Thomas Woods examines why Kenny Dalglish has managed what Roy Hodgson could not at Liverpool.
The reasons why Kenny Dalglish is managing what Roy Hodgson could not do at Liverpool
Apart from the "dreaded vote of confidence" from a club's owner, another sign that a Premier League manager is about to depart is when the press claim that he has "lost the dressing room".
It is a phrase that often baffles - why would a squad of highly-paid professionals lose their form and motivation simply because they decide they don't like their manager.
But it is a phrase that holds more weight than that. In any form of work, if you don't like your boss, you still do your job, because you are paid to, but life is a lot easier when you are motivated.
How does this relate to the Premier League? Look at Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish, appointed as caretaker manager in January.
In the club's first six months of the season, under Roy Hodgson, Liverpool scored just 1.2 goals per game, losing nine of their 20 matches and averaging just 1.25 points per game. Almost relegation form.
Under Dalglish the turnaround has been well documented - nine wins in 15 matches, almost two goals and two points per game. If they had played that way all season, they would be second in the table.
Hodgson, apparently, lost the dressing room and you only have to look at some of the quotes from the Liverpool players since his departure on January 8 to show that.
"Kenny Dalglish, Steve Clarke, Sammy Lee and all the staff have done a great job from January onwards," Pepe Reina said last week.
"When the results are better and the team is winning people are happier and the mood in the dressing room is always better. Melwood [the training ground] is a happy place."
Hodgson has since taken over at West Bromwich Albion and has done a fantastic job, lifting the team from 17th to 11th in the table, seeing them score almost two goals per game and saving them from relegation. He was the Manager of the Year last season, taking Fulham to the Europa League final.
How can he have motivated two teams of less expensive footballers to perform above expectations, while in between dragging down an expensively assembled squad so badly that they sat in 12th position at the start of 2011. That is because Hodgson was not the only problem:
What if Fernando Torres had been sold to Chelsea before the season instead of in January?
The Spanish striker admitted he was unmotivated. Liverpool have scored a goal per game more (2.2 to 1.2) when he has been out of the side this season.
Also, his sale enabled Liverpool to bring in two top-class strikers (Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll) instead of relying on one. And no Torres has meant Dalglish was able to experiment with different formations, whereas Hodgson had stuck with Rafa Benitez's 4-4-1-1.
What if Steven Gerrard had been injured earlier in the season? When Hodgson took over, Liverpool were still being referred to as a two-man team. Torres and his captain, Gerrard. Hodgson did not have an in-form version of either.
Gerrard, who has been hampered by injuries, has scored only four goals and Liverpool have averaged a goal more per game without him this season.
Dalglish has been fortunate in not having to make a decision to drop Gerrard, because the midfielder has only played five league games under his new manager due to injury. It has allowed Dalglish to let the likes Raul Meireles, Jay Spearing and Dirk Kuyt flourish in the captain's absence.
What if the takeover of the club by Fenway Sports Group (FSG) had been completed at the start of the season instead of on October 15? The ugly and protracted departure of Tom Hicks and George Gillett - owners who were immensely unpopular with the fans - obviously affected Liverpool.
Jamie Carragher, the Liverpool defender, said a couple of months ago that the players and fans were a lot more together than he had known for a long time.
Hodgson was not there to benefit from the £58 million (Dh353.8m) spending spree, but Liverpool's win ratio under Dalglish has doubled from 30 per cent to 60 per cent since the takeover and they have gone from 12th to fifth place in just 15 games. A European spot is in sight.
The questions will remain unanswered, but what the statistics do demonstrate are that Dalglish is an inspirational leader, one poor experience has not made Hodgson a bad manager and Liverpool are no longer a two-man team.
Sami Hyypia, the former Liverpool defender, is to retire at the end of the German season. The Finnish centre-back, 37, is one of Liverpool's best players of the last decade. In 10 season's at Anfield, his best attribute was probably his threat from set-pieces - in fact only five defenders have scored more than him in Premier League history.
David Unsworth 38
Ian Harte 28
William Gallas 24
Julian Dicks 24
Dan Petrescu 23
Sami Hyypia 22
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot is usually thrilling.
In 2001/02, Arsenal's Thierry Henry beat three players by one goal. The next season Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy beat Henry by a goal. Last season, Chelsea's Didier Drogba scored a hat-trick on the last day to beat United's Wayne Rooney. This season is not as gripping. United's Dimitar Berbatov, who leads the way, has only netted twice in 2011.
He could well not start another match this season. The only man with a realistically chance of catching him is Manchester City's Carlos Tevez and he has a hamstring injury. City are unlikely to risk him before May 14's FA Cup final, giving him two games to catch Berbatov.
Dimitar Berbatov Man Utd 21
Carlos Tevez Man City 19
Darren Bent Aston Villa 15
Robin van Persie Arsenal 15
Peter Odemwingie WBA 14
West Ham can survive
Avram Grant, the West Ham United manager, claims his bottom-of-the-table side need seven points from a possible nine to stay up. That might not even be enough, but seven points is highly possible.
First up is Blackburn Rovers at home, who have not beaten West Ham since 2005. Then a trip to Wigan Athletic, where West Ham have won five of their last eight, is followed by Sunderland at home on the last day - West Ham have won six of their last 10 at home to Sunderland. There is hope.