Don't let the media fool you

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

As Liverpool trudged off the pitch after a bitter 2-1 loss to Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Sky TV were quick to point out how unfortunate the Reds were and how easily they could have collected three points.

"I thought Liverpool played really, really well," added Graeme Souness in the studio.

I'd like to know what game they were watching. In many respects it's hard to blame the manager for this one. Basic errors littered Liverpool's performance. Too many times Liverpool cheaply gave the ball away in the Spurs half in decent positions.

Dirk Kuyt - for all the 'he works hard' love-in, was extremely poor in possession. Fernando Torres - well, doesn't look like he wants to be there. Raul Meireles continues to unimpress me, £11.7m is a lot of money that doesn't seem particulary well spent in my eyes. Sure, he looks OK technically but far too often he's found choosing the wrong option in the final third.

Predictably, the key battles were out wide - Glen Johnson v Gareth Bale and Paul Konchesky v Aaron Lennon. The result, rather inevitably, saw Spurs get the better of the individual confrontations. In fact, it was a fault on Tottenham's part that they didn't utilise Lennon more often, he simply tore Konchesky to shreds. The former Fulham man's positioning for the winner was indescribably poor.

I honestly can't think of a worse full-back Liverpool have had in the Premier League era. Emiliano Insua had his struggles last season but he was young and relatively inexperienced. It's different with Konchesky, we're talking about an established top-level player who's touch, positioning and defending has been appalling so far.

Being a Liverpool supporter at the moment is borderline torture, considering the league is so open this year it's disconcerting to wonder how this season could have panned out with better performances. There are some bright sparks, Lucas Leiva continues to put in some fine displays in the heart of midfield and I honestly believe a Steven Gerrard-Lucas combo in the centre could prove fruitful. Maxi Rodriguez, in spite of his terrible miss in the first half, is showing he can be effective from the left side - it will be interesting to see if Joe Cole jumps straight back into the team or not.

Roy Hodgson was praised for his adventure (lining up with two forwards) pre and post-game but it didn't really help the defensive solidity of the team, we gave Spurs far too many opportunitites. Although I suppose you could argue we wouldn't have created so many ourseleves had David Ngog not partnered Torres. That's probably true, but going offensive against Tottenham (a side who lined up with five 'attacking' players) may have not been the smartest thing to do.

It's difficult to predict where Liverpool are going this season. The league is tight enough that a run of wins would see a top four challenge but that just doesn't seem likely under Roy. Things have improved slightly from the awful start to the campaign but it's hard to imagine that things will improve dramatically. Realistically, Liverpool's playing squad was far too good for the bottom three so an improvement had to come. It has, of sorts. Is it enough to win over the Liverpool support for Hodgson? Probably not.

It's hard to get yourself out of hole when you've dug it so deep.


A NESV start and time to move forward

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

Fresh optimism has swept Merseyside today with the news that the New England Sports Ventures have completed their takeover of Liverpool Football Club.

George Gillett and Tom Hicks are officially history and the club as a whole can breathe a sigh of relief and look towards the future. With distractions off the pitch now hopefully behind Roy Hodgson and his team, focus will again shift to how Liverpool perform under the new manager.

Theoretically speaking, the players now have little excuse to continue playing the way they have been so far this campaign. It's been a wretched beginning to 2010/11, but now is the time to put it right.

I leave you with an extract from 'Rafa Benitez by Paco Lloret', the writer talks about the potential pitfalls of being a manager - it certainly reminded me of how it's important to give the current boss a fair crack in the Anfield hotseat.

"Some journalists happily make judgements without sufficient knowledge; they don't bother to check their facts, especially those that don't interest them. Managers are easy targets, they can be attacked to satisfy the public, especially when things aren't going well. Some shamelessly sentence their victims before giving them an opportunity to do their work. Having taken their position they won't change their view, no matter what happens. An easy and populist ploy that goes down well. Fans are fickle. They are moved by passionate impulses. Results affect them, and liking or disliking a manager is directly dependant on this."
Paco Lloret (2005)


The lowest of the low?

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

Supporting Liverpool Football Club has always had its highs and lows - as does supporting any football team for that matter.

