No-one can seemingly make up their mind about Liverpool this season. Virtually every aspect of the club has been analysed and opined on over the last 12 months but the views expressed on each seem to change from month to month. Andy Carroll has went from being an extortionate, ridiculous signing, to a natural England legend and back again. Luis Suarez's time in the country has seen him arrive as a cheat, be feted over as a superstar and back again.
It's not just the players who the jury is still out on though, even Liverpool's form is open to debate. While they can huff and puff at home against the likes of Norwich and Swansea, the same team can look the equal, if not better than Chelsea and Manchester City. As a result, while some are in no doubt that Liverpool have taken great strides this season, others have pointed out that the club are only a few points better off at this stage than they were last season while under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson.
The one element of the club that has so far seemed immune to criticism has been the manager himself. The wave of joy that washed around Anfield on Kenny Dalglish's interim appointment midway through last season seemed to carry away all the negativity that had built up concerning Roy Hodgson's managerial performance. His steadying of the ship led to a deserved 3 year deal for the Scot, and this, along with the arrival of John Henry as owner appeared to indicate a bright new dawn for the club.
Dalglish's previous record as player and manager at the Merseyside club is remarkable. In his managerial career alone he led the club to 3 championships, 2 FA cups and 4 charity shield victories. Because of this its little wonder that his honeymoon period in the Liverpool hot seat has lasted so long. When you start to scrutinise Dalglish's actions more closely however, you start to get a picture that perhaps all is not well at Anfield.
Firstly, the way he conducts himself in front of the media has completely altered over the last few months. His jokey, affable demeanour that was evident when he first took over has evaporated, replaced with what some have described recently as his "dour Scot" persona of old. This stereotypical reputation has always preceded him but in truth its built on a myth. Anyone who actually knows Dalglish describes him as something of a joker with a dry sense of humour. His cantankerous side is only evident when things aren't going so well. As a result it was the mood of choice for him at Newcastle and latterly at Celtic where the Glasgow-centric media shared a very uneasy relationship with him.
You don't have to look too far for the reasons that are presumably troubling him. 7 wins from 15 league games is not the form of a team destined for the Champions League places, while only 18 goals scored in that time is a fairly meagre return for a club that has spent £60 million on two front men. As for his signings, only time will tell but it's difficult to imagine the fans having quite the same patience for a manager who had spent such exorbitant sums of money on players who aren't exactly setting the heather on fire.
Buying players with potential of course means that some of his signings may not fully come into their own until some point in the future. Despite this though it's unclear if any of his midfield purchases will ever become as useful as the two that have left in Raul Mereiles and Alberto Aquilani, or even Maxi Rodriguez whose involvement in the side is confusingly sporadic. Normally when you spend the amount of cash that Dalglish has it makes the team stronger. That doesn't necessarily look the case at the moment .
The fees themselves are actually just a side issue. The real question is whether or not the players are good enough. Henderson and Adam were stand out players last season but in poor teams. Carroll scored far fewer goals in the Championship than Gary Hooper who joined Celtic for a 17th of his valuation while Stewart Downing has only impressed in fits and starts no matter where he has been. Theres no denying that they're decent, but Liverpool, a club who can now be described as a sleeping giant, cannot be revived by players who are decent.
Has Dalglish lost his instinct for a player and with it a magic touch that has seen him become one of only three men to lead two different teams to the championship title? Perhaps it even occurred some time ago, after all for every Liverpool or Blackburn fan who talks of his greatness, there is an equal number of Newcastle and Celtic supporters who speak of him in less revered tones in terms of his managerial prowess.
His perceived failures on Tyneside and in the east end of Glasgow don't make Dalglish a bad manager, after all Newcastle have hardly had a trophy laden recent history while a leg break to Henrik Larsson kept his star striker out of the picture in his time at Celtic Park. However a third successive disappointing spell in club management and people may start to wonder if his time in the hot seat has been overrated, pointing to the fact that his first spell at Liverpool saw him taking over one of Europe's finest sides while his time at Blackburn saw him benefitting from Jack Walker's fortune.
Make no mistake about it, Dalglish no doubt felt that with the players at his disposal Liverpool could have made a stab at the title never mind settle for a top four place this season. With Arsenal looking weaker, Manchester United struggling for top class midfielders and Chelsea entering their now bi-annual transitional period that occurs every time they appoint a new boss, Dalglish's timing looked impeccable to enable him to gatecrash the top table once more. They instead find themselves behind all of these clubs, as well as big spending Manchester City and a resurgent Tottenham.
Only time will tell if King Kenny can rekindle the good times at Anfield, and in the process confirm his reputation as a first class manager. It needs to happen soon though, as honeymoons don't last forever.