Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Fenway Sports Group Demands Explanation From Kenny Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, will be required to provide a full written report to the club’s American owners at the end of the season to explain an unacceptable league slump.

As part of a wide-ranging review into what has gone wrong during an appalling Premier League run, Dalglish, director of football Damien Comolli and assistant manager Steve Clarke will be called upon to dispatch a thorough debrief across the Atlantic. They are under no illusions that the current position is considered far below the expectations of the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group.

Each senior figure will be required to provide their insight into why a season that began with aspirations to qualify for the Champions League has rapidly deteriorated.

Most significantly, the trio will be asked to provide details of how they intend to rectify the problems that have led to the alarming dip in form in the past few months. Their proposed solutions will be just as important.

The pressure has intensified on Dalglish in recent weeks, with the team’s results since winning the Carling Cup undermining the feelgood factor the club’s first trophy in six seasons was meant to provide.

Defeat by Newcastle on Sunday was the most recent in a series of low points in the league. Liverpool have lost six of their past seven league games, during which time they have gone from top-four contenders to falling below rivals Everton.

FSG recognises the situation needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. There is no immediate threat to Dalglish’s position, but the imminent FA Cup semi-final with Everton, their league form and his response in the season review could decide whether the Anfield icon retains the trust of his board.

It is not the fact Liverpool have failed to qualify for the top four that is causing the greatest concern, but the perceived underperformance — particularly given the investment in the side last summer.
Privately, there is acknowledgement in Boston that aiming for the top four in Dalglish’s first season might have been too ambitious – there was a gulf between Liverpool and the Champions League clubs.

Liverpool’s home defeat by Arsenal a week after winning the Carling Cup was seen as the moment that top-four hopes vanished. But the disappointment was countered by consolation in knowing that the team was at least pushing hard to regain their top-four spot and were playing a better brand of football.

That optimism and tolerance has since evaporated owing to terrible results and erratic performances. The manner of the defeat against Newcastle, when the players appeared to give up the fight after going a goal behind, has been noted as much as the result itself.

FSG considers explanations such as bad luck and tiredness to be invalid.

Dalglish was appointed on a wave of popularity in Jan 2011. The club then said the decision to give him a three-year deal last May was a “no brainer” after he had transformed the form of the team and the mood at the training ground.

However, it was telling when the club’s principal owner, John W Henry, admitted that Dalglish was not FSG’s first choice. Combined with him having to wait for a permanent deal revealed concerns about giving him the job full time.

This season seemed to be going to plan following the Carling Cup win, even though there was ground to make up to the top four. Broadly speaking, there was satisfaction because the team had improved on last year.

Recent results and performances have dented that faith, but the damage is still considered reparable, especially with another trip to Wembley imminent.

FSG finds itself having to re-evaluate all aspects of the Merseyside branch of their operation. Comolli has spoken about putting in place foundations, creating a new scouting network and reviving the club’s academy, but such changes will take time before they yield results. Until then, there is no evidence that the acclaimed work behind the scenes is making any difference.

What can be judged is the impact of last summer’s signings and investment in the team, which has so far led to a worse league position. That is the most serious threat to Dalglish’s restoration plans.

For his part, Dalglish will want more investment in the squad to assist a fresh assault on the top four next season and is promising his signings will improve in their second year.

Unless he can reverse the terrible sequence of results, he will need to be at his most persuasive to convince the club’s owner that his confidence is not misplaced and he deserves more time.

Liverpool’s FA Cup Tie Against Everton Key For Dalglish

Kenny Dalglish could be dethroned when Liverpool take on arch rivals Everton in their FA Cup semi-final on 14 April.

It was only a few months ago that his followers were chanting “Long live the King”, but it is league championships and Champions League football the Kop crave, not the Carling Cup and Europa League qualification.

But with an acrimonious defeat by Newcastle United on Sunday, Dalglish’s side have now lost six of their last seven Premier League games, leaving the Scot’s credibility and authority in tatters.

