Dalglish's Liverpool future rests in untested hands of Doni
Kenny Dalglish will turn to a goalkeeper who has not even completed a full friendly for Liverpool – he dislocated his finger against Rangers on his one start – and who conceded seven goals on his previous appearance in England.
Desperate times are calling for desperate measures for Dalglish, who is now leading his beloved football club through their worst run since the 1953-54 season, and amid the fallout from Sunday's defeat to Newcastle comes the realisation he will have to call on a keeper unproven in this country at least.
The moment Pepe Reina lost control of his head, in every sense, at St James' Park before his dismissal, may yet prove to be the moment when Liverpool's season really did implode. For an FA Cup semi-final with Everton that seems to grow in significance with each defeat, Dalglish will turn to Alexander Doni, the 32-year-old who was signed on a free transfer during the summer, after it was confirmed yesterday that Liverpool will not appeal against Reina's red card.
It will be a huge ask. Doni has not been trusted with the gloves at any time this season, but at least there is pedigree. For six seasons he stood between the posts for Roma (including that 7-1 Champions League defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford) and picked up three Cups during his time there.
Doni also has 10 caps for Brazil, but the cauldron that awaits at Wembley, for what will be his competitive debut, will prove the most acid of tests. How Doni fares will go some way to determining how Dalglish fares. Mark Lawrenson said yesterday that his former team-mate would not walk out on Liverpool, and few have suggested such an outcome.
But there seemed a softening in Dalglish's tone at Newcastle on Sunday. Any form of questioning of his players has been rare throughout any of his managerial reigns – at Liverpool, Blackburn, Newcastle or when he was the football director at Celtic– and yet he did that to both Andy Carroll and Reina in the immediate aftermath of defeat. In both cases the criticism was deserved, but it was interesting to hear from those in the tunnel that rather than the fist fight Reina had offered James Perch, the recipient of his "headbutt", Liverpool's players walked down the tunnel in stony silence.
Perhaps Dalglish realises that the phenomenal and sometimes understandable loyalty he gives to his players is not being reciprocated in full during such a testing period, late in his career. Carroll's outburst after being taken off against his old club was shocking to everyone, including Dalglish, but it had felt an unwise substitution from the moment the No 9 flashed up in match official Phil Dowd's hand. What little confidence or self-control Carroll had left evaporated at the ground where he once reigned. That action from Dalglish perhaps in its own way said a thousand words, that his own patience at his misfiring forward had snapped.
Dalglish could have made far more of Danny Simpson's handball and the fact he should have been shown a red card. That would have affected the outcome hugely, and yet he did not. He instead spoke of channelling aggression and disappointment in the right direction. Nor did he turn on Perch for his over-reaction to Reina.
Doni, being critical of his own players, easing up on officials: these are untested waters for Dalglish, and that must make the current period feel even more precarious.
Corinthians (Brazil) 2001-2003
2002 Brazilian Cup
2003 Sao Paulo Championship
Cruzeiro (Brazil) 2004
Juventude (Brazil) 2005
Roma (Italy) 2005-2011
2007 Coppa Italia, Supercoppa
2008 Coppa Italia
Liverpool (England) 2011-
Brazil national team 2007-
2007 Copa America