By Laurie Fitzgerald
12 months ago, Liverpool were a club in turmoil after undergoing severe problems both on and off the pitch.
A bitter takeover embroiled Anfield, with John W. Henry taking over from the despised fellow Americans of George Gillett and Tom Hicks.
Meanwhile, Liverpool were at the wrong end of the table as new manager Roy Hodgson was unable to turn their fortunes after they began to fade under previous boss Rafa Benitez.
But a new year brought new hope; with Henry’s takeover rubber stamped, he brought back the Kop’s prodigal son to try and revive the glory days on Merseyside.
Having won eight league titles and three European Cups in 14 years as a player and manager, Kenny Dalglish was re-appointed almost 20 years after he resigned.
After being given a contract until the end of the season, it soon became apparent that the Scot was the right appointment in the long-term.
Having been firmly consigned to the bottom half of the table, Dalglish guided the team on run that saw them move to the brink of an unlikely European spot.
The Reds went on 14-game run that saw them win ten and draw two matches to propel them within touchings distance of the Europa League.
Despite eventually missing out on Europe, a 6th placed finish was secured and the 60 year-old was rewarded with a three-year deal.
Now Dalglish has had almost a year to mould the squad in his image and the way he wants them to play, and there has been a marked improvement.
Gone is the one-dimensional style adopted under Hodgson of being well-organised but limited in an attacking approach.
Now Liverpool are dominating games with their constant pressing and high tempo that allows them to get on top of their opponents, as well as having the best defensive record in the top flight.
There was no need to make any changes in goal, with Pepe Reina one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.
Defensively there has been some re-adjusting; Jose Enrique has been brought in at left-back, while Martin Kelly has emerged from the academy to contest with Glen Johnson on the right.
At the heart of defence, both Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have become first-choice centre-backs, whilst the experienced Jamie Carragher and new addition Sebastian Coates provide reliable cover.
The midfield has seen the biggest overhaul; out have gone the likes of Christian Poulsen and Joe Cole, and in have come the likes of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson.
Possibly the best example of the improvement under Dalglish has been holding midfielder Lucas.
For two years the Brazilian was unable to win over the Kop faithful, looking unable to cope with the pace and physicality of England’s top flight.
However, in the last 12 months he has made a host of excellent performances to make him the heartbeat of the Liverpool side before being ruled out for the rest of the season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
It is a problem that Dalglish will look to address in January, especially with their other midfield talisman in Steven Gerrard struggling with injury problems throughout 2011.
There has been investment within the flanks, with Stewart Downing and Craig Bellamy brought in to add width on the flanks, although Downing has found it difficult to maintain a regular place with the form of Maxi Rodriguez and the tireless Dirk Kuyt.
Up front has seen a big turnaround. Out went star man Fernando Torres and the less than prolific David N’Gog, and in came Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll for a combined total of £57 million.
This has seen differing returns though, as while Suarez has been a revelation in the no. 7 shirt, Carroll has been unable to live up to his £35 million price tag and settle into Liverpool’s style of play.
It has been the one aspect of Dalglish’s first year back in charge that has raised eyebrows – the money spent on the new additions.
The likes of Carroll, Henderson and Downing were brought into the club for over-inflated sums of money, and all have so far had mixed success.
But as with any major overhaul, time has to be given to the big-money arrivals before they are deemed a success or failure, especially when Henderson and Carroll are in their early twenties.
While the squad is in a far healthier state than it was before, the primary aim has to be getting back their place in the top four before ending their long wait for a 19th title.
If there’s one thing we can take from Dalglish’s second coming, it is that Liverpool are a lot closer to the glory days than they were a year ago.