Liverpool quietly confident of success under the guise of Hodgson
By Tony Appleton.
We are only into the third week of the new era at England’s most successful football club, Liverpool FC, yet the possibly unfashionable, certainly undeterred Roy Hodgson is already showing signs of banishing the club’s difficult 2009/10 season and re-building a team capable of challenging for major honours, glory and silverware.
Before the World Cup, Scouse fans were left to reflect on an extremely underwhelming 7th place league finish, with marquee players Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard injured and off form respectively. All of this was, and still is, compounded by the persistent rumour mill that see the aforementioned El Nino and Stevie G, as well as Argentine pitbull Javier Mascherano, linked with pastures new.
However, on the 1st July, 62-year old Hodgson swapped the Thames for the Mersey, and the former Finland, Blackburn and Inter Milan gaffer has wasted little time in setting about fixing a club which many could argue was in disarray. It seems evident that talks with both Gerrard and Torres have helped to convince them to stay, but one masterstroke which may have really made up their minds was the unveiling of new blood primed to wear the famous Liverpool number 7 shirt.
The signing of England international Joe Cole on a 4 year deal has gone a long way to lifting the acrimonious atmosphere that was threatening to settle above Anfield as its own personal volcanic ash cloud. It was a victory for Hodgson and the club on so many fronts; genuine quality and experience added to the Liverpool midfield, a statement of intent to the other important players within the squad, and, most interestingly, the acquisition of a player that was fancied by many, and was heavily linked with every club that finished in the top 5 of the Premiership last season, barring Chelsea of course. The player himself will relish the big time occasion, and will no doubt feel he may have something to prove after an injury plagued final season at Stamford Bridge coupled with a disappointing World Cup campaign in South Africa.
Furthermore, everyone connected with Fulham will be quick to say that Hodgson is a man who can provide expert man-management. The transformation of Bobby Zamora last season was down to increased confidence in the player installed by the manager; give that to players of better quality in Torres, Gerrard and co, and we may not see the shrugs and grimaces that were so painfully evident during the conclusion of Rafa Benitez’s reign. The Spaniard, now Inter Milan boss, was especially adept at tactics, not least in his early years at Anfield where he led them to Champions League glory on that night in Istanbul. Player relationships weren’t the strongest colour on his managerial palette though. This was most evident during a game at St. Andrews against Birmingham last season, where Torres was substituted with an hour gone, replaced by David Ngog. Gerrard’s shocked expression was caught on camera, and fate ensued in the final half hour where Ngog, still learning his trade as a young professional, fluffed three chances as Liverpool only drew. Torres apparently was fit.
Hodgson will rest players; there is no doubt about that. Every club challenging in four different competitions simply has to rotate their squad to keep players fresh and fit. Despite the criticism that went towards Benitez for his tinkering, the crowd’s primary frustration was the performances and, ultimately, the results. If Hodgson can transform Liverpool into a confident team, freeing Gerrard, benefiting from the hunger and creativity of Cole and other new recruit Milan Jovanovic, getting the best from young players such as Ngog and Lucas Leiva, then the club will very quickly be on the road to recovery.
What though, will be considered success for Liverpool football club this coming season? The Kop has seen bitter rivals Manchester United equal the eighteen titles that they have won, and despite finishing second two years ago, really haven’t even looked like winning the title for a long time. Reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League last season was decent enough, but this partial success didn’t paper over the deep cracks that symbolised a shameful Champions League exit at the group stage and falling at the first hurdle in the FA Cup with a home replay defeat against Championship Reading.
Hodgson, despite his good start, has a long road to travel. Fans and the board will demand Champions League qualification as a minimum, coupled with progress in the Europa League and maybe even a domestic cup run. Fulham’s European success saw an understandable yet dramatic dip in form in the league from March to May; it is correct to say that Liverpool Football Club won’t be looking for a similar pattern.
What do you think of Liverpool’s chances for the coming season under Roy Hodgson? Please leave your comments below.
/ 9 hours ago
Arsenal continue their Europa League group stage campaign when they take on Dundalk at...
/ 11 hours ago
Tottenham Hotspur will face Royal Antwerp in Belgium this evening in the Europa League...