It’s time for some perspective on Liverpool’s first defeat
Do you remember Liverpool in the final, tortured days of the Roy Hodgson reign? The vacant-eyed shuffling of those two robotic banks of four, the wet thump of wellied balls into channels, the audible sound of Fernando Torres dying inside? Nine months on and it seems that the first casualty of Kenny Dalglish’s reign has been perspective. This loosened grip on reality has affected the vocal fringe of fans who expected a title challenge as profoundly as it has the broadsheet journalists who raced to put the boot in this week after a single defeat.
On Monday, The Independent gravely announced that Liverpool’s 0-1 reverse at Stoke on Saturday was Dalglish’s “eighth loss in 28 matches.”
Fair enough, but as Paul Tomkins points out on his website, the Liverpool manager has won 14 of the others, which gives him a perfectly acceptable win ratio of 50 percent.
The Guardian took a rather more alarming line, with their reporter suggesting that Dalglish’s annoyance with last weekend’s officials might mean that, “for the second time in two decades, the task of managing Liverpool is proving too great a responsibility.” A perfectly logical conclusion, provided that you can equate losing to Stoke with the burden of carrying a grief-stricken city upon your back for 18 months while desperately trying not to be the man who brings 20 years of runaway success to an end.
Dalglish was unwise to question the standard of refereeing in Liverpool’s games and there will certainly have been wry smiles at The Emirates at his claim that his team have suffered bad decisions in every game. Bad decisions happen in football, but they happen to everyone and every team in England could provide a catalogue of contention to rival the one claimed by Dalglish. Instead of moaning at the officials, he would be better served moaning at his players. According to Opta, Liverpool had 24 chances to Stoke’s three, completed more than three times as many passes and enjoyed a whopping 72.7 percent of the possession. If he’s looking for scapegoats, he’ll find them in his own dressing room.
But there really shouldn’t be any need for scapegoats, should there? For starters, Stoke are hardly minnows, especially at the Britannia Stadium. Last season, only five teams won more home games than the Potters. Secondly, the concept of a team playing well and losing is hardly a novel one. As with those bad decisions, these things happen in football.
The truth, unpalatable as it was to the more excitable Liverpool supporters when it was suggested in the summer, is that the damage caused by the previous owners was never going to be swept away in two transfer windows. Liverpool are still only a indistinct blob in the wing mirror of the Manchester clubs. They have spent heavily, albeit with money deposited at the bank in January amid howls of laughter, but change will not be swift and they will go on to lose more games this season.
Dalglish’s primary objective upon his return was not to win the Premier League, it was to secure the right to play in it again this season. That’s how bad it was under Hodgson. By reinvigorating the club so quickly, perhaps he has raised expectations too soon. His target this season is to qualify for the Champions League and one defeat in four games is not yet enough to suggest that he’s going to fall short. Last season, Arsenal lost eight of them and finished fouth. The season before that, Tottenham took the final Champions League place after losing 10.
Liverpool are playing patient, intelligent football, they’re at the right end of the table and they’re still a decent bet for that Champions League place. Nine months on from the gloom of the Hodgson era, that should be more than enough for fans and journalists alike.
Follow Iain Macintosh on Twitter @iainmacintosh
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