M Davies 4'
So is this what FSG feared when appointing Dalglish? A manager that should be, hopefully, exempt from criticism, but there has been so much to criticize in tactics, personnel, and transfer dealings lately. Let alone the performances from those on the pitch. Hodgson was absolutely excoriated for games like this. Being the best player and one of the most-successful managers in Liverpool history can't save Dalglish from similar, if deservedly less vehement.
I can't keep making excuses, and probably have to finally admit I've been proven wrong. The jury I've tried to keep hung keeps delivering its verdict louder and louder. Liverpool's summer signing scapegoats still aren't clicking, and still don't look like doing so. More bad games than good means the bad games aren't aberrations. Still just six points behind fourth, but again failing to take advantage of competitors' results means that the Champions League looks less and less likely for yet another season.
It's another terrible performance against a relegation-threatened side, as in losses to Blackpool and West Ham last season and in draws against Blackburn and Wigan (and arguably others) this season. It's the first loss to Bolton in 11 tries, a comprehensive defeat to the side with the worst home record in all four divisions. With this win, Bolton move out of the bottom three for the first time this season.
It was the type of performance that can push even a sycophant like me over the edge. The tone was set when Bolton carved open Liverpool's 4-4-2 within four minutes. The home side got at a disjointed, second-best Liverpool immediately, and Davies easily burst behind Liverpool's midfield from Ngog's flick-on when no one tracked his run, sliding his shot past Reina before Skrtel could recover.
Liverpool had little response for the early concession and continued to look completely insipid. Bolton could have had a second soon after, but Eagles could only cross across the face of goal after beating Enrique all ends up. The only reason Bellamy and Carroll were marginally exempt from criticism was because the other nine Liverpool players couldn't create anything. Unlike in recent setbacks, chances weren't coming at all.
Bolton added an improbable second in the 29th, again carving open Liverpool like that clichéd Thanksgiving turkey. Eagles, Reo-Coker, and Ngog excellently combined on a throw-in, with Liverpool embarrassingly static; Eagles' chip found Reo-Coker charging into the box unmarked, controlling with his chest then firing past Reina.
Finally finding a semblance of attack when two down, Bellamy and Carroll pulled one back in the 36th, as Bellamy charged onto Carroll's header after Adam headed Bogdan's goal kick out of defense, beating Knight for pace before slotting home. An equalizer even looked possible before the interval, as Bogdan saved shots from the goal-scorer and Gerrard.
It didn't take long for Bolton to destroy that optimistic notion after the restart. Again, Liverpool started sloppily and again, Liverpool paid for it, this time on a set play. Wheater, out-jumping Skrtel, headed Petrov's corner up and Steinsson classily volleyed it in. The clearly unconfident side had little heart to try to fight back from a two-goal deficit again, and the final forty minutes were a depressing formality. Kuyt and Downing replaced Maxi and Adam, who were probably Liverpool's worst players today, but neither made the side any more cohesive. Liverpool's subsequent half-chances followed the stereotypical script. Agger cannoned a shot off the crossbar. Carroll hilariously whiffed when open for Maxi's cutback. Bellamy selfishly shot at Bogdan when Liverpool broke in the 78th, a deflection making it easy for the keeper. I can't even think of any consolation chances in the last 10 minutes, with Liverpool solely focused on leaving the Reebok as soon as possible.
Where Liverpool go from here is the crucial question. Somehow, Dalglish has to restore self-belief when absolutely none is evident. Earlier this season, Liverpool played well but couldn't take advantage for any number of unfortunate reasons. Now, Liverpool are struggling in every section of the pitch and are getting exactly what they deserve. It's no coincidence Liverpool are far, far worse without Lucas and Suarez, but no one expected them to suffer this mightily. That Liverpool went 4-4-2 with Gerrard and Adam in midfield and Henderson and Maxi out "wide," no matter previous results, is mostly unexplainable and nearly unforgivable.
Panicked January spending probably isn't the answer. Another new manager almost certainly isn't the answer. But something, lots of things, need to change. And very, very quickly.