But never, in my 21 years of living, have I seen my club in this position. For me, and for many others, the performance of my team affects my mood outside of watching football. It's hard for me to switch off. If Liverpool have won at the weekend then I take that feeling of gratification to the rest of my life.

At this point in time this is the lowest I've ever felt as a supporter of this great club. Not only are matters off the pitch a mess, but the debacle of the club ownership has slowly started to filter down to what happens on the pitch.

Make no mistake, the ownership saga shouldn't be an excuse for the players, who collectively this season have been well below par. Top international footballers are chronically under-performing and being outclassed by teams that are vastly inferior.

Roy Hodgson hasn't made the best impression. However, he should not be the one under pressure to leave the club in the immediate future. That honour should be awarded to the two Americans who are sucking this club dry.


In defence of Roy and the legacy of Rafa

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

A number of people appear to slightly misinterpreted my last blog post.

It certainly wasn't a 'Get Hodgson out' plea, simply an observation of his management style since taking charge at Anfield. His comments and the way he has spoken to the media has concerned me a little but that doesn't mean to say I think he's a bad manager. Conversely, his record proves he is a very capable manager.

Wednesday's defeat to League Two Northampton Town was borderline farcical and Roy will inevitably come under scrutiny for his team selection and lack of recognised personnel on the substitutes bench. Nevertheless, the eleven that started the Carling Cup tie should have been more than good enough to see off a side struggling in 17th place in England's fourth tier.

In all, Hodgson's start hasn't been good. Apart from the opening Premier League fixture against Arsenal, it's difficult to pinpoint where the fresh impetus of a new manager has gone. It is customary for new managers to have a 'honeymoon period' so to speak, where players are eager to impress their new boss and are lifted by new ideas. That doesn't seem to have been the case so far.

Granted, the fixture computer wasn't too kind, but performances haven't exactly given supporters reason for optimism either.

Despite all of this, Hodgson deserves time to get things right and Liverpool may need to suffer a baron spell before he can really make his mark. In an age when success is demanded under intensified media coverage and increasing fan pressure, Hodgson must be given sufficient time to implement his philosophy on the team and recruit his own personnel.

According to ex-Liverpool player Jan Molby, who was covering Wednesday's game for Radio 5 live, the Red's embarrassing defeat was mainly indebted to the 'legacy of Rafa Benitez' - an appraisal also carried by Mark Bright (who also added Milan Jovanovic was a Hodgson signing) during the BBC's highlights show.

It's lazy and pathetic punditry at its best and it stinks. How on earth can the Inter Milan coach be responsible for an abject display from a team he no longer manages? Did he pick the team? No. Did he set out the formation? No. Did he motivate the players for the game? No.

So how do we get to the conclusion that Rafa Benitez is culpable for all of this? Perhaps the fact that Hodgson is still seen as a 'media darling' probably means the finger needs to be pointed elsewhere.

Let's just hope Inter Milan don't win the European Cup again this season, because if they do, it will probably be down to Jose Mourinho.


Roy Hodgson has faced a number of niggling criticisms since taking charge of Liverpool. The majority of which are concerned with tactics, formations and player purchases.

One further issue though, which is certainly starting to grate on the nerves of some supporters, is the way Hodgson has spoken in the media. For the moment, Hodgson is still very much the media's darling. An English manager who worked wonders at Fulham and has landed a job at one of the biggest clubs in the country. What Hodgson has to realise though is precisely that - Liverpool are the most decorated club in England and supporters expect that their tradition is respected and the club aim to win every match they play.

Realistically Liverpool won't challenge for the title this season, it would be nieve to think so, but hearing such statements from the man in charge are still deflating.

Rafa Benitez was never a manager to elaborate much. When talking to the press, Benitez firmly held his cards to his chest. One thing he did emphasise though was the importance of trying to win every game. No matter how he felt inside the Spaniard always presented an upbeat front, upholding the tradition that Liverpool would try and win everything they entered, even if sometimes it was never possible.

It's the kind of fighting talk that Roy is lacking at the moment. Life as a Liverpool supporter is grim enough at the moment, but the manager must exhibit some sort of positivity. Take the recent games against West Brom and Birmingham. Here are some of Hodgson's quotes after the repsective matches;

"We had to fight very, very hard for it, all credit to West Brom for doing so well. Also, credit to our lads because these games are very difficult games - luckily the class of Gerrard and Torres won us the game. This is a very good result, if West Brom play like that every week they will get points off quite a few teams."

