Liverpool and Dalglish: Nice and simple, or simplistic?
Common sense isn’t as popular as it would have you believe. In the Premier League it’s a dying art: Arsenal consistently concede more goals than the other title wannabees and yet refuse to try new ideas at centre back, Blackburn, who have no money, looked into signing Ronaldinho a few months ago and Nigel Reo-Coker continues to find work.
For years Anfield has been a beacon of exactly that kind of nonsense – the signing of Paul Konchesky, Rafael Benitez’s penchant for turning centre backs into left backs – but Jose Enrique’s capture is emblematic of a New Sense at the club.
If high profile beer companies made Liverpool left backs, perhaps alcoholism would be less of a problem in modern society, but more to the point, perhaps they would make Jose Enrique.
It’s taken Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli just months to plug a gap which had until their arrival looked like a permanent left back vacancy. Newcastle fans knew what they were selling. Enrique has worked well in the Premier League for two seasons, offered the speed and positional awareness required to handle most of what it has to offer and been linked with Barcelona. In short, he’s an obvious – sure-fire – answer to what has become a long term left-sided problem at Liverpool.
The contrast with the past is there to be picked at. Roy Hodgson waved a red shirt at Konchesky, an average player in his twenties, a liability in his thirties – apart from his performances, perhaps his reputation as a lower mid-table player should have been enough to warn the club off. Benitez spent far more lavishly but chose both Alvaro Arbeloa, a centre back when he came to the club, and Daniel Agger, the club’s best centre back, to fill the void. The kop and the Football Manager players knew it, the hacks knew it: Liverpool needed a left back in his mid-twenties who had played in the Premier League. It didn’t happen.
Clarity prevails now – even – get this – beyond the left back position. Andy Carroll‘s height and weighty presence have been followed through the club’s doors by Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing, men who earn livings in the delivery business. Supply meets demand, left back comes in where left back is lacking. If there were fears over the new school influences of Comolli – the club’s sporting director – to date, any talk of sophistry has been silenced.
Certainly Bolton will not be passing comment after their meeting on Saturday. Adam’s goal and the probing of Enrique and Downing offered a neat demonstration of what Liverpool’s sensible thinking is capable of. For the first time, the system spoke for itself; there was a win, first – which could not be found against Sunderland - and no need for an Arsenal-style capitulation this time around, second.
There is still room for reservation though. Simple and simplistic are morphologically similar but the former is far more enticing than the latter. Dalglish has impressed with simple ideas and solutions, but will wish to stay away from becoming easy to predict and combat.
At times against Owen Coyle’s team, the pitfalls of midfielders designed to hit a lummox with the ball were exposed. Without Carroll on the pitch, a midfield five of Dirk Kuyt, Jordan Henderson, Lucas, Adam and Downing looked happy to let Luis Suarez break Bolton on his own. Liverpool’s midfield five operated within the lines on Saturday and it worked, in the future though, the fact that none of the goals were particularly well worked, could be an issue.
The problem with straightforward answers is that they are easy to see coming and Liverpool, away from home in particular, could find themselves wishing for a more complex formula. That danger must have been highlighted by the two clubs from Manchester this weekend. Samir Nasri and David Silva tore through Tottenham for City, whilstAshley Young and Wayne Rooney did for Arsenal, all players who refuse to slot neatly in, like a left back where a left back is needed.
Liverpool and King Kenny have started well. For the fans in particular it must be pleasing to see clearly the ideas being put into practice. But any optimism must be tempered, at least, by the knowledge that if we can all see it, so can the other teams. They must be careful to tread between useful common sense and taking easy answers.