Interesting article discussing Kenny's tactics this year:
"Damien Comolli or Kenny Dalglish, who should take the blame for Liverpool’s dismal showing in the league? It might be hard to tell, especially from an outside-in view point, whether Comolli was just a chief scout with a snazzy title or otherwise but one thing’s for sure, once the signature is placed on the dotted line, the utilization of the player becomes the coach’s problem. Kenny Dalglish’s side has performed admirably against the top Premier league sides and in cup competitions but it’s hard to put forth any sort of reasonable defence for their league position.
One player that has all the hallmarks of a Kenny Dalglish signing is Jordan Henderson. The English midfielder would be required to do the job Ray Houghton had done under Dalglish in his first Liverpool stint and to a lesser extent Stuart Ripley for Blackburn as Dalglish tried to replicate that 1995 Blackburn side that won the premier league. That said, this judgment like most-every other about the subject remains speculative at best. So, considering the players at his disposal, what exactly is the problem with this Liverpool team?
Dalglish has a good record against the top Premier league sides be it in the league or cup competitions, he has managed victories against Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City. Ironically, the very reason his team has performed well against these sides and in cup competitions is the same reason they’ve struggled in the league.
What Dalglish does well is set up his team to perform in such one-offs by exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses. Against Arsenal for example at the Emirates, Dalglish switched from a 4-4-2 (with as tucked in winger) to a 4-3-3 by playing Henderson in-field to counter Arsenal’s man advantage in the center. His plan worked and his side went on to win that game.
In that regard, he has done well, but when it comes to beating up on the Premier league’s also runs, the reds have struggled. Cup competitions and big games are all about exploiting weakness while the league is all about playing to your strengths. That’s where Liverpool’s problems start- what is there best eleven, preferred formation or style? Does Dalglish like his team to dominate possession by pressing high, or keep the ball through more horizontal and diagonal passes, or does he prefer a deeper defence and quicker vertical attacks? Your guess is as good as mine simply because Liverpool has alternated between approaches one too many times this season.
A reactive approach often works better for the underdog in any given tie and what Dalglish has struggled to do is to play well in games where Liverpool is the favorite. In a sense, this was Rafa Benitez’s undoing at Anfield, he ended up finishing fifth in a season in which his team won the champion’s league and it would be very interesting to see how Dalglish’s side would perform in the Champions league because they are built for such a competition.
The Jordan Henderson question
When Dalglish’s detractors made their displeasure at Henderson’s performances known early on in the season, here’s what Dalglish had to say,
You should only judge these guys (new signings) at the end of the season and not this early on in the campaign. We knew they had potential when we brought them in and we are confident they’ll come good.
And yet with 5 games to go it’s hard to see how one can justify his purchase let alone the price tag. However, that doesn’t take into account the tactical reasons for buying Henderson. Dalglish won the 1995 Premier league trophy playing a 4-4-2 with a tucked in winger and Henderson is built for the job. The reason for this formation is simply to counter the threat posed by teams that play a triumvirate of central midfielders. In theory, Henderson is supposed to go in-field off the ball and drift out wide when Liverpool gets it.
The Englishman would thus provide Dalglish’s team the width of the classic 4-4-2 while at the same time creating the numerical midfield advantage of the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. Ideally, Steven Gerard would have done this job brilliantly for Liverpool. The problem for Dalglish is that Henderson has been decent in central midfield but average on the flanks at best. Playing such a pivotal role requires an influential player and Steven Gerard has stepped into the role when fit with good effect.
Compared to Man United for example, Rooney does the job of shifting between formations on and off the ball. Man united lines up 4-4-1-1 on the ball and 4-2-3-1 off it. Henderson’s performances are those of a team player and he no doubt embodies what Liverpool have done this season. He is the sort of player whose name should be first on the team sheet for big games and cup ties but should be omitted from the line-up for most premier league ties. Sir Alex has done this well with J.S Park and Dalglish should do the same with his versatile hardworking English midfielder.
Problems with their formation
Kenny Dalglish’s preferred shape this season has been the classic 4-4-2 with a tucked in winger. It was a tad bit surprising that instead of building on the 4-2-3-1 that brought in the results in the final straight of the Premier league last season and led to Dalglish being given the job on a permanent basis, he decided to rebuild from scratch leaving out players like Kuyt who’d been influential in that spell.
His summer purchases were meant to plug the gaps that required plugging and clearly he bought players with a specific position in mind which is always a trait of a top manager. A lot has been said about how Liverpool opted for Downing ahead of Mata but considering Dalglish’s plans, Mata wouldn’t be a good fit. The problem however is that neither is Downing. His best performances for Aston Villa came in a right sided position where he’d come inside, turn on his left and shoot or put in a dangerous pass. At Liverpool, because he is not being played as an inverted winger, his game is so one dimensional, he gets the ball, drifts out wide and puts in a hopeful pass.
Consider Man United’s 4-4-2 in 1999 which was one of the finest we’ve seen in the recent times, they had Beckham and Giggs on the wings, one a dribbler the other a passer but both outstanding. Dalglish has Henderson and Downing, does anyone see why this 4-4-2 is weak? Besides, there’s another problem upfront, Suarez has struggled to score goals as the second striker behind a big man and enough has been said about the big man himself. The weaknesses in this 4-4-2 shape are too many to ignore. Besides, the current shape doesn’t afford a starting berth to someone like Bellamy which should be unacceptable considering the below par performances of some of the other members of the starting 11.
When apportioning responsibility for Liverpool’s dismal showings this season, it’s only natural to direct accusing glances towards injuries to key players like Agher, Lucas and Gerard. But one must consider that such misfortune isn’t necessarily the exclusive domain of Liverpool, Manchester United have had to make do without Cleverly and Nemanja Vidic for the most part but they remain on course to lift a 20th league title under."
-other than that the author doesn't know how to spell "Agher", what do you think of the analysis and how do you think we would've fared in the champions league this year considering how good we've been in cup competitions?