This is a low.
A league campaign falling apart around our ears, Champions League qualification a long-forgotten dream, the club’s director of football sacked days before a cup semi-final.
And yet. And yet…
And yet there’s an odd kind of optimism among sections of the Liverpool support, one I’m trying desperately hard to buy in to.
We’re not yet at the point where Kenny Dalglish’s position becomes untenable. This season could, after all, bring two trophies. While few of the club’s summer signings have been unqualified successes, most have shown signs that they can fit in to a structure and long-term plan.
But what structure? What plan? Therein lies the problem, and the biggest potential threat to Dalglish’s future.
Based on what we know at the moment, it feels like sticking with Kenny for 2012/13 will be as much of a leap into the unknown as replacing him. There is so little evidence to go on as to how Liverpool are supposed to be playing that it’s difficult to make a case either way as to how next season will unfold.
The chances of a poor start under a new manager feel roughly equivalent to those of a continued slump in league form under Dalglish. A mid-season change could prove disruptive to the point of catastrophe.
Ask a fan at random to diagnose the problem and aside from ‘we need to score more goals’ or ‘we need more luck’ there are few viewpoints around which we can coalesce.
Here’s where some straightforward communication might be helpful. While ostensibly we’ve never had it so good in terms of being kept informed about developments at the club, the reality is quite different.
The TV channel, website, official magazine, match programme, Twitter feed, pinterest boards and so on and on and on are constantly putting information out, but how much of it helps us really understand what’s going on?
Surveys have consistently found that regular viewers of the US Fox News network are generally less well-informed about the state of the world than those who watch no news at all.
While the club’s official media sets out with far less malign intentions than Fox, it can have a similar effect. You could watch LFC TV every waking moment, scour the club’s Facebook page for hourly updates and pay £1.50 a week for text alerts through something called ‘mobile membership’, but would any of it help you understand the club’s footballing vision?
Off the pitch the pattern is much the same. On every substantive issue, from the handling of the Suarez affair to the so-called stadium development, avid consumers of LFC communications are no better informed than the lost tribes of the Andaman Islands.
So much sound and fury, signifying nothing, undermines the very purpose of the activity. We have more information than ever and yet if anything we are less well-informed.
Nevertheless, the multitude of communications channels should offer an opportunity to a manager whose suspicion of the mainstream media belies his undoubted communication skills and charisma.
Why not make use of the TV channel, the match programme, even his own Twitter account to at least begin to explain the vision behind everything that’s happened this season, and everything planned for the next?
A wide-ranging interview covering the manager’s entire career, what he’s learned from his vast experience, what’s gone wrong this season and how it can be learned from, what the owners are asking for, how a perfect Liverpool performance might look.
Some might say we don’t have a right to question the King, that expecting one of the greatest figures in the history of the club to in some way justify and account for his position would be a slight on his standing at the club, but it needn’t be like that.
This isn’t a call for a confrontational, Paxman-esque grilling. I genuinely want to read the insights of the man I still hope is best placed to put things right at Anfield.
Nor need it be about giving away state secrets or alerting other clubs to specific transfer targets. Just an exploration of Kenny’s philosophy, how it applies to the modern game, how the team is expected to function both collectively and as individuals.
In short: where do we go from here?
What Liverpool fan would not pay attention? Perhaps even more importantly, could the club’s owners ignore a lucid, carefully-crafted statement of intent from one of the most decorated managers in English football?
Like Fox Mulder in The X Files, I want to believe. I suspect I’m not alone. Many have an unwavering faith in Dalglish. Others are convinced he’s the wrong man to take Liverpool forward. For those of us in the middle – who may even be a majority – some clear communication could be all it takes to make us evangelists once more.
Follow Steve on Twitter @steve_graves
I am unsure on all of this. But feel I need to put as much effort into a proper response than you have into the article. And my argument is still not sorted yet despite thinking about it for ages before you wrote this. Basically I am uncomfortable with the changing nature of the football fan, and how we see our role. And I feel the fans have performed even worse at home this season than the players have. Maybe instead of asking Kenny questions we need to ask more of ourselves. ‘Why on earth do you bother paying £50 to just sit and moan and then leave early’ would be a good one to start. I’d like to see that on LFC.tv for sure
I think the days of singing ‘ Sit down yer bums sit down’ to an emptying Kemlyn are gone.People are consumers as much as fans now and if the film.play.sporting event fails to meet expectations they will make for the exits
Interesting thoughts, Steve.
