Few could have predicted, when King Kenny came in for Roy Hodgson, that things would get this bad. In these days of highly impatient chairmen and board members I can’t think of one other manager who could have navigated this sequence of results without getting the sack. Indeed, Hodgson himself had a better record in his time at Liverpool.
That’s not to say that I think Kenny Dalglish should necessarily get the boot or relinquish control of daily affairs. Losing to a buoyant Newcastle at St.James’s is no disgrace in itself. But when paired with a 15 minute collapse at struggling QPR followed by a home defeat, to a team that has spent most of the season making up the numbers in the Premier League, you start to get the full picture. The term ‘crisis’ is used all too frequently to describe Premier League football teams but the only thing saving Liverpool from total oblivion right now are the cup runs.
If you want to know the actual source of the problem you need look no further than Liverpool’s bench at the weekend. Two of the three biggest signings of last summer were fit, but only deemed good enough to warm the bench. Meanwhile Andy Carroll gave another performance which undermined his huge transfer fee. Charlie Adam was injured but has hardly ignited the team himself this season.
Jordan Henderson and Carroll have time to improve but, at 26 and 27, Adam and Downing are in their prime now – so we can’t expect huge improvement from either – but neither has done the business this season. If Liverpool are a team in transition then surely these players are the key to next few years. But, based on their performances this time out, most Liverpool fans will be very apprehensive about the idea of these guys taking the team much further forward. Downing, in particular, has been really under par. In the modern game wingers need genuine pace, but Liverpool ostensibly overlooked this fact when splurging on the Englishman.
Whoever is making the signings needs to get their finger out. Be it Damien Comolli or Dalglish, Liverpool cannot afford another summer of expensive yet ordinary acquisitions. As a priority, they need at least one new winger with blistering pace and decent delivery to provide service for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Justin Hoilett may well fit the bill and continues to excite and deliver consistently at Blackburn. They also need an assertive midfielder to play alongside the now ageing Steven Gerrard. That player might come from within – in the shape of either Adam, Lucas, Spearing, Shelvey or Henderson – but either way Liverpool can’t continue to rely solely on Gerrard in the engine room.
And whilst Skrtel and Agger have been decent, Liverpool need a real personality in the heart of the defence. Someone who will boss the team from the back. Someone like Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen.
An FA Cup trophy will go a long way to assuage the anxst of the fans but, beyond that, Liverpool need to have a summer of really intelligent player acquisitions and also think long and hard as to whether Dalglish is the man to take Liverpool forward in a game that has changed almost beyond recognition since the last time the club lifted the league trophy.