The time for excuses has gone for Dalglish

Excuses are the little lies we tell ourselves to justify the things we do. Sometimes we use excuses to hide the truth from others; sometimes it’s to hide the truth from ourselves, as a way to explain away failure so our confidence isn’t affected.

The problem is that as excuses are in effect lies, other people buying them or believing them yourself, can often have a detrimental effect, in that it stops you from making, or being made to make, any required changes. Making excuses just makes taking the easy way out, even easier.

Recently, Kenny Dalglish has become all too fond of excuses to explain Liverpool’s disastrous league campaign. He’s blamed the amount of games Liverpool have had to play, he’s blamed bad luck, he’s blamed the media for unsettling players and undermining confidence, he’s blamed people for judging him solely on league position, rather than the big picture, in which he insists Liverpool have grown as a club under his management.

However, the time for excuses has gone. It’s understandable that Dalglish wouldn’t ever publicly admit he’s got his team selections wrong, his tactics wrong, his substitutions wrong and most importantly, his signings wrong, but it looks as though privately, Dalglish believes his own excuses, and that’s dangerous.

Tiredness may well have been a factor in the game against Wigan and the last ten minutes against QPR, with Liverpool having played three games in six days, but that’s why you have a squad. It is Kenny Dalglish’s job to use his squad in such a way that rests players, so if the players were too tired to perform properly, then that’s his fault. If fatigue was such a concern for Kenny Dalglish, why then, did eight players play in all three games? Why did Dalglish only make 4 changes to his starting line-ups in that time span, with two of those changes enforced by injury?

Wigan are a team that are renowned for playing pretty football, but have trouble scoring goals or defending. So, it wasn’t unreasonable to suggest that Kenny Dalglish would have viewed the game against Wigan the same way as Liverpool fans would have done, as an opportunity to not only win, but win by a large margin.

However, what happened was Liverpool put in the same dismal, disinterested, shambolic performance that has become all too familiar to Liverpool fans this season. When Gary Caldwell, a man who I’d include in a ‘worst ten players currently in the Premier League’ danced through what’s supposed to be a defence, to put Wigan back into the lead they richly deserved, you would have expected a fightback, that Wigan would be under pressure for the last 20 minutes as Liverpool pushed forward to not only equalise, but try to win.

That just didn’t happen. Once again the Liverpool players were all looking to each other to make something happen, rather than taking some responsibility themselves and failed to create a notable chance. Once again, Liverpool’s players accepted defeat all too readily. Once again, the opposition looked like they wanted the win more than Liverpool. Once again, the team that finished the match should have been the team that started. When it comes to having to try and cheat, as Luis Suarez tried to do, in order to beat a team that has propped up the Premier League for most of the season, at home, something is desperately wrong with the team and excuses help nobody.

The worst thing about the dreadful performance Liverpool put in against Wigan was that it wasn’t even the worst performance of the season, with that dubious honour going to the capitulation away at Bolton. The most damning statement I can come up with was that that performance surprised nobody who has watched Liverpool in recent seasons, and is happening all too often.

Let’s take a look at some facts about Liverpool’s season that in my opinion cannot, and should not, be explained away by excuses.

  • Liverpool have only won 5 home games all season, which is currently the same as Blackburn Rovers. There are only six Premier League teams who’ve won fewer home games.
  • Despite spending over £100m on attacking players, Liverpool have scored fewer goals than Norwich, both home and away.
  • Liverpool’s expensively assembled forward line currently converts only 9% of the chances created.
  • It is now March and Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish have still not won as many home games in the league this season (5) than they did under Roy Hodgson before he left in January last season (6).
  • Despite all of the spending, Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool have the same goals/game ratio (1.2) as Liverpool under Roy Hodsgon.
  • For all of the pretty build-up play, Liverpool are averaging two fewer shots per game than they did under Roy Hodgson.
  • In 2012, Liverpool have dropped 21 points from the eleven league games they have played and 22 points at home this season. Manchester City have dropped 20 points all season.
  • Liverpool have picked up fewer points (8) in 2012 than Wigan (10).
  • Liverpool have now had five losses in their last six games.

Liverpool’s Premier League season is petering out quickly. Winning the Carling Cup has ensured European Qualification for next season, and with finishing in the top 4 being out of reach, Liverpool don’t have much to play for until the end of the season, and it’s showing.

So, Liverpool fans are looking once again to next season to make some progress in the league. But there really isn’t much to suggest that’s going to happen at this stage. The run Liverpool went on under Dalglish in the second half of last season was what gave Liverpool fans that real progress could be made this season. The owners believed so too, which is why they backed their manager with a huge amount of money, which for the most part, has been badly spent.

There is always the hope that the signings who have failed so far will come good nest season, but there has been precious little sign of any progress from them. Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson fit in no better now than they did when they first arrived, with Carroll still looking as unsuited to the way Liverpool play as he did last season. Jordan Henderson has shown some glimpses of what he can do, but only when deployed in the centre, where there is stiff competition for those places, and it’s unlikely he’ll be playing there on a regular basis anytime soon. Charlie Adam got off to a reasonable start, but regressed badly and is now out for the season. Stewart Downing is at least starting to show a little of the form he showed last season at Aston Villa, and is starting to show his undoubted talent, but it’s still just babysteps, and for a man who was signed on the strength of his ability to provide the ammunition for the strikers to have only one assist, is just not good enough.

One of the major concerns I had with Kenny Dalglish’s appointment as manager was the sentimentality factor. Kenny Dalglish is probably the best player Liverpool has ever had, and was a tremendously successful manager in his first spell in charge. Legend is a word that has been overused to the point where its meaning has been diluted, but Kenny Dalglish is unarguably a true Liverpool legend.

But, sentimentality often obstructs progress. The worry I had, and still have, is that Dalglish’s pedigree and status amongst the fans and football community would make it nigh on impossible for the owners, who are still relatively new and still regarded with a bit of scepticism and suspicion, to take the tough decision and remove him if things didn’t work out. Kenny Dalglish’s status is such that it would be almost unthinkable for him to no longer be involved with Liverpool in some capacity.

I very much doubt Kenny Dalglish will be sacked as manager. He’s no idiot. He knows what’s wrong with the Liverpool team, and I’m sure that if he ever felt that he didn’t know how to change things for the better, he’s a big enough man to step aside for someone who does.

Evidently, Dalglish still believes that he’s the right man to lead Liverpool forward, but ultimately the owners have to decide whether one Cup win and at least the semi-final in another represents enough progress for Dalglish to keep his job, with the team falling far short of the owners stated aim of finishing in the top 4, which considering the investment in the team, seemed to be a more than reasonable ambition.

The owners also have to decide whether or not they are prepared to fund another summer of high transfer activity (which I think is unlikely), and if they do, whether or not Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli are the men they trust to spend it.

The time for excuses has gone. The time has come for everyone connected with Liverpool, owners, players, fans and the manager to ask the tough questions and receive honest answers. Only then can real progress be made.