After Joe Cole prodded home a 92nd-minute winner against Bolton on January 1st, Roy Hodgson must have felt that his luck was finally changing; a New Year, a fortunate win, and maybe, just maybe, Liverpool could start to pick themselves up and salvage something from the season.
However, as the final whistle rang out at Ewood Park last night, Hodgson were left with the all-too-familiar taste of defeat after being ripped apart by a resurgent Rovers. It seems as though it’s merely a case of when, and not if, the likeable Croydon-born manager is sacked from the position that he believed was, to some extent, the reward for his career’s work. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out, and time seems to have run out.
However, while Koppites may grumble about Hodgson’s failings, to lay the blame for Liverpool’s demise solely at his door would be akin to blaming a waiter on the Titanic for standing on the wrong side of the ship as it went down. In essence, the problems facing Liverpool have culminated in a perfect storm, which is currently ripping the club to pieces. Ownership strife, a weak squad, injuries and poor form have combined to leave the current Liverpool side looking eminently beatable.
The Gillett and Hicks regime was an unmitigated disaster for the club, with the saga rumbling on through the High Court, causing the club untold embarrassment in the public eye. While Hodgson was not many fans’ automatic pick for the role, it would be easy to blame him for the current squad’s failings; in reality, Liverpool do not have a team that is capable of competing for the top four anymore.
Hodgson’s signings haven’t helped (Raul Meireles aside); Christian Poulsen looks out of his depth in the Premiership, whilst Paul Konchesky has come in for particular barracking from the fans. Joe Cole has flattered to deceive, and has justified Chelsea’s decision to refuse him a bumper new contract. While working on a limited budget, Hodgson would have been looking to established stars to drag the team out of their slump, yet Steven Gerrard’s dynamic performances are catching up with his body, and the less said about Fernando Torres’ season, the better. Rafa Benitez struggled for long periods as Liverpool manager, although Gerrard and Torres usually combined to give him breathing space; this has simply not happened for Hodsgon, and no more obviously than last night, with the Spaniard missing a sitter and his captain skying a penalty in the closing stages.
The main problem for Liverpool seems to have been that when they were closing in on Manchester United in 2008, it was generally agreed that while their squad wasn’t that strong, they had arguably the best XI in the league, with the likes of Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso forming a steel spine. With those two midfielders off to the ‘el Classico’ rivals in Spain, there is simply nobody in the current squad who can provide a creative, solid core to the team. While Glen Johnson (an expensive Benitez signing) provides a threat in attack, he has been a defensive disaster, and cannot seem to fathom the offside trap or marking.
Factor in the various injuries suffered by Gerrard, Torres and Carragher, and what Hodgson has been left with is a squad that is low on confidence, low on form, and even lower on quality.
It’s a shame that Hodgson is unlikely to be given the time or the funds to change things around by NSEV, but they would do well to realise that any incoming manager, unless backed with a substantial war chest in January, will find exactly the same problems as those that face the 63-year-old. It’d be interesting to see just what Hodgson could do with £30 million, although NSEV may have already decided that somebody else should be trusted with the money.