Thursday’s Papers: Dalglish’s “major task” just got bigger

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If Kenny Dalglish hadn’t already realised it, then last night’s sorry 2-1 defeat at the hands of Blackpool – Liverpool’s second of the season to the Seasideres – has firmly laid out the task ahead.

After the game Dalglish praised the spirit of his players, much improved from the away trip to Ewood Park last Wednesday night. But there’s still a long way to go in the overall performance of the Reds’ game.

The inclusion of Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic raised eyebrows and their performances throughout the game did little to inspire either. Dalglish was without captain Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and also left Ryan Babel and Joe Cole out of proceedings.

Fans questioned why Argentinean Maxi Rodriguez wasn’t in the team, but his performance against Manchester Utd wasn’t exactly stand out.

Liverpool’s lowly defeat leaves them 13th in the Premier League table, just four points above the relegation zone, five points above bottom club West Ham.

Whatever you say, we are currently in a relegation fight.

Andy Hunter in the Guardian says:

Dalglish identified the misplaced pass from the midfielder Raul Meireles that led to Blackpool’s equaliser as the game’s key moment. The overall performance, he admitted, highlighted several fundamental problems that have contributed to a dismal campaign thus far.

“I am disappointed,” the Liverpool manager said. “We got off to a good start, a couple of good passes and Fernando got in and finished really well. For their first goal, you can give them credit for the way they finished it off, but we were in a good position and if we had laid the right pass then we could have walked it in for 2-0 and it would have been a different game. That was the turning point. For the second goal, we cleared the corner quite sufficiently but it’s come back in and we haven’t picked the guy up. Those are a couple of things we can work on, things we can solve.”

Here comes the cavalry

John Henry and Tom Werner’s first Liverpool game after taking over the club back in October was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park. Now they return again for the reverse fixture at Anfield this Sunday with work to be done.

A new chief executive is expected to be appointed during Henry and Werner’s stay in England, and the discussions of funds for transfers to boost the squad. On last night’s performance some cash needs to be spent, and fast.

Where will the money be spent? Rory Smith of the Telegraph looks as Fenway Sports Group’s way of thinking.

Investing in youth remains high on FSG’s priorities – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Southampton’s 17-year-old midfield player, is one target, though his £10 million asking price may prove prohibitive, while Sylvain Marveaux, the Rennes winger, remains a possibility for a summer free transfer – but Dalglish will be well aware he requires immediate, senior reinforcements.

Smith also believes now may be the time to address the issue of a new stadium, or expanding Anfield. Even the morale boost of Dalglish can’t shy away from the need for progress at the club.

As for last night, well questions have to asked – King in charge or no King in charge – of what went wrong. Why was Glen Johnson at left-back? Why did it take Dalglish so long to make some changes in the second half? David N’gog’s five minutes at the end wasn’t going to turn a 1-0 deficit around.

Ian Herbert of The Independent questions the players performances and Dalglish’s tactics last night well.

Glen Johnson was deployed in an alien left-back role, such is the apparent disenchantment of Dalglish with that bellwether of the Hodgson era Paul Konchesky, and he looked deeply uncomfortable there. Daniel Agger revealed more of the defensive flaws in his game which Roy Hodgson extemporised on in what was to be his last public discussion of Liverpool in the Anfield press room after Bolton had been dispatched. No penalty this time but a heavy price: Agger flapped around the encroaching Gary Taylor-Fletcher in the 12th minute and Liverpool’s sublime start had gone.
It is worth lingering on that brief sublimity, if only for the tantalising hint if offered that Dalglish can deliver Liverpool to a better place. When he last picked a Liverpool side, Blackpool were in Division Four, thumping Aldershot 4-1 away in the week when Dalglish’s side drew 4-4 at Goodison Park, but his players started with a vim which suggested he can breach the gulf of two decades. Martin Kelly, Dalglish’s pick of his players at Old Trafford on Sunday, seized confidently on space down the right flank before Blackpool had gathered themselves, and played in Torres to thump past Richard Kingson at his inside post. The strains of “Dalgleesh” thumped around the old stadium and life seemed so simple.

So all eyes on the Merseyside Derby. John Henry and Tom Werner you have some work to do, and maybe I’m still in dreamland of Dalglish’s return, and despite two defeats from two, it still is exciting times.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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