by Rob Ward

If Kenny Dalglish was Roy Hodgson he’d have been fired by now. The list of Uncle Woy’s misdemeanours at the Anfield helm was legion: turgid football; poor communication with the press; wasted transfer funds; lack of Premier League points. Looking objectively at Dalglish, isn’t it possible to justifiably level every one of those accusations at him too?

The easiest stick with which to beat the Anfield legend is his record in the transfer market. Andy Carroll might have seemed like a trade-up on the misfiring Fernando Torres at the time, but with hindsight surely nobody would have forked out such a huge transfer fee for a lumbering carthorse whose sole talent on a football pitch is thumping headers at goal. In order to ensure a regular supply of crosses onto the Geordie’s noggin, Stewart Downing joined the club for twenty million quid and has singularly failed to find his striker. Or anyone else. He hasn’t assisted a goal yet this season.

Jordan Henderson has been a decent buy, but even this acquisition can only be considered to be a qualified success. It’s unclear exactly where his best position lies, although it’s clear he has some talent. Whether it’s enough talent to justify such a huge fee is a question which remains unanswered. Charlie Adam has had his moments in a red shirt but is immobile and – despite flashes of brilliance – hasn’t made a success of his move from Blackpool.

It’s a puzzle as to why their presence was even required. Prior to their arrival Liverpool were pretty well stocked in central areas. Lucas has been the club’s best player for some time, Raul Meireles had settled into life at the club and the option remained to recall Alberto Aquilani from Italy. Sadly the Brazilian is now out for the season following an injury nobody could have foreseen. The Meireles sale, however, is a mistake which could easily have been rectified: the club should have offered him more money when he asked for it and kept him at the club. For some reason Dalglish felt inflated fees and wages for unproven British players were better value than retaining a player who had already proved he suited the Anfield way. A truly baffling call.

Mistake has followed mistake and much of the blame for that must be laid at the door of the manager.

Of course, the one area where Dalglish had been able to claim immunity from criticism was in the purchase of Luis Suarez. No longer. Whilst the Uruguayan dazzled in early 2011 he has failed to deliver goals in the quantity required. The whole team have struggled to put the ball in the net – not least at Anfield. Too many draws have almost completely derailed Liverpool’s attempts to rejoin the Champions’ League elite and Suarez must shoulder at least some of the blame for that.

And it’s not just his performances on the pitch which have destabilised the club. Bringing a player with a disciplinary record like Suarez’s was always likely to be a risk (enough has been written about his career prior to joining Liverpool without me covering it here) and so it has proved to be. And it’s impossible to separate criticism from Suarez from criticism for Dalglish.

The ‘race row’ has been handled embarrassingly by all at Anfield. Mistake has followed mistake and much of the blame for that must be laid at the door of the manager. Allowing his players to wear t-shirts in support of the striker was misguided. Wearing one himself was outrageous. Would any other manager make such a gesture? Neither the player nor the club have issued a decent apology and instead have fostered conspiracy theories and created a siege mentality which has had no obvious benefits for the club. A ‘them versus us’ attitude is not always negative – but in the light of what Suarez has been found guilty of (and admitted!) it is wholly inappropriate.

On the pitch, too, Dalglish seems to have been found out. Liverpool’s defence is brilliant, but with the exception of Jose Enrique (a no-brainer of a purchase) the players shoring up Liverpool’s back-line where at the club before King Kenny returned. Tactical blunders such as playing the goal-shy Dirk Kuyt up front against Stoke, reverting to a three-at-the-back formation at Anfield and playing Gerrard at the base of midfield are fundamental errors which negate the strengths of those players. The team is pedestrian and one-paced – only Craig Bellamy seems capable of inserting any urgency and his fragile knees ensure he can’t play twice a week.

Liverpool are nine points better off than they were last season. But in this season’s Premier League that is not a big enough improvement. The clubs around them have progressed faster and now Liverpool face a huge fight to finish in a Europa League place. The pressure is mounting on Dalglish and he’s turned on his own players following their abject performance against Bolton last night. A siege mentality will only work if the team present a united front. The pressure is on Kenny Dalglish and much of it is of his own making. Will the Kop turn on their idol? They ought to.

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