I think we’d all be fretting less if we were anywhere near the top 4 with 4 games to play. As contestable as it might be, we would be fighting for CL place if the results matched the overall standard of performance. In 30 years of seeing every game at Anfield, the general standard of play this season has not been an issue for me. In that sense, I do see a clear vision – one that relates to attacking football, good movement and good passing.
As much as I loved Rafa’s brilliantly organised teams, Dalglish’s team, certainly at Anfield, has been better to watch – in my humble opinion.
The finishing has let us down – no question. But from my viewpoint, the sensible thing is to address an obvious failing (the finishing), rather than rip it up and start again, which is what a change at the top would entail. I hope the owners see it that way too.
And the result of a one-off game – the FA Cup Final – shouldn’t decide which route we take for next season.
And my first signing in the transfer window would be a witch doctor, a priest or a carpenter, if you get my drift…..
This artcile sums up my feelings on Liverpool very well. Kudos Mr Graves.
Well said John Gibbons, I work abroad so have to watch most games on TV, The supporters seem to be able to drown out the home supporters when we play away but at Anfield seemingly hardly a peep – yesterday was a case in point.
Because I am not home much I have to take what tickets I can get and I am happy enough to go to early season cup games but wonder where all the hard core supporters are who suddenly appear at the semis and finals. Hmmmm….
I don’t get to many games but was there on Sunday and while watching Maxi uncharacteristically blazing shots over the bar, something started nagging at me.
On Paul Tomkins blog recently there was a look at stats that the Guardian’s secret footballer had highlighted as being used in the footy version of money ball. One obvious stat that wasn’t mentioned was shots on goal – we’ve apparently had 435 this season, only Man City (446), Chelsea (448) and Spurs (441) have had more. I say obvious because outside of goals scored it’s the one usually quoted in terms of suggesting how well we’ve played when we haven’t won.
Shots on goal would on the surface appear to be too blunt an instrument to seriously consider for money ball, but what about shots on target? Our shots on target numbers are pretty much mid table in the league, but you’d have to assume we were at least aiming to hit the target more often than we have!
You could argue that a shot on target is always worth taking with the chance of deflections and rebounds. I’m no footballer, but I always thought players were urged to shoot if they had the opportunity. You wouldn’t want to start encouraging players to shoot if they didn’t really think they could score though.
I don’t know – even if it’s not a specific money ball measure, shots on target is a difficult stat to avoid. Could trying to improve the teams statistics in general have the unintended consequence of overemphasising the benefit of shots on target? I’ve worked in MI for years and targets having a habit of skewing things in some weird and wacky ways
I feel optimistic and have done most of the season, our league results have been poor/crap but i don`t feel we have been out-played often; we have 9 players between the age of 24 and 31 most clubs above us have between 11 and 17 (Newcastle). Two or three quality players in midfield and up front and we will not be far away. Rafa’s team of 2008/9 was poisoned by the ownership and with Purslow and Roy that team was destroyed, and in many ways we are lucky still to have Pepe, Agger and Lucas.
Regarding the ownership I think they have witnessed a lot over the season and realise that there is a lot on the structure side that is not working, but, it has not worked well since John Smiths day and at least with Kenny in charge they have somebody that has experience of a well run club.
Getting rid of Kenny at this point I feel would be a mistake because the club needs stability and the ownership need to get a grip on how the club is going to be run. Ian Ayre did a good job on the commercial side but has no friends in the FA (and it is not in any of the other big clubs interest for LFC to have influence).
Comolli did well to get rid of players that Roy bought, but all because Torres wanted to go does not mean you have to sell him. Torres wants to go; does Ayre, Comolli or the ownership tell him he is under contract. Likewise with new players, When Rush left for Juve, Kenny gave a list to the board of the 5 players he wanted, Barnes, Aldo etc with Ian Snodin the only one they did not get.
12 months ago it was clear Comolli was in charge of transfers, now FSG have realised that he was not the right person or that the position needs to change. Until this is sorted out then communication will be clouded because FSG are not clear themselves what they want to communicate.
On a seperate note the documentary on Hillsborough on LFC TV was outstanding.
Here’s where you go from here! You ignore all the information and mis-information and trust your own judgement.
You watch the Team and see that Dalglish is trying to put together a side playing flowing and attractive football;like we used to a few years ago now.
