpool’s priority has to be getting back into the Champions League, and the league performances have not been in line with the owners’ or the fans’ expectations. Saturday’s 3-1 demolition by Bolton was on par with the worst performances under Roy Hodgson, and it comes on the back of one of the most toothless 0-0 draws by a Liverpool side I’ve seen.
Some might argue that Liverpool is a work in progress, but when you consider they were playing much better football from February-May in 2011, you might say that progress has halted, or that we might even be worse off than we were during that wonderful period at the start of the Kenny Dalglish renaissance.
Some might argue it’s the players who should shoulder the blame, and perhaps that’s true, but it’s Comolli and Dalglish who brought them in, and it’s the manager who selects the team, formation and tactics, and the one who’s ultimately responsible for the results.
When Dalglish took over as caretaker manager, it’s unlikely he was given much of a role, if any, in the transfer process. Comolli, in an American style role as Director of Football strategy, was the man who oversaw the players the club signed. That seems to be something that escapes many Liverpool supporters.
It was Damien Comolli then, not Dalglish, who brought in Liverpool’s latest talisman. Luis Suarez has lit-up the Premier league since his arrival, in more ways than one, and has been an unmitigated success.
But Comolli was also responsible for signing Andy Carroll, the most expensive British player ever, and the eighth most expensive player of all time. He certainly must go down as one of the worst signings ever, too. Suarez was clearly a well researched, considered buy, while the Andy Carroll transfer reeks of panic and uncertainty, after Torres handed in a transfer request in the dying hours of the window. Dalglish and Suarez galvanized a team low on confidence.
Dalglish brought fresh ideas, icon status and enthusiasm, Suarez brought genuine quality and guile. Both combined to turn a decent side into a human steamroller that demolished nearly all that went before them. Many thought then, that the summer transfer window was a time to add more quality to an already good side. Dalglish and Commolli clearly had other ideas, and that’s when the honeymoon ended.
Dalglish undoubtedly had more say in the transfer process after being appointed permanently as manager, and although Commolli still oversaw the scouting and overall transfer policy, there is no doubt in my mind Dalglish gave instructions to buy British, and even handpicked Charlie ‘Hollywood’ Adam. Liverpool’s core was ripped to shreds, left unbalanced and replaced with ‘supposedly’ better players.
Despite being among the best performers in 2010-2011, Kelly, Spearing, Meireles, Kuyt and Maxi found themselves either relegated to the bench or no longer wanted at the club. Andy Carroll somehow found himself starting ahead of Kuyt again, despite Suarez and Kuyt’s blossoming partnership, and Carroll’s own poor form.
Downing was brought in ahead of Maxi, at a cost of £20 million (source: Guardian), despite the Argentine’s blistering scoring streak. Downing has yet to score a goal or provide an assist in the league. Henderson was judged to be better than Meireles, at a cost of £16 million (source: Daily Mail). The Portuguese clearly not having any of it, quickly jumped shipped to Chelsea.
Henderson is a talented, if not very ambitious player, but at that cost was not worth the effort, and is not as good a player as Jonjo Shelvey, who arrived for a fraction of the price.
And then there’s Adam, who despite his inconsistency, immobility, inability to tackle, constant fouling and proneness to the Hollywood pass, was judged to be better than Jay Spearing, and still gets picked week in, week out. Against Bolton, Adam had a pass completion rate of 55%. In other words, Liverpool had a 45% chance of losing the ball whenever he touched it.
Only Enrique’s ousting of Martin Kelly can be justified, but even that’s harsh on a young player who promises to be one of the Premier League’s best defenders in years to come. While Craig Bellamy was certainly a good addition, if not a long term solution. Rory Smith summed up my feelings perfectly (for the first and probably only time) on Twitter after the Bolton debacle:
Thank God #LFC invested in proven Premier League performers last summer. Otherwise they might have crumbled in games like this.
For the first time in years, Liverpool had money to spend, and they wasted most of it. Comolli brought them in, but it’s Dalglish who continues to pick them. And it’s Dalglish who played three at the back against one striker in Peter Crouch.
It’s Dalglish who played Charlie Adam and Gerrard in a two man mid field against Bolton, tactical suicide, which was very quickly taken advantage of. Making a very good defense look extremely bad. It’s Dalglish who claimed last week that Stewart Downing was “better than I thought”. It’s Dalglish who relegated last season’s top scorer for Liverpool and a regular Dutch international to the bench, preferring the heavy touch of Andy Carroll instead.
Some believe Dalglish is behind the policy of buying British and that’s the reason for our misfortunes. There’s probably an element of truth to that, but there are plenty of good young British players, we just bought the wrong ones!
In the eyes of many, Dalglish can do no wrong. He revitalized the club, and sent its supporters a message that they all need to pull together. But believing in him no matter what is a dangerous line of thinking. Last season he was bold, trusting the younger players and giving the older ones newfound belief. This season he’s proving to be stubborn, sapping confidence from the very players he gave it to.
The free scoring, free-flowing football of last year — with Maxi, Kuyt, Suarez and Meireles interchanging — has been replaced by a frustrating blend of missed chances and predictability in attack. Both Comolli and Dalglish have to shoulder the blame. Comolli for buying ineffective, overpriced players and Dalglish for demoting good players and continuing to play new ones no matter their performances.
Sacking Dalglish is not the answer, at least not until he’s had a full season in charge. But I struggle to believe he’s the long term answer. Certainly, his post match video conference showed signs of frustration, stress and anger. Not only at his players. This transfer window could be Comolli and Dalglish’s saving grace, so it’s disappointing and a little surprising to hear that the club expects it to be a quiet one. Hopefully, that’s just PR strategy.
If they can buy an excellent finisher, and add cover to defensive midfield, then another strong run-in is not out of the question. If things continue as they have been though, it doesn’t look good for the Reds.
Guest post submitted by Liverpool Football Blog
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