The mood around Anfield has changed drastically since Kenny Dalglish returned and it’s fair to say that the future, to most fans, looks bright. On the morning of the 8th of January the eve of our FA cup tie with Manchester United we were at an extremely low ebb.
Poor league form, crashing out to lowly Northampton in the League Cup and stumbling through the Europa League without really making an impact, there was very little belief we could go to Old Trafford and begin a good FA cup run. But as news broke that Roy Hodgson had departed the club and the King was returning until the end of the season, at least, excitement spread like wildfire. Even a defeat to United the next day couldn’t stem this excitement and since then we have reaped the rewards of Kenny’s return. He brings a sense of security and a sense of belief that with him in the dugout we can return to the top.
Even the departure of Fernando Torres, which just 6 months earlier would have seemed catastrophic, was not met with worry as we know were in safe hands which was shown with the arrival of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez and the manner in which the situation was handled. Had the eague started when Kenny took over we would currently be lying in top of the league and that is a testament to the impact he has had on the side.
However it is important that we do not let the success of Kenny’s reign paper over the cracks. There is still a lot of work required on this squad. Our bench is still looking very weak and this needs to be attended to. Joe Cole since his move from Chelsea has failed to impress and is really struggling in a red shirt. Should the right offer come in I feel we would be best to cut our losses and sell him.
Christian Poulsen and Milan Jovanovic, despite both only being here one season, are another two who I feel need to be moved on. Both lack the pace and creativity that we need and the time for being patient hoping they will come good has passed as we risk falling behind and the lack of game time they have received since January I believe shows that Kenny feels the same. We need to bulk up our squad and a number of players need to be brought in so that we are stronger next year.
If we first look at the defence I would say top priority would have to be left back. Both Paul Konchesky and Emiliano Insua return to the club from their loan spells at Nottingham Forrest and Galatasary respectively but both have shown on past performances that they are not good enough to fill the role and we need to look elsewhere. Our current left back Fabio Aurelio has a fabulous left peg and is a good player but unfortunately he is too injury prone to rely on and Glen Johnson who has deputised there since Martin Kelly claimed the right back slot has shown on numerous occasions his defensive frailties and may be more suited as midfield cover with his attacking abilities.
Steve Clarke has had a massive impact on our defensive abilities but that does not change the fact that with an aging Carragher, injury prone Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel who has never really recovered from his broken jaw and Soto Kyriagkos who has only acted as cover there is also concerns in centre back and we must target this in the summer before it can become a major problem when the season starts. Selling Skrtel or Agger may not be the answer, as they clearly both possess some ability, but it is definitely not something that should be ruled out should an adequate replacement become available but in any case another centre back needs to be added to the ranks.
In midfield Raul Mereleis has been one shining light from the Roy Hodgson era and has been a success story thus far in his Liverpool career. Lucas Leiva is another player who has consistently performed and has made huge improvements over the last two seasons and is now an integral part of the squad. Kenny clearly aims to add another central midfielder in the summer as he narrowly failed in his bid to sign fellow scot Charlie Adam on deadline day and the rumours that he will be a target again in the summer have refused to go away.
The midfield in the centre is reasonably strong when you include Steven Gerrard who is out injured at the moment but the cover is weak. We have had to rely on youth in Jay Spearing, who himself may be playing for his Anfield career at the moment, and Jonjo Shelvey as well as the frequently inept Christian Poulsen covering as a defensive midfielder.
A player of Adam’s ilk will not only supply cover but also competition and another dimension to Liverpool’s game. The wing problem is a different story entirely. Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Joe Cole, and Milan Jovanovic are the wingers at our disposable and that list clearly lacks one thing, Pace. We need to bring in more than one winger and the mid-season arrival of Andy Carroll makes this essential. Service to him in his opening to Liverpool appearances has been poor and I believe this is because we do not have a player who will get the ball on the ground take on the opposition full backs and provide the quality service required. Glen Johnson is someone who if he is given the opportunity loves to take on defenders so the option of him as a winger is one I would consider as well as adding two more in place of Cole and Jovanovic in the summer. This would also free up Dirk Kuyt to deputise as a striker as he still has a huge role to play in the future of the club but at this present time I do not think he is what we need on the wing.
There is a big summer ahead for Kenny Dalglish, should he tie up his new contract, Damian Comolli and Fenway Sports Group and results against Braga, Wigan and West ham under Kenny have shown that we still need to improve the squad. This could be a defining summer for the club in which direction we go and we have to trust that the potential lack of European football won’t deter the right players from joining our illustrious club. We have made the right changes off the field in the last few months, now it’s time to make the right changes on the field.