We’ve got players who have impressive OPTA Stats but little else.I’m convinced that Kenny knows this.I happen to think that Henderson will turn out to be a very good player for us.But then again I was always certain that Lucas was a very capable player and would become an integral part of the team.
Suarez is as mad as a box of frogs!But I always remember the one man who was getting the best out of McManaman was Venables who used to encourage players to get into the spaces that he was creating;whether he McManaman knew it or not!
Kenny isn’t stupid and he’s a very astute Manager and Coach.He knows that we need players who are prepared to break a leg to make a difference.Not players who enjoy impressive OPTA Stats for meaningless passes and crosses and shots.
So just let’s write this Season off as a learning curve and move on.We’ve still got a Cup Final to win so it isn’t all bad!
One of the most annoying comments firing about at the moment is that a lot of liverpool fans see kenny as unsackable because of his reputation,i prefer that those fans actually know kenny is a very shrewd man and if given time will get all these things right,remember stein and paisley are his mentors two of the most influential mangers ever,he could easily listen too all the shouts for sterling but he knows whats best for young players and whats best for lfc. listen if we qualified in forth for champs league would that be enough for some fans? we are not ready for the champs league yet 1 years into building and i have seen enough to say we are a progressing young team, We could actually win 2 of the 3 competions we have entered fuck sake if thats not progress i give up,some fans are sounding like spoilt brats, we have no right to top 4 and starting all over again in the summer would be a big mistake
BrianB has summed it up perfectly, kudos.
We have came a long way in the past 18 months, on and off the pitch.
Loved the Fox reference, both of them! The Truth is out there :)
Firstly Steve, I’d like to say congratulations for feeling you can express your opinions regardless of what they are. Avoiding knee jerk reactions is certainly beneficial to everyone associated with the club whether staff or fans but sycophantic behaviour is even worse. There’s the cliche ‘football is all about opinions’ but it seems if you support LFC there’s a hierarchy of fans / bloggers who pour scorn on fans if they don’t follow the (North Korean style) party line. In my opinion, reasoned debate (as opposed to the pathetic knee jerk reactions) is perfectly acceptable. I’m sure Kenny is wise enough to not lose sleep over your article.
Regarding your points, I sit in a middle to favouring position. That is, I’ve been a little baffled by certain aspects of things this season, which has, at times had me questioning our direction. Overall though, I’m really confident for next season and feel when all things considered that we’re not far off the pace. We’ve played some good football and I’ve got faith that we’ll enhance the squad in the right areas and become serious contenders not least for a CL place. In light of the football we’ve played and the circumstances surrounding our season I’m confident in Kenny’s ability to lead us there. Forget the past, this is Kenny’s first season and there’s more than enough positive to grab hold of.
On your main point. I’m not sure the club need to explain themselves to us fans. An update on the stadium would be welcome though. We know, roughly, our direction off the field from the snippets we decipher. We know for example we’ll not be putting a bid in for the 31 year old Alonso or any other 31 year old. On the pitch, we should be able to see the direction we’re going in and if we can’t then we should be able to debate our concerns (as you’ve done) without having the party whip cracked on us. I certainly don’t think the club needs to allay our fears whenever they arise. Do other clubs do that?
At the start of the season there was a lot of talk about the Liverpool Way and after the H&G era I felt a huge wave of relief. Personally, I think it’s done as much bad as it has good. There were times this season a little more openness would have been beneficial. So to summarise my view, I don’t think the club needs to explain themselves to the fans. We need to have confidence in their vision. On the other hand, in this media age I feel we need a better strategy and perhaps relationship with the press. Accept it or not, some of Kenny’s interviews have turned us (even more so) into the pariahs of English football from the viewpoint of opposing fans. I’d like to see less ‘suspicion of the media’ in interviews from him but the club doing their business behind closed doors.
As a side note I’d just like to have my say on the regular criticism i keep hearing of Liverpool fans at the game. Prior to Liverpool games I get the usual hopes and adrenaline. When things work out well like the Everton semi, I’m almost delirious from singing and full of praise for the team. When the outcome is frustrating I’m desperate for others to get behind the team but my mood makes it impossible for me to do so. I just don’t feel it. It’s too forced. I keep my frustration to myself though unlike some but then we all have different ways of expressing ourselves. The point being, for the first 20 mins it’s down to the fans to lift the players. After that it’s up to the players to lift the fans. We’re too passionate and involved to allow it to be any other way.
The 6 part documentary deal they just struck today with, ironically, Fox Sports should help clear things up for you Steve.