Hodgson not entirely to blame for a lacklustre Liverpool
At the start of this Premiership season I submitted an article suggesting that fans of Liverpool FC could feel quietly confident of what lay ahead following the appointment of Roy Hodgson and the signing of Joe Cole on a free transfer. Barely 5 months on, and you can see for yourself what a spectacular misjudgement that was.
At the time of writing, word out of Anfield seemed to suggest that the former Fulham manager’s eventful tenure was being discussed thoroughly. With the next game seeing Hodgson travel to bitter rivals Manchester United in the F.A Cup; rivals who are unbeaten in the Premiership this season and heavy favourites to take top spot come May, there seems to be no respite for a man who just last season celebrated being awarded the LMA Manager of the Year award.
So why the change in fortunes? Managers cannot become bad at their jobs overnight, or rather, in a 20 week period. Taking Fulham to the Europa League final, comprehensively beating established European teams like Shaktar Donestk and Juventus only to lose narrowly in extra time to Spanish opposition; sparked by a Uruguayan who would later be crowned player of the World Cup, is a fantastic achievement. It was an achievement that saw Hodgson become courted by the Liverpool hierarchy, and ultimately saw him become manager in a move that few could call unwise at the time. He settled in quickly, giving the required assurances to Liverpool’s catalysts, Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard and star striker Fernando Torres. Then Cole arrived, leaving London for Merseyside. Although Javier Mascherano was to skulk out of the exit door, things looked fairly bright for Hodgson and the football club that simply had to exorcise the demons of the previous season, where they finished 7th. Unfortunately the results that have come with this new season have somewhat banished that bright outlook, turning instead to dark times for England’s most successful club. Continue with current form and it will be relegation evasion rather than European qualification that is the objective for 2010/11. Who would have ever thought they would be saying that about Liverpool?
It is arguable that the manager’s transfers haven’t been the wisest. Players such as Raul Meireles and Christian Poulsen, supposedly perceived as signings made to replace the fearless, determined Mascherano, have flattered to deceive. Cole himself has struggled with injury problems, but when given time on the pitch he simply hasn’t reproduced the goods that everyone knows he is capable of; his tap in against Bolton, although undeniably important for Liverpool and Hodgson, was only his first league goal of the season. It is all well and good to identify targets such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Danny Sturridge and Luiz Suarez, but would anyone of such quality really want to roll up their sleeves and join Liverpool’s battle for redemption?
Furthermore, the simply abject displays that Liverpool have produced on recent outings against Wolves and at Blackburn highlight the work of a man in desperation, struggling to find answers. Changes on the pitch seem to arrive too late, and as an attacking force the club with arguably the greatest striker in the world supported by a still gifted, talismanic attacking midfielder is stagnant, players seemingly perplexed by negative tactics. Excusing comprehensive home victories against clubs in claret and blue in worse positions then their own, Liverpool have scored just 9 goals in 10 appearances. Not good enough for a club that have previously held Dalglish, Rush, Owen and Fowler amongst their formerly enviable ranks.
These abject displays though are also the key witness in the defence for Roy Hodgson. Liverpool, Torres and Gerrard apart, can’t call on the quality that they once had. Losing Jamie Carragher for around 3 months was certainly an ill-timed irritant, and his replacements have failed to shut out attacking opposition, leaving Pepe Reina exposed far too often. Pointing again to the performances against Wolves and Blackburn, not to mention Bolton’s effort when taking the lead at Anfield recently, all 5 goals highlight catastrophic errors by the back line. Sotirios Kyrgiakos has been woeful, and Glen Johnson seems to have gone backwards as a player. Hodgson, try as he might, cannot position his troops or head balls away, and his anxiety on both the touchline and now on television is a tangible result for all to see. Moreover, despite the quality of Torres and Gerrard, neither are on the form of seasons gone by. Gerrard’s penalty miss at Ewood Park, and his tranquil demeanour in the immediate aftermath, seemed to show lack of fight. What can Hodgson do about that?
Liverpool’s boardroom plight must surely also have had derogatory effects on the club. Seemingly close to administration before takeover, and now without the funds needed to purchase real quality that will bring improved performance and solid effort to the football club, tight purse strings demand that Hodgson works with what he has at his disposal. As discussed, his resources aren’t plentiful. With Manchester City and Tottenham able to splurge on talent as they see fit, the decline wasn’t actually hard to see happening. It is the degree of the slump which has fans worried about their club, and Hodgson worried about his job.
Hodgson could still have time to save himself. Following the trip to Manchester, a run of league games sees Liverpool face Blackpool, Everton, Wolves, Fulham and Stoke. With that Blackpool game their game in hand on all the teams above them, 6th place is still within the realms of possibility, maybe even 5th given Chelsea’s current turmoil. If however more disappointment emits from this winnable run, then surely not even the most patient of supporters could realistically give more time to the under-pressure chief.
Is it time for Roy Hodgson to leave Liverpool? Should he quit rather than being sacked? Please air your opinions below.