Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Is the bloom off of King Kenny?

Following their ugly 4-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday at White Hart Lane, the new penny shine has worn off for Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool.

After last season’s late run under King Kenny, Liverpool opened the season on a high note, punctuated by their first win at Arsenal in 11 years. But back-to-back wins over Arsenal and Bolton have been followed by consecutive shut out losses to Stoke City and now Spurs, leaving the team in a bit of a mess.

And just as importantly, Dalglish has only two more points from the first five league games than Roy Hodgson had in 2010-11.

“The boys are upset and so they should be,” Dalglish said after Sunday’s embarrassing loss. “The football club expects more than that.”

The club was active in the off season, with the data-driven signings of Stewart Downing ($30 million), Jordan Henderson ($30 million), Charlie Adam ($13 million); Luís Suárez (nearly $40 million); and a record $57 million for striker Andy Carroll, now the most expensive English player ever, but so far the results have been mixed.

Suárez has two goals, but at times seems more interested in flopping than scoring; Adam has come as advertised with his crossing skills, but he was sent off against Spurs; and Carroll hasn’t done much of anything so far this season.

The team could just be biding its time waiting for captain Steven Gerrard to return and, while he will certainly help, we have to wonder how much the 31-year-old Gerrard, who has the groin of an 80-year-old, can have an impact.

Gerrard, who hasn’t played since March, is reportedly working toward the midweek Carling Cup game with Brighton & Hove Albion to make his return, but Dalglish hasn’t confirmed that.

“He’s fine,” Dalglish said. “We’ll try to get over this before we start worrying about something else. I’ve said all along, he’s done fantastically well to get where he is. We’ll just monitor him and pick the right moment for him and us before we get him back.”

The good news is that, unless you play in Manchester, there’s no team really playing lights out this year. Only three points separate Liverpool from third-place Chelsea, with Newcastle, Stoke, Aston Villa and Everton – not exactly the cream of the crop, between the two.

Having an emotional leader at the top can be a good thing and Dalglish gets high marks on that end. But now is the time for him to focus on the tactical end of the management spectrum.

The Premier League is a marathon, not a sprint, which gives Dalglish time to get the squad settled down. Getting things going this weekend against Wolves would be a good start, especially with the derby with Everton looming on the horizon.

***

It was nice to read that Fox did a good job with Sunday’s telecast of the Manchester United vs. Chelsea game.

But we are a bit puzzled by their strategy. Showing a game on tape delay (how very 1970s of them) or, in some markets not at all, against NFL games on Sunday seems like a strange way to draw viewers.

Fans already had watched the game on Fox Soccer in the morning or, at least, probably knew the score. Casual fans were watching NFL games.

We’re glad that Fox is making an effort to grow the game, but this seems like a strange way to do it.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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