It's a cliche that there's no easy games in football, but seriously, West Brom at home? The comment about relying on Gerrard and Torres is a painful one. Liverpool have a number of quality international footballers who should be miffed at such a quote - it definitely demeans the rest of the squad.

"I think coming to Birmingham and playing against a team in such good form, 17 games unbeaten at home, we can feel satisfied at least that we won a hard-earned point. It was important to come here today and not lose the game because if we had of done we have Manchester United next and it makes life difficult for you."

Hodgson is right to imply that Birmingham away is potentially a tricky fixture, but to state that it was imperative not to get beat with Manchester United coming next insinuates that he's not exactly hopefuly for the trip to Old Trafford.

Most recently of course, Hodgson has re-affirmed his friendship for Sir Alex Ferguson. Not a good thing to do when you manage Liverpool. Ferguson has had countless swipes at Liverpool down the years and continues to do so. Befriending the opposing manager of your fiercest rivals probably isn't the best way to endear yourself to an Anfield faithful. By all means, Hodgson has a right to be Ferguson's chum, just don't openly state it in public.

The new man in charge must grasp the philosophy of Liverpool football club before supporters become totally disorientated with proceedings. Perhaps managing a club with the ethos of Fulham, a London club forever in the shadow of much bigger sides, has ingrained the way Hodgson talks. 'Little 'Old Fulham' were the underdogs throughout their Europa League campaign but Hodgson is in different waters now and the quicker he realises that the better.


A glance at Roy's transfer dealings

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

The summer transfer window is now closed and Roy Hodgson has to stick with what he has until January.
Roy's buys;
Joe Cole - free from Chelsea
Fabio Aurelio - free
Christian Poulsen - £4.5m from Juventus
Brad Jones - £2.3m from Middlesbrough
Raul Meireles - £10.7m from Porto
Paul Konchesky - £3.5m +Lauri Dalla Valle&Alex Kacaniklic from Fulham

Roy's sales;
Albert Riera - £3.5m to Olympiakos
Diego Cavalieri - £3m to Cesena
Kristian Nemeth - £1m to Olympiakos
Javier Mascherano - £17.25m to Barcelona
Damien Plessis -Undisc. to Panathiniakos
Nabil El Zhar - Loan to PAOK
Emiliano Insua - Loan to Galatasary

Deals made by Rafa;
Jonjo Shelvey - £1.7m from Charlton
Milan Jovanovic - free from Standard Liege
Danny Wilson - £2m from Rangers

Yossi Benayoun - £6m to Chelsea

Was the window a success for Liverpool? It's hard to say right now but two key factors stand out from the latest ins and outs.

Firstly, Liverpool have not managed to sign a striker - despite Hodgson making it a priority and despite ex-manager Rafa Benitez coming under fire for not investing in back-up for Fernando Torres. Ola Toivonen was mentioned but nothing materialised. Perhaps Hodgson has faith in David Ngog to fill the shoes of Torres, or even Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel or Milan Jovanovic.

Secondly, for the fourth window in succession, Liverpool have made a profit. So much for the 'big' investment in the playing squad.

Midfield battle

The biggest change in the squad has come in the centre of midfield. Liverpool have lost Javier Mascherano, a world class defensive midfield player and captain of Argentina. Although there was little Hodgson could do about it, Mascherano's departure signals that Anfield could be losing its appeal. Would Mascherano have left if everything behind the scenes was fine and Benitez was still in charge? Almost certainly not.

Alberto Aquilani has also left the club, returning back to Italy with Juventus on loan. This deal in particular is puzzling. Hodgson insists a year in Aquilani's homeland could help the injury plagued 25-year-old rediscover his best form. However, the purchases of Christian Poulsen and Raul Meireles suggest that even if Aquilani does return, there probably won't be room for him. It's a shame for Aquilani because during the final stages of last season the Italian was starting to show what he could do. In fact against Atletico Madrid he was arguably the best player on the pitch, getting his name on the scoresheet in the process.

