Having not seen any of the recent defeat to West Bromwich Albion, I’m not best placed to comment on it. However, a look at the stats shows that Liverpool dominated the match, with 63% possession and thirty shots to the Baggies’ nine. On that basis, it seems to be similar to numerous matches from earlier in the campaign when Liverpool’s profligacy in front of goal cost them the points that their general play deserved.
But a defeat it was, and to Roy Hodgson of all people; such a result was guaranteed to crank up the ‘Kenny Out’ brigade, and so it has proved. Of course, some people say the match showed why Kenny should remain in charge, in view of the above match statistics and the performance generally. Fans will always be split into optimists and pessimists after all, and I currently find myself in the former of the two camps.
Whilst I believe that luck alone can not account for where Liverpool are in the table (see my Shot Placement piece that statistically ‘proved’ that the Reds’ shooting has been poor) I also believe you can’t dismiss the very encouraging stats from this season: at the time of writing, Liverpool have had the third most shots in the Premier League, and given away the third least. They’ve also hit the woodwork more than any Premier League team since records began in 2000.
I fail to see how the Reds can be a terrible team when those statistics show that the foundations of a successful team are clearly in place, and personally I think it would be madness to (potentially) throw that away by installing a new manager.
Liverpool would have a new manager for the third season in a row should Dalglish leave, and the new man would be trying to blend players acquired by potentially four different managers (depending on who stays and goes in the summer) including himself. Do you think the team would be any more cohesive than they’ve been this season? It’s possible perhaps, but it’s also far from certain.
The fans who want Kenny to go need to bear that in mind; with a new manager, next season could be just as transitional as this one. If you want an example of how managerial change can go wrong, look at the Reds’ FA Cup final opponents Chelsea: their new boss Andre Villas-Boas tried to play using a different system but it didn’t work, and they’ve had a decent end to the season by reverting to their old style with yet another new manager. Liverpool could very easily end up doing the same next season if a new man comes in.
Rightly or wrongly, the Reds have recruited the players they have, and even with a new manager demanding some changes, the majority of them will still be here next season. Logically therefore Liverpool will most likely have to play in a similar way to how they have this season, as the players they will have at their disposal are of a type to suit this tactical plan.
If you want another Blues-related example, consider the case of Fernando Torres. He was still one of the top strikers in the world when Roy Hodgson rolled into Anfield, but the new manager’s tactical misuse of him helped to break him down to the ghost-of-his-former-self that Chelsea are now left with. Trying to get Torres to play like Bobby Zamora in a different system from that in which he prospered was always asking for trouble.
I genuinely believe that Liverpool are currently on the wrong side of a fine margin that the likes of Newcastle are currently on the right side of (refer to this previous article for evidence; their shot figures at both ends of the pitch are almost certainly not sustainable for success long-term). Perhaps Newcastle have earned their luck in this respect by being far more efficient than Liverpool in the transfer market recently, but the Reds’ ‘balance-of-play’ (for want of a better term) is far better than theirs, and more likely to succeed over a longer period.
In short, it’s ‘Kenny to stay’ for me. I’ve seen enough this season to know that the Reds are on the right track, and yet more upheaval is the last thing that Liverpool need ahead of another attack on the top four.
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.