Saturday, 20 August 2011

Resurgence at Anfield as Kenny Never Walks Alone

It may turn out to be one of the most knuckle-dragging affairs of the campaign, but Liverpool's grit and resilience which saw past unlucky Arsenal this afternoon stands tall as the outfit of testament to the resurgence at Anfield being led by manager Kenny Dalglish.

Aided by the dismissal of Emmanuel Frimpong and a bitter own goal by Aaron Ramsey, the Merseyside club travel back to the north of the country with three vital points against what now must be seen as their main top four credential rivals. This follows on from an impressive performance against Sunderland last weekend which didn't attain it's warranted reward. A close encounter, in which Arsenal firmed a slightly stronger footing in the first half, was turned on it's head after the impressive Frimpong was sent off for a second bookable offence following a very early yellow card. With twenty minutes remaining, Liverpool pounced to apply the pressure and saw their late efforts secure two late goals as Luis Suarez added to Ramsey's heart-sinking error in injury time to seal a 2-0 victory over the Gunners.

All smiles for quietly confident Dalglish

This isn't to say Arsenal were poor, as they took the game by the scruff of it's neck and battled hard. Prior to his dismissal, Frimpong was outstanding in the centre of midfield and added a different dimension that can often be lacking in a Wenger side. Samir Nasri composed himself well despite transfer issues and put in a sterling performance. The rub of the green simply wasn't with Arsenal today, evident early on through the injury to Koscielny. This forced Wenger's hand, who had to bring on young Spaniard Miquel into the defence, already situated with youngster Carl Jenkinson. Add the sending off and the own goal to the equation and Arsenal were taunted by the cruel attitude of Lady Luck. Dalglish's men rode their luck to gain all three points, despite Arsenal warranting something out of the game. Liverpool have the added belief and determination to ride their luck, though. They pounced on their opportunities, signalling desire and passion which was somewhat AWOL twelve months ago.

As 'King Kenny' walked away from the Emirates, he did so in a modest but confident manner. Quite rightly, he allowed himself to enjoy the spectacle of what this early season contest symbolised, but made sure to keep the manner of his Liverpool camp calm, and the attitude of his team set realistically with two feet on the ground. Whilst this only remains the second league game of the campaign, it follows on from the foundations set in the latter half of last season by Dalglish as Liverpool ended the season managing to compete with anyone, ending as a club like Liverpool should, as one of the most feared.

And the credit for such a transformation has to go to Dalglish in many respects. Despite having the funds to bring in players through the owners, the conditioning of the squad has been superb. It is an uphill challenge for any manager to settle and constructively adapt expensive imports from around the continent. As the Scot took the job as Caretaker in January, he was met with these challenges before he could get his foot under the desk. The surrounding drama revolving around Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres gripped the collar of Liverpool Football Club and threatened to force a struggle as the club tried to move on from the loss of their best player, whilst welcoming two new stars. In hindsight, it may have been the reputation that Dalglish already commands around Anfield which allowed the pressure over these deals to settle relatively easily. After all, it's hard to imagine Roy Hodgson coping with the pressures of that January transfer window. The ex-Fulham boss was a rarity amongst Liverpool history, a real stand-alone man in a club with firm beliefs of standing together in unity as a club.

Whilst some may say it's a given for Dalglish, having the ability to unify a support watching their esteemed club in crisis isn't something that should be taken away from Kenny. Having calmed the storm, Dalglish had united the support to the squad. Deadwood remains clutching to the fainting cracks, yet Kenny continues to unify and develop a squad through his own selection of talent from across the country as well as using the prospects from Liverpool's academy. It's an understated task to adapt youngsters into a club the size of Liverpool. As it is, the squad is large, the dressing room crammed with incredible ego's and wage slips. Dalglish has managed to embed Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jay Spearing into his first team squad successfully. Along with adding his own choice of selected talent from the best in Britain, Dalglish is combining the importance of acting efficiently to provide success whilst building for the future brilliantly.

At £6 Million, Enrique could be the signing of the summer.

Some have questioned the price-tags connected to some of Liverpool's purchases this season, but for Kenny's plans, that isn't really the issue. Liverpool have the cash to spend, and have set out their ambitions clearly. Each signing made under Dalglish has been a priority, never a second-option. The transfers of Jose Enrique and Stuart Downing, for example, have replenished the left-hand side of the starting eleven, adding real quality with little worry of a poor reaction. Enrique proved his worth as the standout player throughout Newcastle United's return to the Premier League, whilst Downing has proven himself as one of the best wide midfielders at club level in this country.

After suffering through unambitious and overpaid attempts to solve the woes in the focal points of the team, Liverpool no longer have to endure the droning process of waiting for Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic to prove their worth. The deadwood have had their chances and blown it. Whilst time was seemingly a spare commodity under Rafa Benitez towards the end of his era (an angle also shared briefly by Hodgson), Dalglish has refused to allow anymore time to be wasted. The additions of Suarez, Carroll, Downing and Enrique, along with prospect Jordan Henderson, boast just as much of a statement to the rest of the league as anyone else's signings. Whilst rivals Manchester United targeted David De Gea and Phil Jones to bolster their squad here needed, Liverpool can claim confidence in knowing that the arrivals of Suarez, Downing and Enrique act in the same way as United's signings do to their squad. Consistent improvements have been made, symbolising a matching ambition to the best in the league.

Dalglish's vision for the club is starting to mature, as the Scot has everyone at Anfield dancing to the beat of his drum.


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