Bolton 3-1 Liverpool: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:01 22/01/12 By David McDonnell
After a year in charge and £115million spent on players, Liverpool fans are entitled to ask whether much has actually changed under Kenny Dalglish.
This defeat was the latest miserable episode in a Premier League run that has seen Liverpool take just six points from as many games against mainly modest opposition.
Wigan, Blackburn, Newcastle, Manchester City, Stoke and Bolton. With the exception of the Premier League leaders and high-flying Newcastle, such a run provided Liverpool with a chance to endorse their claim for a Champions League spot.
Instead, Dalglish’s side have squandered chance after chance to push Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle in the battle for a top-four place, seven draws at home this season further evidence of Liverpool’s shortcomings under the man whose return was set to transform them.
When Dalglish was appointed 12 months ago, his remit was to restore Liverpool’s bruised pride. A year down the line, it is tempting to wonder whether the 60-year-old manager has bitten off more than he can chew by coming back.
With the exception of Luis Suarez, whose absence during an eight-match ban has robbed Liverpool of its most potent attacker, Dalglish has made too many mediocre signings.
The inflated fees for Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll increasingly look like disastrous pieces of business.
Dalglish must shoulder the blame for that, but he did not spare his players in a brutally honest post-match assessment that suggested some of the underachievers could find themselves out the door.
“That’s the worst performance I’ve seen, without taking anything away from Bolton,” said Dalglish. “I don’t think the approach was correct, I don’t think the way we went about our work was correct.
“If the players needed a lesson to be taught to them, then this was it.
“If they just think they can turn up and get a result, not be as competitive and match the opposition for effort and commitment, then they’ve had a lesson.
“If they thought this wasn’t as important as other games, then they’ll not be here.
“And if that’s the level they think Liverpool football club should be playing at, then they’re wrong.
“If you have pride in yourself and your football club, that reflects in the effort you put in. I don’t know where this has come from, but it had better go quickly.” Chief among those players whose future is under scrutiny is Carroll.
Despite Dalglish’s bullish public support for his £35m striker, privately the Liverpool manager must wonder what has happened to the forward who looked unplayable at Newcastle, but is now bereft of confidence and form.
Of equal concern to Dalglish will be Liverpool’s defence, which had conceded just six goals away from Anfield all season prior to this encounter, but which displayed all the dexterity and focus of magician Paul Daniels doing a spot of DIY with a circular saw.
Liverpool could reach the Carling Cup final this week but it is in the Premier League where their real problems lie. The harsh reality for Reds fans is that their team is still so prosaic, despite significant investment.
To put Liverpool’s defeat into context, prior to the game, the only team from the top seven divisions in England to have a worse home record than Bolton this season was Thurrock, of the Blue Square Bet League South.
But Liverpool never looked comfortable against a Bolton side whose recent run of 10 points from their last six games suggests Coyle’s resurgent side may yet save themselves from the drop.
Mark Davies put Bolton ahead after four minutes, thanks to some generous defending from Liverpool, Nigel Reo-Coker doubling their lead just before the half-hour, with the visitors’ defence going AWOL again.
Craig Bellamy pulled a goal back before half-time, but further shoddy defending allowed Gretar Steinsson to score five minutes after the break to kill off Liverpool.