Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish may have spent nearly £60 million in the January transfer window by bringing in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll but the acquisition of former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke could well prove to be the Scot’s most important signing.
Steve Clarke was brought in just 48 hours after Dalglish was announced as care taker manager following the departure of Roy Hodgson. Since Dalglish and Clarke joined forces, the team has been revitalised and are unbeaten in seven games in all competitions. Their recent run of form has led to them having an outside chance of finishing in the top four; something which Liverpool fans could only dream of at the beginning of 2011.
However, what has impressed many of late has been Liverpool’s defence. In their last six games, the Reds have only conceded one goal. Before the changes were made in January, Liverpool’s back four looked very vulnerable at times but now the defensive unit looks rock solid. A change to a 3-5-2 formation has seen Liverpool operate with three central defenders and two wing backs which has led to vastly improved performances from Glen Johnson. Due to the surge of Martin Kelly, Johnson has been playing on the left flank but the England right back has adapted extremely well to this position.
Steve Clarke has been named as one of the major reasons for Johnson’s recent resurgence. The pair worked together when they were both at Chelsea and have developed a good rapport. Speaking about Liverpool’s first team coach on Wednesday Johnson said “We’re definitely enjoying training. With Steve Clarke coming in as well. I was fortunate enough to work with Clarkey at Chelsea and he’s very good. Training is fantastic, it’s very sharp and professional and enjoyable.”
Johnson has not been alone in praising Clarke: Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger, Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva have all spoke of the impact that he has had on the Merseyside club in the recent weeks. Although Clark’s contract at Liverpool runs only until the end of this season, it is expected that he will be offered a long term deal along with Dalglish. There is the potential for Dalglish and Clarke to form a formidable partnership at Liverpool. Dalglish’s past success at Liverpool as a player and manager is unprecedented while Clarke was a major force behind Chelsea’s achievements when Jose Mourinho was at the helm. Clarke was made assistant manager by Mourinho in 2004 and was thus part of coaching setup that saw Chelsea win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups in three seasons under the reign of the Portuguese manager.
How ironic it would be if Liverpool’s best January signing turns out to be the one that cost the club nothing.