Tuesday, June 28, 2011 by Paul Grech
When Kenny Dalglish took over in January, there were many eager to portray him as a footballing dinosaur who had lost touch with the game after a decade out. This was a sentimental choice, we were told, and he would soon be found out.
As Liverpool improved beyond recognition in the following months, those who had been critical slunk away. Yet the doubts haven't died out but merely replaced by new ones.
The sad part of this is that whilst those initial doubts had largely emanated from those who had hailed Roy Hodgson's appointment and were now looking for a way to vent their frustration following the dismal failure of their man, the source for this new wave of doubt is closer to home: the club's fans.
Not that too many have been overly critical - and the presence of Damien Comolli does provide them with an easy alternative target - but you can still feel a growing undercurrent of discontent.
The reason is that Dalglish seems to favour English based players. Why go for Stewart Downing when Juan Mata is available? What's the attraction of Charlie Adam when Javi Martinez is available? And why Scott Dann when there's Simon Kjaer?
Those are questions that keep getting asked, usually in a rhetorical mode. Because the implied answer is that Dalglish is a footballing dinosaur still stuck in an era where you could only buy from other English teams.
What is being missed is that there are significant benefits in buying players who already know the league. Sure, you pay more for them but you also get players who don't need time to settle and get to know the style of play. And, for Liverpool, having the new players settle in quickly could play a crucial role in the coming season.
With competition for a top four place being tougher than ever before, Liverpool need to be on top from the start of the season. Which wouldn't be likely if there were one or two crucial players trying to get to grips with the speed and aggression of the English game. Because for haevery Luis Suarez that there is - players who quickly find their feet - you will find others like Edin Dzeko or Marouanne Chamakh who struggle to adapt despite their obvious talent.
There is no debating that a player like Stewart Downing isn't as exciting as Juan Mata. Yet Downing excelled at Villa last year and clearly is a player who will always do well in the Premiership, especially if supported by better player than the ones he has at Villa. Mata might be the kind of player Liverpool look at in a year or two when the team is more settled and, hopefully, more successful which always makes it easier for someone to settle in. At this point in time, however, Liverpool don't have that luxury.
Is this enough to justify Liverpool's apparent strategy of making most of their signings from the English game? That's difficult to determine - ultimately it depends on the success of the players signed - but it does at least show that there is a reason behind such moves.