What on earth has Kenny Dalglish done to some of Liverpool’s players? Was it Christian Poulsen who played against Wolves on Saturday, or was it his hitherto undiscovered talented identical twin brother?
Are you sure it was Raul Meireles who unleashed a wonder strike to score Liverpool’s second goal in the same game? Is that really young Martin Kelly playing so impressively at right back that he has therefore forced England international Glen Johnson to switch to the left?
Fernando Torres suddenly looks so much sharper too, maybe because he is no longer being isolated; against Wolves he constantly had the support of Meireles, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez whenever he surged forward, and they even ran beyond him on some occasions. The improvements are being seen all over the pitch.
On Saturday at Molineux, Poulsen gave what was undoubtedly his best performance yet in a Liverpool shirt. I think that if Dalglish had not seen a spark of talent within the player, then he would no longer be figuring in the manager’s plans.
The boss obviously thinks there is something there that can be nurtured. Given a start in central midfield against Wolves, the midfielder was extremely effective, especially in the first half, snuffing out the opposition’s physical approach. Poulsen had a good, solid game, breaking up attacks, winning second balls and keeping his passing simple.
Poulsen was helped by the fact that Liverpool had more of the ball as a team, and because his technique is to give short passes, he didn’t give the ball away much.
The Dane commented that he has already noticed a change in playing style throughout the team, implemented by his new boss, saying: “He [Dalglish] will slowly adapt his type of football to the team. Kenny is a manager who wants to play with the ball, we keep the ball on the floor.”
However, it does remain to be seen whether Poulsen will be found out against better teams, when Liverpool will be chasing the ball a bit more. Let’s remain optimistic for now though and believe that if Dalglish can get Poulsen playing well consistently, it will be like having a new signing.
Despite the two goals from Torres, the honour of giving the best performance at Molineux on Saturday goes to Liverpool’s other goal scorer, Meireles, whose creativity was inspirational. The signing of the Portuguese midfielder appears to be one decision that the much-maligned Roy Hodgson got right. Again, the resurgence may be due to the influence of Dalglish.
Under Hodgson, Meireles got passed around the team like a parcel; sometimes playing in an orthodox central position, sometimes wide on the right. However, Dalglish has given the player a more attacking role and, not surprisingly, his best two performances have come in his short time under his new boss, who was full of praise for him after the Wolves game.
“We were delighted with his play and his attitude and commitment. He made the first goal and his strike was fantastic. He scored last week and I am sure that has given him confidence to go forward," he said. “Since I came in Raul has been really impressive."
For us fans, maybe what is most pleasing to see under Dalglish is a much more attractive passing game than that which we saw under his predecessor. It is so refreshing to hear him tell the players to keep the ball on the floor and pass and move. Pass and move, pass and move, simple. Let the players express themselves and play to their strengths.
For the third goal, there were 30 consecutive passes from Pepe Reina to Torres, without the ball being touched by a Wolves player. It gladdened my heart to see that and reminded me of the old Liverpool ways. The team also showed a defensive fight that has been absent recently, evidenced by this clean sheet away from home.
We are not imagining it or getting carried away, either. The ‘Dalglish effect’ has been commented on by his peers in the game. Saturday’s opposing manager, Mick McCarthy, said: “He [Dalglish] is enjoying a support and warmth that Roy [Hodgson] didn’t and he has garnered that and nurtured it. They are certainly on a better roll because of it.”
Moreover, during a radio interview broadcast on Saturday lunch time, former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez stressed that Dalglish was the right man to lead Liverpool, whilst referring to the Scot as ‘King Kenny’ and still speaking of Liverpool as ‘our club’. Respect.
The next game is against Fulham at Anfield on Wednesday, for which Steven Gerrard will be back from suspension. His return gives Dalglish further creative options in midfield and, of course, another potential goalscorer.
As he said himself: “We’ve got our captain coming back on Wednesday night and he is a goalscorer in the middle of the pitch. So if we have got three goalscorers (including Torres) on the pitch we’ve a chance haven’t we?”
I’d say that if the team plays like they did against Wolves, they have more than a chance.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.