Dalglish: Too early to judge new stars
Judgement on Liverpool's £57.8 million strikeforce of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez should be reserved for this time next season, according to manager Kenny Dalglish.
And anything the pair, who became the club's record signings in the space of just a few hours on January transfer deadline day, produce in the final seven matches of the season should be regarded as a "bonus'' said the Scot.
Suarez has already announced his talents with two goals and a virtuoso performance in last month's 3-1 win at home to Manchester United. Carroll, whose Reds debut was delayed by a thigh injury sustained in late December while still at Newcastle, has shown glimpses of his potential but he is not yet fully fit.
Dalglish has always insisted the pair were bought for the long-term good of the club and that they could not be expected to transform Liverpool's fortunes in the latter stages of this season. However, he believes in 12 months' time the picture will be vastly different.
"Anything we get out of them this season will be a real bonus,'' Dalglish said. "It is good to see them getting an opportunity to play together and get an understanding and we will keep working on that. But this time next year would be the better time to judge that when they have had time to settle in.''
After Dalglish's arrival to replace Roy Hodgson in early January Carroll and Suarez gave the club another boost with their arrival at the end of that month. Those two factors, combined with an upturn in results, have lifted the mood at Anfield which had hit an all-time low under the leadership of Hodgson, who at one stage saw his side 19th in the table.
They still have an outside chance of qualifying for Europe with a fifth-placed finish, although that was damaged when Hodgson's West Brom team beat them last weekend.
And even with injures starting to bite, having lost Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger for the rest of the campaign and with Glen Johnson and Martin Kelly sidelined for another month, Dalglish will continue to push his squad forward.
"We have never predicted anything other than we will concentrate fully on the next game,'' he said. "I don't see any reason why you should change the habits of a lifetime - we said we would play every game, add the points up and see where we are.
"We're obviously happier being sixth than seventh but we'd also be happier being fifth than sixth. The football club has greater ambition than to settle for sixth spot and we'll be looking to improve on that as best we possibly can.
"We are better than sixth but we've got to prove that on the pitch. We have to prove on the pitch that we deserve to be higher in the table than what we are, we have to set our ambitions higher than that.
"That's not to undermine the improvement or form of the lads since the turn of the year. I think we have paid credit to the players many times in the past and there is no need to change that.
"I know we have not won every game but the attitude and commitment of the players has been superb and the way they have responded to the change (of manager) has been a great credit to them.
"Their ambitions match the club's and if they don't they won't be here. So it is onwards and upwards and we'll take Man City's game on Monday and see what we can get from that.''