Even the most ardent Reds supporters must admit, if Roy Hodgson was at the helm right now, there would be a clamour for his swift departure.

Yet Dalglish has a free pass at Liverpool. He is a hero and is staunchly loyal to his players – but whether he is beyond the realm of reproach and criticism is now open to debate rather than a slammed-shut question.

Indeed, it is FA Cup or bust. If they fall to Everton, the already wobbling crown perched on Dalglish’s head will fall to the ground quicker than Andy Carroll did on Sunday.

Liverpool are back-pedalling as both Manchester clubs and Newcastle are shooting in the right direction.

If this alarming trend continues, the Reds could be overtaken by a resurgent West Brom – managed by Hodgson – it would be quite the irony!

Dalglish was parachuted in by owner John Henry to replace the ignominy of a decadent empire with the harmony of a flourishing force of nature.

With £133m spent since January 2011, a top-four finish is unlikely, and with only one more season until Uefa’s financial fair play rules come into effect, Dalglish faces a stiff challenge to import quality into his crumbling side.

Eight points from 11 league games in 2012 marks the club’s worst home form since 1953-54 – not to mention a £35m ‘talent’ storming down the tunnel after another goal-less display.

These are turbulent and stormy times at Anfield. The King needs his old guard of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher to bring home FA Cup glory to placate a growing tension.

Dalglish needs the loyalty of his troops now more than ever – or he could be facing a premature end to his reign.

Liverpool were dire and Carroll’s dive was a disgrace, while Pepe Reina was foolish for squaring up like he did but the real villain of Sunday’s clash at St James’ Park was James Perch.

The defender’s behaviour was much worse than embarrassing, it was quite simply shameful.

Gone are the days when we could point the finger at our friends on the continent for their playacting and gamesmanship while mistakenly claiming the moral high ground.

Perch is an Englishman through and through and yet his feigning of injury to get Reina sent off came close to rivalling Rivaldo at the 2002 World Cup in its premeditated and overly dramatic reaction.

The FA must see sense and make an example of Perch and ban him retroactively, this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated.

In fact, with Carroll’s dive and Perch’s swoon it was a pretty dark day for the Premier League and hopefully their antics won’t be repeated if the FA act.

Reds To Accept Reina Ban

Sky Sports sources understand that Liverpool have decided not to appeal against the red card shown to goalkeeper Pepe Reina for violent conduct at Newcastle.

Reina's frustration boiled over in the 82nd minute of Sunday's match as he pushed his head towards James Perch during an angry confrontation.

Martin Atkinson sent the Spaniard off and he had to give the keeper's jersey to left-back Jose Enrique for the final few minutes as Liverpool had already used all three of their substitutions.

Kenny Dalglish had no complaints after the final whistle and Reina is now set to serve a three-match suspension after Liverpool opted not to contest Atkinson's decision.

The 29-year-old has been Liverpool's No.1 since moving to Anfield in 2005 and it will a major blow for Dalglish to be without such an experienced campaigner for the upcoming period.

Reina will miss the Premier League clashes with Aston Villa and Blackburn, as well as the FA Cup semi-final against Merseyside rivals Everton at Wembley on 14th April.

Glen Johnson Blames James Perch For Pepe Reina's Suspension

Liverpool defender Glen Johnson has blamed Newcastle defender James Perch for the dismissal which will keep Pepe Reina out of the FA Cup semi-final.

Perch fell to the floor clutching his face after Reina barged into him. Replays showed minimal contact, although it is thought Liverpool will not appeal against the decision to dismiss Reina for violent conduct.

Johnson led the criticism of that decision however, tweeting: "What have I just seen? Is Perch for real? Joke."

Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool's manager, took a contrasting line to England international Johnson, and admitted Reina deserved to see red.

“It ended up with a lot of frustration and disappointment and I think the frustration and disappointment was a result of the actions that Pepe took,” Dalglish said. “He got a deserved red card.”

