Sunday 19 November 2017

Hull leave Dalglish with plenty to ponder

Hull City 3 Liverpool 0

Kenny Dalglish , manager of Liverpool looks on from the bench during the Pre Season Friendly match between Hull City and Liverpool at KC Stadium
Kenny Dalglish , manager of Liverpool looks on from the bench during the Pre Season Friendly match between Hull City and Liverpool at KC Stadium

Paul Doyle , at the KC Stadium

To suggest that Liverpool supporters are not sure about Kenny Dalglish may seem similar to declaring that David Attenborough is not altogether certain that animals are very interesting, but the fact is that Dalglish has plenty to prove this season.

Nothing, of course, will ever detract from the glory and dignity that he brought to the club during his time as a player and his first reign as manager, but this is a club whose fans crave assurances that success is ahead rather than gone by, and although the Scot has spent lavishly since his second coming, not everyone is convinced that he has spent wisely.

This 3-0 defeat to Hull will not provoke panic but nor can it have soothed any worries.

Many of the 20,000-plus crowd at the KC Stadium came in search of clues as to how Dalglish may use the wealth of options that he has given himself following expenditure of more than £100m, but the side that Liverpool fielded for the first half read more like a list of the players the club might like to sell rather than ones who will be entrusted with trying to end the long for the English title.

Alas, the likes of Christian Poulsen, Alberto Aquilani and Joe Cole did nothing to change opinions of them, whether that be to attract buyers or convince doubters that they have a long-term future at the club.

Even the one new player that was cast into action from the start, goalkeeper Doni, is unlikely to become a regular starter -- the Brazilian was bought as back-up for Pepe Reina and did nothing here to suggest he deserves to be parachuted into the team ahead of the Spaniard.

That said, neither of the two goals he conceded were his fault. Robbie Brady's first goal was deflected, and the second, from Robert Koren, was struck into the net from distance after a fine move through a static Liverpool midfield.

The second half brought 11 changes and, perhaps, a line-up slightly closer to the one that Liverpool will begin the new season with at Sunderland in three weeks.

Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing all appeared and gave insights into how Dalglish may plan to use them. Adam mostly operated from a deep-lying central midfield position in a 4-2-3-1, seeking to orchestrate play in much the same manner as Xabi Alonso once did before he was controversially let go to Real Madrid by Rafael Benitez.

Adam's passing was as ambitious and accurate as it was for Blackpool last season, and he showed the dynamism that some accuse him of lacking, often romping forward in a bid to get on the end of moves that he initiated. It is easy to see him playing alongside Lucas Leiva next season, especially if Raul Meierles leaves.

Stewart Downing also demonstrated interesting potential. After his half-time arrival he mostly hugged the touchlines, first the left and then the right, offering Liverpool the width that they had lacked in the first half and, most importantly, for much of last season.

Only one team completed fewer crosses than Liverpool in last season's Premier League and the purchase of Downing, who had a better cross completion rate than any other player in the league last season except for Everton's Leighton Baines, seems designed to address this.

The acquisition of Henderson, for £20m from Sunderland, is the one that has got most heads scratching. He spent most of the 45 minutes that he played against Hull in a central attacking position just behind Andy Carroll, lending credence to suggestions that he was bought as a successor to Steven Gerrard, who is now 31.

Although he ran about earnestly, Henderson struggled to make any impact, seldom touching the ball until he dropped deeper. Gerrard's starting place does not look under immediate threat.


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