• Anfield club lose 3-0
• £20m Jordan Henderson fails to impress
To suggest that Liverpool supporters are not sure about Kenny Dalglish may seem similar to declaring that David Attenborough is not altogether certain animals are very interesting – but the fact is, Dalglish has plenty to prove this season.
Nothing, of course, will ever detract from the glory and dignity that he brought to the club during his time as a player and his first reign as manager, but this is a club whose fans crave assurances that success is ahead rather than gone by and, although the Scot has spent lavishly since his second coming, not everyone is convinced that he has spent wisely. This 3-0 defeat by Hull will not provoke panic, but nor can it have soothed any worries.
"The lads are at various degrees of fitness for the matches," Dalglish said. "Someone like Jordan [Henderson] has only trained for a week, so it's a bit too much to ask him to start the game.
"[But] if they're going to stake a claim for a first-team place, they've got to earn it. We've given them every opportunity to get themselves fit and try and earn the right to play in the first team, but they'll need to do better than that if they want it."
Many of the 20,000-plus crowd at the KC Stadium came in search of clues as to how Dalglish may use the wealth of options he has given himself after expenditure of more than £100m since his return to Anfield, but the side Liverpool fielded for the first half read more like a list of the players the club might like to sell rather than ones who will be entrusted with trying to end the long wait for the English title.
Alas, the likes of Christian Poulsen, Alberto Aquilani and Joe Cole did nothing to change opinions of them, whether that be to attract buyers or convince doubters they have a long-term future at Liverpool. Even the one new player that was cast into action from the start, goalkeeper Alexander Doni, is unlikely to become a regular starter — the Brazilian was bought as back-up for Pepe Reina and did nothing here to suggest he deserves to be parachuted into the team ahead of the Spaniard.
That said, neither of the first two goals he conceded were his fault.. Robbie Brady's shot was deflected and the second goal, from Robert Koren, was struck into the net from distance after a fine move through a static Liverpool midfield.
The second half brought 11 changes and, perhaps, a line-up slightly closer to the one that Liverpool will begin the new season with at Sunderland in three weeks' time. Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing all appeared and gave insights into how Dalglish may plan to use them.
Adam mostly operated from a deep-lying central midfield position in a 4-2-3-1, seeking to orchestrate play in much the same manner as Xabi Alonso once did before he was controversially let go to Real Madrid by Rafael Benítez. Adam's passing was as ambitious and accurate as it had been for Blackpool last season, and he showed the dynamism that some accuse him of lacking, often romping forward in a bid to get on the end of moves that he initiated. It is easy to see him playing alongside Lucas Leiva next season, especially if Raul Meireles leaves.
Downing also demonstrated interesting potential. After his half-time arrival, he mostly hugged the touchlines, first the left and then the right, offering Liverpool the width they had lacked in the first half and, most importantly, for much of last season: only one team completed fewer crosses than Liverpool in last season's Premier League and the purchase of Downing, who had a better cross-completion rate than any other player in the league last season except for Everton's Leighton Baines, seems designed to address this.
The acquisition of Henderson, for £20m from Sunderland, is the one that has generated the most head scratching. He spent most of the 45 minutes that he played against Hull in a central attacking position just behind Andy Carroll, lending credence to suggestions that he was bought as a successor to Gerrard, who is now 31. Although he ran about earnestly, Henderson struggled to make any impact, seldom touching the ball until he dropped deeper. Gerrard's starting place does not look under immediate threat.