Questions over Dalglish future will not disappear despite Blues rout
Even he could not have envisaged a performance which provoked an unpredictable outbreak of vertigo on The Kop. The eighth position it secured was a not-so-dizzying summit, but temporarily, at least, Dalglish’s job concerns were forgotten.
There will be those who will argue that the new signings, who have contributed to a home campaign historic in its dreadfulness, turned up three days too late. Ten months would be a more accurate appraisal. Either they proved Dalglish right all along, or deeper questions will be asked as to why it has taken until the last home game of the season for the most recent arrivals to offer value for money. This performance partially assisted the court of King Kenny, and partially undermined it in exposing the falseness of Liverpool's lowly position.
Dalglish’s words were undoubtedly aimed across the Atlantic when he suggested that Liverpool have played this well regularly but just lacked goals. “It was a performance that we’ve seen a few times before but the result was not as positive as that,” he said.
In truth, the likes of Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing have never played so well in unison. They ensured Liverpool’s fears of being reduced to a peripheral walk-on part in Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea romance would be swiftly banished.
The questions about Dalglish’s position will not go away despite his team’s dynamic display, but he ensured the answers can wait until after the final game, at Swansea.
In fact, Dalglish and Di Matteo started and ended the evening sharing common ground. Neither knows if they will be managing these teams at the start of next season. Therein lies the vast difference in ethos between those at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
If a Liverpool manager won the FA Cup and beat the best team in the world to lead his club into the Champions League final within the space of a month, the messianic appreciation would swiftly follow. At Chelsea, it does not even make a permanent deal a formality.
Equally, it is doubtful a team in ninth place and recovering from a cup final defeat would attract such a passionate and sympathetic crowd at Stamford Bridge. A Liverpool fan will always look for an exit from any pit of despair rather than accept his fate. The same is true of Dalglish.
“There is no other place in the Premier League where supporters would show appreciation like that,” he said.
Indeed, there was an unexpectedly celebratory atmosphere, one that demonstrated a refusal to submit to the mediocre league climax which would have seen Dalglish’s second coming end with a whimper. What Dalglish really needed was to send a message to Boston with more than mere sentimentality. He needs the owners to see tangible evidence that this team is capable of going from eighth to fourth next season, and fourth to a title challenge in the two years following that. There would be unanimous agreement Dalglish should stay if those indicators were there. Too often they have not been. Last night, it appeared they were.
“I have a feeling of ‘what a result and what a performance’ not ‘what if’,” insisted Dalglish. “The last half-hour at Wembley and that performance tonight was fantastic. Everyone played their part. Big Andy was unplayable. The old boys at the back didn’t do so bad either.”
There is cause for hope in the presence of Luis Suárez, whose impish brilliance prompted Michael Essien’s own goal, and even from Carroll, hopeless for the first year of his Liverpool career, but all of a sudden a waking giant.
The club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, are currently assessing if their vision for the club is already under threat or the league regression is just an anomaly that can be swiftly corrected by hitting the post less. If they retain faith in their iconic manager, Dalglish will be back in his bubble jacket in August. If not, and many at Liverpool believe the decision has, privately, already been made, the next 10 days will see Dalglish pay the price for the home truths of the last 10 months.
So, this entertaining Anfield finale may be his swansong. Dalglish knows the sixth home win of the season won’t repair the damage of those other thirteen winless encounters. But if you are going to go, do so in style. Should this prove a second farewell for Dalglish, at least he bowed out in with that characteristic smile on his face and with a lingering memory of the delight of those who will never stop supporting him.