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King Kenny's crown is slipping

At some point, the men behind Fenway Sports Group will have to evaluate Kenny Dalglish's performance and whether he is taking Liverpool where they want the club to go.

Not all of Kenny Dalglish's signings have been a success   Photograph: Getty
Not all of Kenny Dalglish's signings have been a success Photograph: Getty

If they make their assessment on sheer numbers they may well be disappointed. In all competitions Dalglish has gained 106 points from 61 games, an average of 1.73 points per match. That's better than his predecessor, Roy Hodgson (1.55), and his old team-mate Graeme Souness (1.54) but worse than Rafa Benitez (1.88), Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans (both 1.77).

A more telling comparison, though, comes when you look at how many points the various managers had accumulated after 61 games. Dalglish's 106 place him just behind Evans (109), just ahead of Benitez (102) and way ahead of Houllier (88). The suggestion implicit in these figures is that Liverpool managers – for whatever reason – tend to start slowly and then improve before tailing off again. So, in numerical terms, there is no reason to think of replacing King Kenny.

Then there's the fact Dalglish has already delivered silverware (the Carling Cup) something which, among his predecessors, only Evans and Benitez had done by this point in their tenure. And, with the Reds 180 minutes away from another Wembley final – they host Stoke this afternoon in the FA Cup quarter- finals – another trophy could be in the pipeline.

The flipside of all this is their league position. Liverpool are seventh in the Barclays Premier League table, one place below where they finished last year and the same spot as where they ended up in 2009-10, when Benitez was let go. League performance, especially in a season where the top clubs, Manchester City and Tottenham aside, haven't exactly punched their weight, is one half of what prompts the scepticism. The other half is Dalglish's signings.

Over two transfer windows, he has a net spend of around £40 million and that's largely because of the generosity (some might say insanity) of Chelsea laying out more than £60m for the services of Raul Meireles and Fernando Torres. Where Luis Suarez and Jose Enrique can be counted as hits, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Andy Carroll look, for now, to be in the "misses" category, while three league appearances is probably not enough on which to judge Sebastian Coates.

Carroll, Henderson and Coates are all 23 or younger, so you may feel there's better to come. With Downing and Adam, this is about as good as it gets. And it's legitimate to ask whether they are Liverpool- calibre players.

So where does this leave Dalglish? The impression is that he's good at coaching his team and getting them to perform but not so good at identifying talent and signing it at the right price.

In terms of results, Dalglish could argue that there are mitigating circumstances. He lost his best player, Steven Gerrard, for three months; his only quality specialist holding midfielder, Lucas, was ruled out for the season in November; and his best striker, Suarez, was banned for eight games.

But it looks as if the wise thing to do would be to leave him in charge, but get him some help with transfer dealings. What's that you say? He already has "help" in the form of Damien Comolli? Exactly.

And this is where things go fuzzy. When it comes to Liverpool's signings, we don't know exactly who was responsible for what or whether both were in full agreement on everything. If it's the latter, maybe the club's owners should be looking at Comolli; after all, it's supposed to be his area of expertise.

Whatever happens, FSG need to thoroughly review their transfer policy and apportion responsibility where it belongs because ultimately you could argue the reason Liverpool aren't going to finish in the top four this season is down to bad decisions on personnel.

REAL Madrid are favourites to win the Champions League after Friday's, draw. They will face APOEL in the quarter- finals and then either Bayern Munich or Marseille in the semis.

Nobody would argue that Madrid aren't either the best or second best team in the world. But a look at their run in Europe suggests they've also had a fairly straightforward ride.

In the group stage, they faced Dinamo Zagreb, Ajax and Lyon. Hardly much of a challenge, especially when you consider Ajax are second in the Eredivisie and Lyon just seventh in Ligue 1. In the last 16, they took on a CSKA Moscow side that had not played a compet-itive match in nearly three months and are nine points off the pace in the Russian Premier League.

You can only beat what's in front of you, of course, but it's pretty clear that, apart from their dom-estic clashes with Barcelona, where they regularly come off second best, Real haven't really been tested this season. And, until now, they've had as easy a run in Europe as any team in recent history.

Dave Richards was roundly ridiculed for his absurd comments last week. The Premier League chairman, and FA board member, travelled to the Gulf and complained about "our game" (meaning football, which – didn't you know? – belongs to the English and nobody else) being "stolen" by Fifa and Uefa.

He then insisted that, when it comes to the World Cup in 2022, Qatar had better "respect" the English and German culture which involves "going for a pint".

There's not much more you can add except to point out that this guy has been in his post for 12 years and, in that time, has held powerful roles within the FA and the 2018 World Cup bid. And that maybe this explains a few things about the dysfunctionality of the FA.

Ask those who cover such matters why Richards has been so powerful for so long (especially when his previous achievement was guiding Sheffield Wednesday to the brink of insolvency) and they'll tell you he's a bit like Lenin's "useful idiot": other powerful folks use him when they want to get a point across without exposing themselves.

Whatever the case, it's not hard to see – even for all the Premier League's commercial might – why the English game is increasingly irrelevant on the world stage with people like him representing it.

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