We continue our look back at last season, with an overview of the tactics used during season 2011/12.
Kenny tried to bring back pass and move football to Liverpool. Did it work? Yes. And no. In the early stages of the season, it worked beautifully. It contributed to a decent, if not great, start, to the league, and a Cup run that got us to two finals, winning one.
Trouble is, we needed certain types of players to help facilitate the beautiful game. Hard, ugly players (and I don’t mean their looks!). Players to mop up the mess when the pass and move broke down.
In Lucas and Adam, we had those players. The players to harrie the opposition, to win back the ball when it was lost further up the field.
When we lost both Lucas and Adam to injury though, those tactics went to pot. We didn’t have the players to cope or cover. Spearing wasn’t up to it, Gerrard preferred to be further up the field, neglecting to track back – when he wasn’t injured too that is. And Henderson was played out of position on the right rather than honing his skills in the centre.
When we lost Lucas and Adam, it really didn’t look like Dalglish had a ‘Plan B’. We didn’t sign a defensive midfielder in the January transfer window, when we really needed one. And the down turn in league results reflected the lack of options or ideas.
Attacking tactics were also fairly baffling. We hit the woodwork an amazing number of times this season, and it should have been obvious to even a 5 year old fan we needed another striker alongside that midfielder in the January window, yet he too failed to materialise.
Dirk Kuyt was either left out in the cold, on the bench, or at times on the right of midfield, rather than being placed up top. The treatment of Andy Carroll was, also, baffling to say the least. Instead of being given a run of games that he needed to build an understanding and partnership with Luis Suarez, he was too often given one or two games, then dropped to the bench for the next five or six games.
The same with Maxi. One of our best players, when he was given a game, scored almost every time he played. Yet Dalglish insisted in starting more often than not with Downing on the left, when it was clear Maxi would have been a better option. If he was given more games, certain results may have been different. But Dalglish almost appeared to be freezing him out.
And then we come to Luis Suarez. He’s not now, and never has been, the type of player that can lead a line on his own. He needs someone up there with him. Whether its Diego Forlan in the Uraguayan national side, or Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt or Maxi Rodriguez here at club level. He’s more effective alongside a partner, yet plenty of times, Dalglish used Suarez as a lone striker. It didn’t work the first time, or the second time, yet Dalglish insisted on sticking with it. He didn’t seem to realise, to learn, it didn’t work.
And then there’s the substitutions. There were games last season that were crying out for a sub as early as half time, if not no more than 10 minutes into the second half. Yet those changes were never forthcoming until the 80th, 85th minute. By which time it was to late to make any effective difference. And like the players, Dalglish insisted on sticking to this method, even when it was clear, game after game, it wasn’t working.
There was no ‘Plan B’. There were times we needed a ‘Plan C’, but it never happened. At times, Kenny seemed lost, even out of his depth, standing there as a forlorn figure on the touchline.
The tactics Dalglish used worked, to a point, but when it came time to change them, he couldn’t, or wouldn’t. Only results from the first half of the season, saved our season. Results post New-Year were relegation form. And the tactics were a large part of that.
Dalglish tried the old 4-4-2, he also used the 4-2-3-1. Neither worked with any great success. Mainly due to Kenny’s reluctance to mix things up.
The tactics failed the team. The team failed the tactics. Both contributed to our poor league finish, and ultimately caused Dalglish to receive his marching orders.