Liverpool Put Jones On Standby To Cover For Banned Reina

Liverpool is putting Brad Jones on standby for a first-team call as Kenny Dalglish faces up to a goalkeeping crisis.

The Australian was pulled out of the Anfield side’s reserve team on Monday night and will be in the frame to replace Pepe Reina during the Spaniard's three-game ban.

Brazilian Doni is expected to step up to face Aston Villa on Saturday after sitting on the bench in recent weeks, but he has never started a game for Liverpool.

Jones’ last taste of first-team action for Liverpool was against Northampton in a disastrous Carling Cup defeat during Roy Hodgson’s reign.

However Jones did play for Derby County on last season and his absence from the second team game brings him back into the fold.

Doni Unsure Of Reds Future

Alexander Doni admits he does not know if he will be at Liverpool next season as he prepares to fill in for Pepe Reina.

Reina is facing a three-game ban following his sending off against Newcastle for violent conduct for an apparent head-butt on James Perch.

Doni, who joined Liverpool from Roma last summer, is expected to start in goal against Aston Villa next weekend in the absence of Reina despite not playing a competitive game for the club as yet.

The Brazilian has been forced to play second fiddle to Reina all season and the 32-year-old has conceded he is unsure of his long-term future

"Next year, I do not know where I will play," Doni told Radio Sport Mana Mana, "Being on the bench is not great.

"Liverpool has changed so much. There have been lots of ups and downs, but I'm learning the language and the experience is beautiful.

"I miss [former club] Roma a lot because it always rains here in Liverpool."

Young Reds Sink Villa

Goals from Nathan Eccleston, Suso, Ryan McLaughlin and Michael Ngoo helped Liverpool Reserves to a brilliant 4-1 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Monday night.

Rodolfo Borrell's side gave an outstanding display and thoroughly deserved the victory as they handed Barclays Premier Reserve League South leaders Villa their first home defeat of the season.

Eccleston opened the scoring with a well taken finish after a great pass from Michael Roberts gave him an opening.

The No.9 then played a part in the second goal when his run and deflected shot found Suso at the back post who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.

Northern Ireland youth international McLaughlin made it 3-0 just after the break. He started the move with a brilliant run down the right-wing. He found Eccleston whose effort came back off the post before McLaughlin netted the rebound.

Villa then pulled a goal back from the penalty spot through Daniel Johnson after Conor Coady was harshly judged to have impeded Jack Grealish.

Substitute Michael Ngoo came off the bench to make it 4-1 after a superb break from Raheem Sterling. The winger could have scored himself but unselfishly found Ngoo who slotted home.

Sterling was a constant menace to the Villa defence and was unlucky not to score himself from two great efforts.

A delighted Borrell told Liverpoolfc.tv: "I am proud of the lads and it was a great win against a really good team on a fantastic Villa Park pitch.

"It was pleasing to see us score four goals and we were clinical tonight. We have been creating a lot of chances but struggling a bit to score so it was nice to see four different goalscorers.

"We have three very difficult fixtures left against West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United and Newcastle but we will go into the games with confidence and always give our best."

Police Charge Liverpool Fan Over Alleged Racist Abuse

Police have charged a man over an alleged racist gesture made during Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round victory over Manchester United.

Phillip Gannon, 58, of Heol Meirion, Barmouth, North Wales, has been charged with a racially aggravated section five public order offence and a section five public order offence, Merseyside Police said.

He has been bailed to appear at the Liverpool Community Justice Centre at 9.45am on April 20.

The alleged incident happened at Anfield on January 28 this year.

Earlier, a television image capturing a Liverpool fan making an alleged racist gesture during the clash was distributed on social networking websites, sparking a number of complaints to the force.

It was the first game between the rivals since the eight-match ban imposed on Liverpool striker Luis Suarez after the FA found him guilty of racially abusing United defender and captain Patrice Evra.

Before the match, in which Liverpool triumphed 2-1, the stadium announcer warned supporters that racist and homophobic behaviour would not be tolerated.