Despite only reasonable doubt, Liverpool's owners act decisively
19:16, 16 May 2012
Although there was enough evidence Kenny Dalglish deserved another season, Miguel Delaney argues FSG's decision is someway understandable as the club possibly needs a break from the past
For many Liverpool supporters, this simply wasn’t how it was supposed to end. The king was meant to reclaim the true crown, the kingdom was supposed to be rebuilt.
Ultimately, Kenny Dalglish didn’t necessarily lose his way there but – at the very least – the direction forward became a little less clear.
Sure, there were a fair few signs that proper progress was being made: the two cup runs, the lifting of the Carling Cup, some occasionally excellent football.
But, equally, there were elements of stagnation: the inability to finish that eventually gave way to much flatter displays, the late-season fall-off and – above all – a thoroughly mediocre eighth-place finish.
Of course, Liverpool fans – and Dalglish himself – will look to stats beyond those on the table. There was the fact that they struck the frame of goals more times than anyone else since Opta started taking stats; the fact they had more shots off target than any other team; the fact they missed more penalties than any other team.
A touch more accuracy, it can reasonably be argued, and the outlook would have been dramatically different.
But, ultimately, the outlook remains obscured. And that has been the story of the season – and Dalglish’s entire 18 months back in charge. The very fact that many Liverpool supporters are arguing about whether this has been a good campaign is proof of that.
To a certain extent, the same question remains. Dalglish may have been the man with the clout and the old qualities to mend a fractured club... but was he modern enough to make the vital next step?
The fact is that we still don’t know.
And it’s out of all that confusion that FSG decided to act decisively.
Of course, there is also a legitimate question as to whether they have acted too hastily.
The very fact there is confusion over Dalglish’s performances means there were also enough signs he deserved an extra season. He very well might have corrected all those inaccuracies and improved the team.
In that, it’s surprising FSG have decided so soon. As such, the impression of instability remains. Liverpool will employ their fourth manager in four seasons.
But it’s also possible that may have come down to three principal reasons. Had one of the following turned out rather differently – the Luis Suarez incident, the FA Cup final, the final league position – then it’s entirely possible Dalglish might still be in a job.
Because, while the Liverpool icon may have felt he was only defending his club’s heritage with his stance throughout the Suarez affair, FSG were perhaps thinking about new impressions. It is known to have been a huge issue for them, resulting in those February apologies. For them, in America, it was going to be a little more difficult to spin. Although that might have been a little easier had they achieved one of the two other main on-pitch targets: another trophy, an encouraging league finish.
Of course, the owners may now find this decision equally difficult to spin: having played a PR masterstroke by initially appointing Dalglish to mend the club in the first place, they’ve squandered it by so suddenly going back on it without giving him a second chance.
But it’s also possible that’s what Liverpool need: a complete breath of fresh air. Almost every club that has succeeded on the continent, after all, has done so through a modern, different kind of precocious young manager – from Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona through to Porto’s Andre Villas-Boas and Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp. These are changed times.
Along those lines, the next appointment is hugely important. But does it necessarily have to appease the fans? After all, nothing appeases fans like true progress... even if that takes initial pain.
Look at the controversy over Alan Pardew’s initial appointment at Newcastle United. Fans despised him.
But, in the end, he made much quicker progress than Dalglish with more changes, less money and – arguably – better football.
This is the kind of outlook the Americans are aiming for.
But it still remains a possibility that they didn’t give Dalglish a true chance to make things clearer.
Miguel Delaney is a European football journalist who writes for the Evening Herald, the Irish Examiner, ESPN, the London Independent and ourselves. In 2011, he was nominated for Irish sports journalist of the year.
Follow him @migueldelaney
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