Here we are, just past mid season and Liverpool lay in seventh position with 35 points from 21 games. The mass of expectation that arrived with the second coming of Kenny Dalglish has all but disappeared. The almost nailed on European football qualification that was expected has all but fallen off.
Liverpool have received a wake-up call this season. Yes they've progressed, yes they're playing better football than they were last season, if fact, better football than they've played for years arguably. There's plenty of pace, invention and hard work from the players. However, having taken all of that into accoutn the team still isn't progressing. I believe Kenny Dalglish is just as good, if not better a tactician than Raffa Benitez. His willingness to adopt various formations including the three centre backs and wing backs are things that Liverpool have not done on a regular basis since Roy Evans was at the helm. His man management skills are also without question because the players have given increased their desire, workrate and level of performance by at least 15% since his arrival so clearly the management is not to blame in that respect.
Where I feel Kenny falls short, in my opinion, is in his dealings in the transfer market. He has clearly paid "over the odds" for certain players and one or two of them have performed below, not only the fans' expectations, but to Dalglish's also. This is evident in some of the remarks he's made in the press about the players needing to become more clinical. However, the old saying prevails. "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear". No matter what Liverpool play for a player, he has to perform. The club expects it. The rest of the team expects. and without doubt and most importantly, the fans expect it.
I was going to suggest that Liverpool need to adopt the famed European approach of having a Head Coach, basically the Manager, and also a "Director of Football". The man who goes out and undertakes transfer dealings in close collaboration and after taking advice and instruction from, the Manager. But wait a minute... Liverpool already have this. Step forward one Damien Camolli. As far as I recall, Comolli was employed as the instigator and the man that can make things happen whilst Dalglish gets on with the job of managing the players recruited from his efforts. Comolli's job was to, in conjunction with Dalglish search for the best young players who can bring about the lofty ambitions of the club and at the same time to develop the future vision of the club. Both in terms of on and off-field activities.
The question I have is, where is Comolli? He's been very quiet this window. This season in fact. This time last year, upon his arrival he was saying how he and "Kenny" were going to bring about the success that all Liverpool supporters wish from the club that has stumbled over recent seasons seeking out the best young talent etc etc. This all seems to have come too an abrupt halt. I suspect it's because he knows that although money talks, it doesn't always talk sense. He's probably under pressure to bring in the players at a decent price and it wouldn't surprise me if his tenure doesn't go beyond this season if things persist.
Liverpool have overpaid for many of the transfers. This is clear. Comolli's task is to negotiate the transfer fees for the players that Dalglish identifies or those that are proposed to him by Comolli. I don't believe that Dalglish has any direct input into the transfer fees or salaries paid to the player he recruits. Looking at the transfers that have been made since Comolli's appointment I'd say these negotiations have not gone as well as one would expect. Could Liverpool have paid less for than £35m for Andy Carroll? Probably. Could they have paid less than the reported £20m for Stewart Downing? Probably. Was Jordan Henderson, a decent but ultimately unproven youngster really worth £12m? Probably not. These are questions that have to be asked. All three of these buys have come in for the most criticism from fans, and the media alike, and quite rightly so. Their collective efforts have been anything but inspiring.
Conversely, the best performances have come from those who have cost the least. Jose Enrique has been one of the better purchases at £6m. A very consistent performer. Craig Bellamy? A snip at the cost of his wages on a "free" transfer. The amount given for Luis Suarez, a reported £22m is very good business considering that in his absence the Liverpool team can't hit a barn door for toffee against decent opposition. This has to prove that it's not about the fee and this is where I call Comolli into question. The expectations of the supporters has not been managed correctly. If you buy "potential", then don't expect to win the league. The two manchester sides and Tottenham are not potentially good sides. They are good sides. Arsenal is a perennial potentially good side. That's why Arsene Wenger's side have struggled to win anything in recent times. Potential does not automatically lend itself to success.
Liverpool's owner John W. Henry of Fenway Sports Group has gone on record as saying that Liverpool have overpaid for certain players. We all know who they are. If Liverpool are going to achieve success this has to stop. Buy potential by any means, but don't expect to win or perhaps even challenge for the title with it.
By Ben Green
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