In 2010, Liverpool FC's downward spiral under the former owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks reached its nadir. In the close season, expenditure on new players equalled sales. The uninfluential Joe Cole was bought on a free while the mediocre pair of Poulsen and Konchesky were likewise signed. Key figures in the more successful recent seasons departed in the form of Yossi Benayoun and Javier Mascherano, whose heads were turned by Chelsea and Barcelona respectively.
The most significant change came in the management. Rafa Benitez - who had been an effective Liverpool manager until his final traumatic 09/10 season in charge - was sacked. Roy Hodgson was appointed and the first half of this season shows that he was not a successful enough manager for Liverpool. The start of the season under Hodgson appeared bright with the European advancement into the Europa League group stages and a spirited 1-1 opening game draw against Arsenal. However, it proved deceptive as Rabotnicki in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League were an average side. In the Arsenal home league opener, Joe Cole showed a lack of discpline (though perhaps his challenge did not deserve a straight red) and the side's lack of concentration at the end of games from the previous season was exposed again with the late equaliser.
After a few good results in this period, form rapidly deteriorated. Hodgson failed to inspire the most out of his squad - the team was vulnerable to crosses from wide areas and set pieces. Konchesky, one of the worst LFC defenders of the modern era, was turned inside out on so many occasions. Skrtel was at fault on mutliple occasions while even England first choice right back Glen Johnson made a successions of defensive blunders. At the other end under Hodgson, the overly negative tactics and training led to a dour brand of football, particularly in away games. The lowlights of Hodgson's tenure came in the inexcusable defeat at home to Northampton Town in the league cup and the despairing defeat to Blackburn Rovers away in the league in January. The form of Fernando Torres was another catastrophe of Roy Hodgson's reign - he had some great moments (his two sensational goals against Chelsea at home) but they were too far between. Joe Cole's effective moments were likewise the same and he lacked fitness and influence. Poulsen's best days were behind him when he signed so he failed to reach his former top level at Anfield.
Positives of Hodgson's time in charge of Liverpool were in small amounts but there were some. He is a good manager but his style and mentality is more suited to a small mid-table club. Under him, there were some powerful home wins against Aston Villa, West Ham and Chelsea. He also had a decent semi-campaign in Europe with the Napoli game and Steven Gerrard's tremendous hat trick a positive. Ngog had a fine run of form with a group of strikes at the beginning of the season while Meireles assisted a number of goals with his perceptive vision and dangerous set pieces.
However, by the early January and after the depressing Blackburn Rovers result new owners Fenway Sports Group had seen enough and finally after twenty long years the club's last legendary manager returned. This proved to be a wise decision by the supportive new American owners who saved the club from administration by securing the purchase of the club from the greedy hands of Gillett and Hicks to them in October. Hodgson's dismissal was inevitable after certain results (as explained in an interview with Director of Football Damien Comolli) that the situaton could not be resolved with the current manger.
The transformation under "King Kenny" was spectacular. After a few games where defensive catastrophes e.g. Blackpool away still materialised, the team managed to find some form finally in the 2-2 draw against Everton at home. Likewise against Wolves away the team played their most successful and attractive football since they almost secured the league title in 2009. They exerted continuous pressure through Dalglish's exciting "pass and move" brand of football. With some assistance from incoming coach Steve Clarke, Liverpool finally looked like a capable team again.
This was despite the departure of Fernando Torres. He was a servant to Liverpool for three and a half seasons, was our top attacker and scored numerous goals. But the manner of his exit left a sour taste with him leaving mid way through a campaign and to rivals Chelsea. However, it's obvious that Liverpool got the better deal with Torres's patchy form in fact deteriorating further at Chelsea and with only his first season at Liverpool in 2007-2008 being completely great. Fifty million for a player past his best and injury prone was good business and the purchases of Luis Suarez and Andy Caroll softened the blow.
Luis Suarez went on to become the key player in the revival under Dalglish. His determined running and finesse led to countless chances created, assists and deft goals. His assist against Manchester United at home for Kuyt's first goal was the finest assist I have seen in years of watching football. However, in reality it was through Dalgish's exceptional motivation skills that virtually the entire squad reached their potential. Lucas was a defensive warrior and started playing fine forward passes that instigated attacks. Meireles built on his earlier form under Hodgson, by playing a starring role in a "behind the striker" role while Carroll was injured. He scored a number of fabulous volleyed goals, the best being his sensational long range against Wolves. Dirk Kuyt's tremendous graft led to a multitude of key goals and assists. In fact in the sweetest game of the season, the 3-1 home win against Manchester United, he scored a hat trick and finally under Dalglish had resurrected the poaching ability seen at his former club, Feyenoord. Maxi eventually realised his true potential by scoring two stunning hat tricks in the scintillating games at home to Birmingham and away to Fulham.
Another impressive feature of Dalglish's management was his willingness to give young players a chance. The industrious Jay Spearing filled in admirably in the absence of Gerrard while young defenders Martin Kelly, John Flanagan and Jack Robinson were fabulous starlets. At the same time Jamie Carragher produced his best form in a couple of years while Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson also stepped up. Pepe Reina remained imperious.
The highlights of Dalglish's return also included the organised wing back tactic and performance away to Chelsea in February and an excellent 3-0 home win to Manchester City. The only disappointments of Dalglish's return were the results against West Ham and West Brom away where defensive issues appeared again and in the insipid final two losses in games against Tottenham and Aston Villa that cost the team fifth place. But these were only slight tarnishments as after all every team even in good form will lose an occasional game. In fact, the final two losses may be useful in that Liverpool will not face the grueling Europa League schedule next season. Perhaps another issue for next season will be keeping Steven Gerrard fit (when he was in full fitness he made a fabulous contribution) and likewise Andy Carroll. The team will also have to learn to play in harmony with Andy Carroll's strengths as much as he must play on the same wavelength as the team (he missed an easy headed chance against Tottenham).
The only issue that stops this DVD from being a completely thrilling view was the unsuccessful first half of the season - if Dalglish had been in charge from the outset of the season and Liverpool had secured more points earlier on then they would have been back in the top four. Though Gillett and Hicks poor ownership, at the time, would not have provided Dalglish with the environment to flourish. But anyway, this is a quality DVD and vital as hopefully it will mark the beginning of the return of Liverpool to challenging and achieving the top honours in the game under legend "King Kenny."