Liverpool still not a big player

23:12, Mar 23 2012

The cup competitions in English football have enjoyed a resurgence.

Previously, the Carling/Littlewoods/Rumbelows/Milk/Mitre 10 Cup had become a bit of a tinpot trophy for the big boys, who had more substantial fish to fry. The vast reserves of gold at the end of the Champions League rainbow meant they generally sent out reserve teams in earlier ties, resting crucial, more precious legs.

However Liverpool, United, Spurs and Chelsea have still dominated the winning podium, just because they can. But these days, a trip to Wembley for the little old ‘third’ trophy can keep you in a job – can’t it Kenny Dalglish?

The oh-so friendly, diminutive, legendary Scouse Mouse that is King Kenny has been telling all and sundry how the mighty reds have been moving ‘forward’ as a club – and of course they haven’t given up on that fourth Champions League spot. Oh god no…I mean what’s 12 points between friends?

Give it a rest Kenny… Liverpool have been below average – and for a club of their stature and with the remit/money you’ve been given, your job should be under serious pressure.

Of course there are mitigating factors. The loss of Steven Gerrard for 15 games has been massive, alongside the totemic Luis Suarez, who felt the full wrath of the FA’s ‘alleged’ clamp down on racism. The EPL is also unforgiving and there has been a bucket-load of surprising results this campaign. Arsenal can testify to that.

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But perhaps the seeds were sown in the very first game – a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland after dominating proceedings. Anfield draws with Norwich, Swansea, Blackburn and Stoke have followed, with Liverpool having scored just 35 league goals this season.

The problems of 35-million-pound-man Andy Carroll have been well-documented (three goals in 15 starts, if you haven’t heard), but he’s not the only highly-paid passenger on this team. Jordan Henderson has been nothing short of dreadful. Positionally unsure, the 20-million flop was seen as a bright light at Sunderland – well Kenny has certainly dimmed that beam. Stewart Downing, a natural winger with a blistering shot and an England regular – no goals this campaign.

Even Charlie Adam, who is one of the finest set-piece experts in the EPL, has drifted in and out of matches. Dalglish likes Jay Spearing, who has recently returned from injury, illustrating that numerous combinations have been utilised, but still Liverpool struggle for a successful system and have no consistent tactical plan.

And don’t start me on Craig Bellamy – am I the only one who thinks he is real quality and just has to be managed correctly?

Anyway, once the players cross the white line the manager can do no more and they must take responsibility. But as the god-awful collapse against QPR illustrated, this is a side bereft of confidence – two wins in their last 10 league encounters says it all.

Is it simply a case of no one being honest enough to criticise the Liverpool messiah that is Dalglish? He is, after all, the epitome of all that was great and good about the club.

An epic player in his pomp, he’s considered one of the finest Britain has ever produced, with his reds having dominated the world of football. He managed the club to three league titles and showed incredible dignity and bravery as the tragedy of Hillsborough unfolded around him. A hero, a legend, a God.

But here’s the rub. There hasn’t been progress for Liverpool under his tenureship this season and he’s deluding himself if he thinks otherwise. A penalty shoot-out was all that stood between Cardiff City and the Carling Cup this year – a very fine margin. And yes they’re still in the FA Cup.

However Liverpool fans want to be challenging for the league. Currently 28 points behind United, they’re nowhere near. And under King Kenny, I don’t believe they ever will be.

Comment of the week Thank you Jambonz: I think 'Arry would be foolish to take the England job if it were offered to him. He'd be forcing his luck, surely. He's in the best place, managerially speaking, of his career. His date with Spurs is about being the right guy in the right place at the right time. Not regarded as a master tactician, he seems to be getting mileage out of Spurs on the basis of his motivational and man-management skills. And he's shining during a period when the general standard of the premiership's top teams is noticeably lower than usual. So luck is also playing a part.

TV schedule

Sunday morning
1.45am
Chelsea v Tottenham (delayed)
4am Arsenal v Aston Villa
6am Stoke v Man City
8.30am Liverpool v Wigan (delayed)
10.30am Sunderland v QPR (delayed)

Monday morning
1.30am
Swansea v Everton (delayed)
4am West Brom v Newcastle

Tuesday morning
9am Man United v Fulham

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