Comolli exit heaps pressure on Dalglish

Daniel Comolli is an easy scapegoat for a Liverpool season which has fallen way short of the ambitions of their American owners. By Frank Malley.

Football is a simple game which directors of football such as Daniel Comolli can make unnecessarily complicated. That is one thought which comes to mind after Liverpool and Comolli parted company just two days before an FA Cup semifinal. Another is that Comolli is an easy scapegoat for a Liverpool season which has fallen way short of the ambitions of their American owners.

True, the Carling Cup resides in the Anfield trophy cabinet. Yet the accurate measure of a club's strength inevitably resides in its league position and Liverpool currently is not among the top teams in the Barclays English Premier League.

There is no wrapping it up. These days the Reds are ex-champions. They no longer dominate in Europe as once they did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their UEFA Champions League hopes are deceased for at least another season.

Something had to give. Someone had to pay the price for a season which was supposed to see the re-ignition of the dynamic Liverpool of old but which instead has torn shreds from the club's cherished reputation.

The Luis Suarez ‘racism' saga, the refusal to shake the hand of Manchester United's Patrice Evra, the subsequent spiky interview on Sky Sports by Kenny Dalglish, after which the Liverpool manager was forced to apologise and admit: “I did not conduct myself in a way befitting a Liverpool manager during that interview.”

All have ratcheted up the pressure and tension at Anfield.

If the team had been winning and competing with the two Manchester clubs at the other end of the East Lancs Road then such obstacles could be overcome. The frustration, however, has increased with each of Liverpool's league defeats, especially as it has become increasingly clear that big-money members of the squad have hopelessly underachieved.

Last year's buys, in particular, have struggled. Jordan Henderson (GBP16 million), Stewart Downing (GBP20 million), Charlie Adam (GBP8 million) have all failed to impress while the problems of GBP35 million striker Andy Carroll are well documented.

Surely those buys were down to Dalglish, Comolli's apologists would say. No doubt they are right. It defies belief that a strong character and a Liverpool legend such as Dalglish would have allowed any player he did not want to have been forced upon him.

Comolli, however, would have played a major part in the negotiation of the fees and in overseeing the balance of the squad, just as he did when in a similar role at Tottenham.

At White Hart Lane Comolli would claim credit for bringing such as Gareth Bale, Dimitar Berbatov, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Heurelho Gomes and Younes Kaboul to the club, although he was also there and instrumental when the wheels came off in 2008 and Tottenham were rock bottom with two points from their first eight games with a squad which was described as a “mish-mash” when new manager Harry Redknapp arrived.

Scepticism has followed Comolli throughout his career which includes a scouting role at Arsenal.

The bottom line at Anfield, however, is that Comolli's departure turns the heat on Dalglish. There is no longer a buffer between manager and owner John Henry of the Fenway Sports Group.

That is how it should be. Football requires clear lines of communication and responsibility. It needs a manager with vision, tactical acumen and an eye for a player plus an owner prepared to invest in all three. It does not necessarily require a director of football.

Dalglish and Henry could yet restore Liverpool to greatness but only if the departure of Comolli is followed by more changes at Anfield.

Such as Dalglish not seeing demons in every press interview he undertakes and Liverpool's players bringing their one-off cup form to the league table with more consistency.

Dalglish's legendary status at Anfield has seen the fans keep the faith so far. But next season Dalglish has to deliver a piece of the old days or the unthinkable might just happen. He might just follow Comolli out of the door.

***

One day it is Wigan, near the bottom of the table, complaining about refereeing decisions, the next it is Manchester United at the top.

Referees make mistakes. So do managers and players and football fans every day of their lives. It is all part of belonging to the human race.

What football needs to do is stop beating officials with the stick of technology which invariably demonstrates their fallibility from 30 different camera angles.

Stop me if you have heard this once or a hundred times before, but it is time to allow technology to help officials to make the right decisions, rather than to prove they have made the wrong ones.

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