Hodgson; An innocent man set upon by hurt fans consumed by the disasters of an unprecedented 18 months? Or an anachronism stuck behind the curtain of 4-4-2?
Too often in football an event or incident takes place that leaves spectators, pundits and journalists debating from differing standpoints for several months after. That Is the beauty of the sport. It delivers talking points like a well written soap opera that consumes it’s followers for a lengthy period before delivering another one. The brief tenure of Roy Hodgson at Liverpool football club is such an event. To some Hodgson was a man “on a hiding to nothing”; he was hired by a club in disarray, given a transfer budget equal to the wage budget of his clubs rivals, and then set upon by disenchanted fans who had suffered so much over the previous 18 months. To others Hodgson was the wrong fit; he was the wrong man to bring about a revolution at a club slowly falling into mediocrity. Whilst they dreamt of a young, energetic and charismatic leader to uplift the club from its downward spiral, an ageing, throwback was given the keys to a club his CV suggested he had no right to.
Which ever view point you have one thing cannot be argued. During Hodgson’s reign, Liverpool suffered its worst start to a league season since the 1953-54 season, when the club was relegated from the old First Division. This suggested that, despite the constant positive sound bites being given by players at the club when interviewed, some were clearly not taking to his methods. Indeed only this past weekend, Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt revealed that the methods of caretaker boss Kenny Dalglish and first team coach Steve Clarke were more in tune with the desires of the players. “It comes close to the Dutch style. Playing with early pressure on the opponents and a passing game with the ball low on the ground. Not all those long balls anymore”.
This isn’t surprising to me or anyone who watched Liverpool’s best recent season-coming second to Manchester United in 08-09-and enjoyed the style of football they played at the time under Rafa Benitez. That season proved that the group of players at the club were suited to a passing game; with hard workers like Kuyt, Lucas and Meireles (Mascherano in that season) in the midfield, the side is constructed to press the opposition and take advantage of the vision of the likes of Gerrard and Cole and the movement of Maxi Rodriguez. Hodgson’s methods never fully exploited this. In the first half of most home games Liverpool played, the team did attempt to do this. The problem was, come the second half, they would drop deep, stop pressing and invite the opposition to attack them at will. This was the same for away matches. This often caused nervousness in the teams defence where players like Johnson, Skrtel and Konchesky were facing wave after wave of attacks, something I believe has played a part in their indifferent forms this season.
Aside from Hodgson’s tactics, his inability to connect with some members of the squad also worked against him. One of the criticisms levelled at his predecessor was that he was too controlling and fell out with too many of his players. Hodgson clearly never saw eye to eye with Daniel Agger or Glen Johnson. He openly criticized Johnson’s form in the media-something a manager of his experience should have known to keep private-whilst his problem with Agger seemed to stem from the defenders desire to play the ball out of defence rather than simply lumping it up field. The recent upturn in the form of Fernando Torres also suggests that he also wasn’t best pleased with what he was asked to do by Hodgson. Torres has often cut a forlorn figure this season. His constant bickering with officials and defenders seemed to occupy more of his time than making runs into the channel. However, in his last three games under Kenny Dalglish, he has had his best two performances of the season and scored three goals.
Whichever way you look at Roy Hodgson’s time at Liverpool, to me one thing is clear despite the constant attempts of some to colour the story; Hodgson was afforded some money to improve the team and chose to purchase a midfielder, a left back and a defensive midfielder when the squad was crying out for a second striker. His purchases have proven to be poor; Konchesky has been a disaster, Poulsen has given away more passes than any Liverpool player this season whilst Hodgson signed a central midfielder in Meireles then proceeded to play him in every position but that stating “it’s very early for me to make a strong judgement about where his best position is”.
Did the fans give Hodgson a fair crack? That is debateable. What isn’t debateable is how poorly Hodgson himself performed when given a task that these fans immediately thought was beyond him. When the debate ends and cold, hard facts are all we are left with to judge Roy Hodgson’s time at Liverpool football club, the only conclusion that will be drawn is that he was clearly not the man for the job and his tenure only served to delay the commencing of a rebuilding process that was clearly too much for him to handle.