On paper it would appear that Mascherano has been replaced by Poulsen and Aquilani by Meireles. The next few months should tell us whether they are adequate alternatives. From what we have seen so far however, Poulsen certainly doesn't look in the same class as Mascherano - nevertheless he must be given time.

Like for like

A number of signings seem to be replacements rather than additions. In truth, Liverpool's squad needs to be strengthend and not merely maintained. Joe Cole is a definite swap for Yossi Benayoun, as is Brad Jones for Diego Cavalieri, Paul Konchesky for Emiliano Insua and Christian Poulsen for Javier Mascherano.

The money available to Hodgson must certainly be a factor but apart from the acquisition of Joe Cole, which was on a free transfer, none of the other deals make you jump off your seat. Even Cole, now 28, can't be expected to produce his best form immediately after a stop-start season with Chelsea.

Finding Cole's best position may also be a challenge. So far, Hodgson has utilised the playmaker in the hole behind the main striker but it's hard to argue that Steven Gerrard isn't better suited to that particular role. One, because he already has a great understanding with Fernando Torres, and two, because he's been playing there week in week out for the past three seasons (earning the PFA player of the year in 08/09).

Although if Cole can fit into the Liverpool side we have an exciting player on our hands who can add a dimensions that were sorely missing last season - movement and creativity.

Selling on young blood

It may concern some Liverpool supporters to see a number of young players leave the club. Roy Hodgson has never been known to stick around long enough at any one club to develop fresh talent. Perhaps the Englishman's hunger for instant success at Anfield means he has had to sell some of Liverpool's most promising youngsters.

Kristian Nemeth, Nabil El Zhar (loan), Damien Plessis, Emiliano Insua (loan), Alex Kacanaklic and Lauri Dalla Valle have all exited. While El Zhar and Plessis have had their respective stints around the first team and not made a great impression, the sales of Nemeth and Dalla Valle could irk certain sectors of support. The duo were both seen as shining lights for the future but leave the club with one first team appearance between them.

How was Liverpool's summer business? Fairly average. But did we expect anything else from a board in turmoil? No, not really. In truth, Hodgson's hands are tied - money is coming from sales and the appeal of the club is not what it was. It's hardly a recipe for success, making Hodgson's first season in charge a tough proposition.


A depressing shift in the times

Posted In: . By Red and White Blogger

As Roy Hodgson embarks on his first season as Liverpool manager, Monday night's game against Manchester City should give the clearest indication yet that the times are changing in the top order of the Premier League.

Liverpool, once declared as a key member of the "big four", looked pale in comparison to a Manchester City team that is rapidly turning themselves into a force to be reckoned with.

While Hodgson must be given plenty of time to implement his philosophy on the team, his decision to play a rigid and lifeless 4-4-2 at Eastlands backfired. On paper the eleven looked to have some bold intentions with David Ngog paired with Fernando Torres. However, the duo's similarities and lack of support from midfield meant they were far too isolated.

City's strong and imposing back four, ably shielded by Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry and Nigel De Jong, looked on top from the outset. There was little space to manoevuer in City's final third and Liverpool very rarely looked like penetrating the home side's back line. Steven Gerrard, who was expected to be the central midfielder to bomb forward, looked like he was instrcuted to hold the middle of the pitch with Lucas Leiva.

Hodgson's cause wasn't helped by numerous under-performers. Glen Johnson, on his 26th birthday, possibly had his worst game in a red shirt. Widemen Dirk Kuyt and Milan Jovanovic never looked like troubling City's full backs - despite Joleon Lescott looking slightly uncomfortable at left back.

Hodgson, similarly to former manager Rafa Benitez, was famed for the organisation and defensive discipline of his teams. Therefore it was worrying to see Liverpool opened up at regular intervals and comfortably beaten by a side who have a relatively similar level of playing talent available to them.

Liverpool's first defeat of the season probably brings back down to earth any heavy expectations after a promising opener against Arsenal. A challenge for the top four is certainly the most realistic ambition. City - in contrast - will harbour title hopes, and on this evidence it's apparent they're superior to the men from Merseyside.

The depressing situation for Liverpool supporters is the rapid decline in anticipation, expectation and excitement from the end of the 2008/09 season. After being so close to claiming a 19th title, suddenly the holy grail looks further away than ever.