Lee Dixon: Dalglish is the best of Liverpool's past and will be the man for the present crisis

The Weekend Dossier

The Kenny Dalglish effect will be at its height tomorrow with his return to Anfield for the Merseyside derby. I'm not saying Liverpool will necessarily win, but the buzz around the place will be something very special.

It was for that reason Dalglish was appointed, because he very much represents something that Liverpool have lost in the past few years. He is the absolute definition of a Liverpool legend, someone who cares very passionately about the club, and that is what they need right now.

The players need to be reminded what it means to be a player for Liverpool, what a privilege it is to pull on that famous red shirt. I'm not a Liverpool fan but I recognise they are one of those special clubs, where tradition and heritage are very important.

To me, Kenny represents all the best of Liverpool's past. And I think he can very much be the man for the present.

Alan Hansen is his best mate, and he always says how much Kenny loves the game. He might not have been a manager since he left Celtic 11 years ago, but he has stayed close to the game, watching as much football as he can. He has not just been sitting there doing nothing, picking up his pay cheque being the club's ambassador. He is like Arsène Wenger, in that he watches every game he possibly can.

Alan said Kenny desperately wanted the Liverpool job in the summer and I can't see why he wasn't more of a front-runner for the post. The game has changed since he was last a manager, but fundamentally it is still the same – it's about moving the ball down the pitch and putting it in the other team's net.

He proved he is no dinosaur by ringing Steve Clarke and offering him a job as his assistant. It is a shrewd move, and not one of those "old mates" appointments, because they didn't know each other. Clarke has proved at Chelsea and West Ham he is a good coach, and Dalglish had done his homework. They have already had conversations about how Kenny wants Liverpool to play.

This is where Dalglish will put things right for Liverpool, where they have a history of playing a passing, attacking game, with a touch of class. In recent seasons under Gérard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and for a short period Roy Hodgson, Liverpool had become largely a defensive team, who were not great to watch.

Dalglish wants his team to play in the Liverpool way, and has already made it clear that he wants to put the emphasis back on passing the ball better and being more attacking. It will take time for these changes to come into effect, but they are already being worked on in training. All the sessions are being built around that philosophy.

Because Dalglish is attempting to alter the way Liverpool play, it may take time for results to improve, but it is the right thing to do. If they fail, it will be because the players are not good enough, not because he is a poor manager.

He understands this is the Liverpool way, and it is what the fans want to see. That is part of the reason they have been so vocal in their support for him.

Dalglish will have an effect on the dressing room. He can let the players know what it means to play for Liverpool. If they are not inspired by looking into his eyes and seeing his passion in the dressing room before the game, then they should take their shirts off right away, have a shower and go home. Dalglish's reputation as a player and manager may have been slightly diluted over the years, but the players who represent Liverpool really ought to know all about his stature.

As a Manchester City fan, I grew up hating Arsenal, and when I joined them my mates gave me terrible stick. But after walking through Highbury's famous marble halls, seeing the bust of Herbert Chapman looking at you, and training and playing alongside a few local lads like David Rocastle and Tony Adams, it soon rubbed off on you.

If some of the players don't understand what Dalglish means to Liverpool, they will tomorrow, before the derby game with Everton. That's why I say the Kenny Dalglish effect will be huge tomorrow. This is one of the biggest Liverpool games for some time, and if Dalglish can't get that through to the team, then no one can.

Five Asides

1. Arsenal's defensive failings had nothing to do with 'rugby kick'

I am Cesc Fabregas's biggest fan but he has got it totally wrong with his comments about Ipswich playing long-ball football. He should be asking the Arsenal defenders how they failed to deal with it. It comes down to basic concentration. Arsenal had enough players back to deal with the ball in the build-up to Ipswich's winner on Wednesday but the two centre-halves made it far too easy for Tamas Priskin to turn and score. Continue with such sloppy defending and they are not going to win a trophy.

2. Grant win just seems to delay the inevitable

I was at West Ham on Tuesday for their 2-1 win over Birmingham in the Carling Cup, and while it was a performance of spirit and fight, I fear it is only a matter of time before manager Avram Grant is dismissed, as the writing seems to be on the wall for him.

3. City's new boy could be quite a capture

My old mate Martin Keown reckons Manchester City's new signing Edin Dzeko is a cross between Alan Shearer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If that's true, he'll soon be worth double the £27m City paid for him.

4. Savage knows you are a long time retired

Robbie Savage rang the other night asking for my opinion on his proposed move to the Vancouver Whitecaps. I'm not going to repeat what I said. Let's just say I think you can always come back to the media work, but you have to keep playing for as long as possible.

5. Crawley's win chases away winter blues

It was a horrible wet night at Crawley but the drama and atmosphere in their Cup win over Derby more than made up for it.

Dixon's verdict on all the weekend action

Chelsea vs Blackburn Rovers

Dixon's verdict: Blackburn have a good recent record at Chelsea, with five wins and six draws in the Premier League era, but the Blues will have gained confidence from the Cup win over Ipswich and will win here.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Setanta Ireland; Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Manchester City vs Wolverhampton Wanderers

Dixon's verdict: City have been short when Carlos Tevez has not fired on all cylinders, so what does Roberto Mancini do? Goes out and splashes £27m on Edin Dzeko! He may not start today but City will win.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Stoke City vs Bolton Wanderers

Dixon's verdict: Stoke are sitting pretty in mid-table at present but have struggled at home recently, with just one in five, and they could have to settle for a share of the spoils against an in-form, if understrength, Bolton.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

West Bromwich Albion vs Blackpool

Dixon's verdict: Blackpool's season just goes from strength to strength, doesn't it? They again looked impressive against Liverpool in midweek and have more than enough to get at least a point at an off-colour West Brom.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

Wigan Athletic vs Fulham

Dixon's verdict: Fulham did well at Stoke last month but still tend to struggle on the road and I think Roberto Martinez's side will come out on top in what could be termed something of a relegation six-pointer.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

West Ham United vs Arsenal

Dixon's verdict: Arsène Wenger has rotated his side in the cup competitions this week and it hasn't exactly paid off so expect a full-strength team tonight. The Hammers still look patchy and will lose this one.

Kick-off: Today, 5.30pm (ESPN; Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Away win

Birmingham City vs Aston Villa

Dixon's verdict: The first of four great matches tomorrow, the Midlands derby looks very evenly matched, with both sides struggling at the wrong end. I feel the Blues' home form will be enough to take the points.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 12pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 1, 10.55pm)

Prediction: Home win

Sunderland vs Newcastle United

Dixon's verdict: Steve Bruce has described the 5-1 defeat in October's reverse match as the worst experience of his managerial career and that memory will provide him, and his team, with all the motivation they need.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 12pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.55pm)

Prediction: Home win

Liverpool vs Everton

Dixon's verdict: The return of "King Kenny" has yet to pay dividends in the side's fortunes on the pitch but a Merseyside derby usually brings out the best in players. Everton are improving but I take the Reds to win.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2.05pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 1, 10.55pm)

Prediction: Home win

Tottenham Hostpur vs Manchester United

Dixon's verdict: For all Spurs' supposed title pretensions, they still displayed a lack of belief in defeat at Old Trafford in October and have not beaten United in 23 meetings. I can only see that run continuing here.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4.10pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 1, 10.55pm)

Prediction: Away win

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