I love Kenny Dalglish. Love him with my entire being, like a member of the family, one I truly adore, not just the kind I have to see every Christmas. He means a lot to me does Kenny, and any Liverpool fan will feel likewise. He won us our last league title as manager. He scored the only goal in a European cup final to retain the trophy. He’s witty and you know that he loves Liverpool as much as you do. It’s one happy circle of love, something Nero would have liked to have got himself involved in.
Anyway, at the end of last season, Kenny was given the boot from the new American owners, who confessed that they don’t know much about football. Apparently, they know even less about soccer. Now a lot of people were upset about seeing Dalglish go. I personally felt a little cheated and if I’m being honest, reminded myself of my girlfriend the time Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston. You go and ask your girlfriend or wife what she thinks about Jennifer and you’ll hear about how she was treated unjustly, how she was stabbed in the back and betrayed. But you see Brad abandoned her for Angelia Jolie. What Brad Pitt did makes sense. He went out and found someone better. However harsh you may deem his actions, you can’t argue with his logic. So when Dalglish was sacked, there was the thought in the back of my mind that The Americans had Jolie (Mourinho, Guardiola, Del Bosque, Kloop) waiting in the wings. Instead they went and chose Lisa Kudrow. Who I hear you cry? Phoebe from Friends.
Now Kudrow may have a great personality, but she doesn’t attract producers like Aniston and Jolie, and herein lies major issue number one, who is Brendan Rogers? Brendan Rogers managed Watford and took them to the dizzy heights of 13th. He also managed Reading, but left by mutual consent after six months. Then he managed Swansea, taking them into the playoffs and guiding them to 11th in the Premier League. Does this appear like the CV of a manager you want to employ after sacking a manager who won top flight titles with two clubs and your first piece of silverware in five seasons? Twenty-five years ago you could have placed a chicken at the helm of Liverpool and you’d have still attracted an influx of stars. There would have been players willing to share the boss’ pile of grain just to pull on the famous red shirt, but alas now times are different and sadly the name is no longer enough. It isn’t strong enough, which means you have to rely on two other items, money and a big name draw.
Manchester City realised that when they booted out Mark Hughes and replaced him with Mancini. It’s not that Mark Hughes wasn’t doing a decent job when the new owners arrived, it’s just that they were well aware that you need someone with charisma, someone who current players are aware of and respect from around the world, in order to coax them to your club when it’s in the north of England and pissing down with rain all the time. I’m pretty sure if you showed Falcao a picture of Rogers in a game of Guess Who, he’d shrug his shoulders and reply with, kit man? You don’t recognise Dalglish? Here, watch this video and come back in five minutes when you’re ready to sign.
After sacking Dalglish, the excuse from the board was that an 8th place finish wasn’t good enough, and I salute that. They’re right, it’s not good enough, which is why they turfed out Hodgson eighteen months prior to that. But we did win a competition, which took us back into Europe and lose another cup final. We were also on the coat tails of the final Champion’s League slot until a post cup win hangover put paid to the rest of the league season.
Since then, I’ve read a lot about how much money Dalglish wasted on players, and to an extent this is true. The other clubs saw us coming, removed the price tag from the battery section and replaced it from the one below the Faberge range. Henderson, Downing, Enrique, Carroll all should have been reduced by 15-20%, and none are world class, which is, however, what you would label Suarez and at a meagre 22 million. Okay, so those other players aren’t worth that money, but is Boroni? Is Joe Allen? Would you honestly have forked out 12 million pounds for Sturridge, or would you have laughed and insisted Chelsea were missing a decimal point? Rodgers may moan about the squad he inherited, but it reached two cup finals and so, like he said in a paper last week, it’s his job to make the current players even better, so what exactly is he waiting for? The players he has brought in are average. He’s replaced a chipped plate for a one with a crack, thrown out a good bottle of Cava and brought in Lambrini. He’s doing himself no favours. We are in a worse position now than we were this time last year. He has no one to blame, but himself.
I’m not blinded by Dalglish. I’m not like Fritzel’s wife, turning a blind eye to all the bad things despite the yesteryear’s flower and chocolate giving. I would have given him until Christmas (Dalglish, not Fritzel), made an ultimatum and told him to discard before he brought new players in, but admitted that it must have been hard losing Suarez for eight games, missing eight penalties and only having Steven Gerrard available for half the league season. That’s right. You know when commentators say: what would happen if Suarez was to get injured? The answer is Brendan would pack his bags before the P45 reached his office desk, not cope without him like Kenny.
Finally then, let’s get round to what appears to have secured Brendan the hot seat in the first place, passing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see Vinnie Jones and Justin Fashanu playing for us last year, and I’m also pretty certain I don’t see Messi, Iniesta and Xavi this time round. Hey, I don’t even see Ljunberg, Hleb and Henry. What I do see is statistics. I see our pass competition and I think ah! that’s why The Americans went for him. They were busy looking at the stats, because that’s all they ever do in their sports, look at stats. Seriously, people don’t even watch the game, they sit and watch the screen showing percentages and put that into fractions and decimals and go for a beer, have a nap and then take a look at the final stats. There’s only one set of statistics that matter in any sport and that’s the final score. You win games you accrue more points, simple. You do this by scoring more goals than you concede, not by passing the ball 7,560,874 times in your own third. Pass completion? Do you think Guardiola or Tito looked at the pass completion after a game? Do you think after losing to Celtic in the Champion’s League, the Barcelona squad went home and said: pass completion 97%, passes thirty times more than Celtic, while sipping Sangria and dancing a salsa?
Passing is important, no doubt about it and if you do it well, it makes you look stylish too. Great teams pass the ball well, but that’s usually because they’re full of great players. Ajax of the 70’s, Brazil 1970, Liverpool 80’s, Ac Milan 90’s, Barcelona present day, all full of world class players who can pass the ball, but most importantly know that it’s about passing with a purpose, threatening the opposition and putting them under pressure. Goals win games. Every time you have the ball, you should be threatening the other team. On Sunday, against Manchester United, Liverpool did not threaten. They were more of a threat to themselves, because they passed it in their own third at times instead of going direct into the strikers or down the flanks. Alex Ferguson isn’t stupid- pompous, tyrannical, related to Rudolph yes, but not stupid. He told his players what we’d do. He told them to press high up the pitch, because we have one game plan and that is to pass the ball for the sake of it. You do something like that, you become predictable and easy to play against. Passes do not win games. Oh and Brendan, a pass can be over fifteen yards, just ask Xavi Alonso.
What isn’t predictable is what the future holds, because if The Americans are working from a strict performance management sheet, then there’s an accountant somewhere already calculating a compensation package, despite all the calls that Brendan needs time. Listen, I don’t want Rogers to go, because it means that the club hasn’t succeeded, but at the same time, sometimes you just know things just aren’t going to work out. The board needs to hold up its hands, admit they made a mistake, turn off ESPN and head over to Madrid, because if someone wants to prove they can live up to their anointed name, now’s the time to do it.