Dalglish strengthens his candidacy
Kenny Dalglish is looking like the prime contender to be Liverpool's full-time coach
Egypt misses out on a chance to avenge its loss in 2009 to the U.S.
Chelsea's Fernando Torres was never a childhood Liverpool fan
Here's what I'm thinking about this Tuesday morning:
1. Kenny Dalglish makes his case for the full-time gig. From flirting with relegation under Roy Hodgson and playing the most unaesthetic style many observers had ever witnessed from a Liverpool team, interim coach Kenny Dalglish has overseen a dramatic turnaround in the club's fortunes. With six games under his belt, the team has fashioned 13 points (best in the Premier League during that span), with four straight wins and four clean sheets. Dalglish, of course, is regarded as a living legend to Liverpool fans, but while he was the clear people's choice as Hodgson's replacement, there was a genuine concern that he had been out of the game for too long (his last managerial stint came in 2000 with Celtic).
It's early yet, but so far Dalglish has made a mockery of such claims. He's shown himself to be as tactically astute as ever, switching from the 4-4-2 that he previously favored to deploying a 4-2-3-1 at times, and a three-man backline in Liverpool's past two games where he outmaneuvered both Stoke's Tony Pulis and Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti. Equally critically, he's abandoned Hodgson's long-ball approach and defensive mind-set and installed a more attacking, pass-and-move philosophy. Not to be overlooked is his astute appointment of highly regarded former Chelsea and West Ham No. 2 Steve Clarke as his assistant coach. Clarke's impressive work in running training drills and tightening the Liverpool back line has been clear for all to see.
Despite calls from players such as Jamie Carragher and Dirk Kuyt that Fenway Sports Group make Dalglish's tenure permanent, it's unlikely that FSG will do so before the end of season. As seen with FSG's excruciating delay over removing Hodgson, principal owner John W. Henry clearly isn't the type to rush into any decision. However, given the team's transformation and the fact that Dalglish has finally united both the Liverpool players and its fan base, Dalglish has clearly emerged as a strong contender to take the team forward.
Take into account that dynamic young coaching candidates such as Dortmund's Juergen Kopp and Porto's Andre Villas Boas are looking increasingly unlikely to consider leaving their clubs this summer (both recently signed contract extensions while professing a desire to guide their young squads through inaugural Champions League campaigns next season). It's looking more and more likely that Dalglish's appointment as full-time coach is inevitable in the summer.
2. U.S.-Egypt rematch will need to wait. With the political turmoil in Egypt, officials had no choice but to call off the U.S.-Egypt friendly scheduled for Feb. 9. It's unfortunate from a sporting context because Egypt insiders have long indicated that the team has been looking for a chance to prove that its 3-0 loss to the U.S. in the 2009 Confederations Cup was an aberration. In Egypt's defense is the fact that the Pharaohs were missing both first-choice strikers, Mohamed Zidan and Amr Zaki, for that game. Of course, there's also the little matter of whether the team partied just a little too hard after its win over Italy before facing the U.S. (Egypt officials claim the team was robbed by hotel staff, while South African police indicated they believed the robbery took place as a result of prostitutes the team brought back to its rooms.) In either case, this game would have gone a good way toward settling the argument.
3. Charlie Davies and D.C. United. The former U.S. national team striker's audition with D.C. United is a good chance to assess the state of his comeback. He got off to a good start Monday in a scrimmage against the Canadian U-20 squad by scoring a goal and adding an assist, but he'll need to do much more to convince D.C. he's ready to justify what would be a large salary outlay by MLS standards (according to The Washington Post, he won't be added as a Designated Player but would probably earn close to the $335,000 DP threshold). Given the nature and severity of his injuries, it's still unclear if Davies will be able to regain his pre-injury level of performance. But if he can make the D.C. roster, U.S. fans will finally have something tangible on which they can judge his progress.
4. Fernando Torres was never actually a Liverpool fan. After a contentious move, the former Anfield icon debuted for Chelsea in Sunday's 1-0 loss to Liverpool. Much has been made of Torres' ineffectiveness (truth be told, was he really any more ineffectual than fellow forwards Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka on the day?). However, the fact remains that his departure still rankles Liverpool fans, if not his former teammates (several of whom gave Torres warm hugs in the tunnel before the game). What upsets Liverpool fans is not just the timing of the move or that he joined what they consider to be a direct rival, but the fact that many feel betrayed because they believed Torres to be one of their own. Indeed, Torres' cultivated image was that of a true Red and a rare player who understood the Liverpool culture and team mystique.
While Torres certainly did read up on Liverpool's history and studied videos around the time he signed in 2007, he was, despite popular belief, never actually a childhood Liverpool fan. Much of the myth probably stems from the time he was spotted (while playing for Atletico against Sociedad) bearing an armband with the phrase "We'll never walk alone."
From that point, the association with Liverpool's famous anthem ("You'll never walk alone") and Torres' subsequent signing with Liverpool combined to create an urban legend. In reality, though, the slogan was simply something Torres and a group of his close friends in Madrid had adopted as a pact of commitment -- something not uncommon among small groups of friends in Spain and often symbolized with a tattoo. Though the phrase was clearly based on the Liverpool anthem (hence why Torres was the only one of the group not to get it tattooed for fear of misinterpretation by Atletico fans), it could just have easily been any other English turn of phrase that took their fancy, such as the SAS's motto "He Who Dares, Wins." Torres underscored this point at his unveiling last week for Chelsea, reiterating, "I was an Atletico fan. I still am."