England: Roy in danger of deluding himself
After a miserable 2-0 defeat at the hands of local rivals Everton FC today, Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson defended his players saying that “I don’t think it is a crisis, I thought the way we played today was not the level of a team in the bottom three.” If he really thinks that then it is clear that the man is not in the right job.
To be fair to Hodgson the situation he walked into at Anfield was far from ideal. Having replaced Rafael Benítez in the Reds’ dug out amid the off-pitch turmoil that has affected the club in recent weeks, the new boss of the five-time European champions has had his work cut out. His first match of the season saw Liverpool drop two points at home to Arsenal in a game they could’ve won but a tough start has seen defeats to the two Manchester clubs and newly-promoted Blackpool as well as defeat in the English League Cup to fourth tier side Northampton Town. With champions Chelsea coming to Anfield in three weeks time the situation could get worse before it gets better for the team who now languish in 19th place in the Barclays Premier League table and who have made their worst start to a league campaign for 57 years.
The Blue side of Merseyside were revelling in rubbing their neighbours’ noses in it following a 2-0 defeat of Hodgson’s men in what ranks as one of Liverpool’s worst derby performances although that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to take any credit of an Everton team who were by far the better side. Everton pressed the Reds in midfield and denied them any time on the ball in the first half and their territorial domination reaped the rewards after Tim Cahill gave The Toffees the lead after 34 minutes. If an inspirational half-time team talk was to wake Liverpool from their slumber then it certainly didn’t happen as Everton doubled their lead five minutes into the second half thanks to a fantastic strike from Mikel Arteta on the edge of Liverpool’s 18 yard box. The victory could’ve been greater had David Moyes’ men taken the game further to Liverpool but, instead, the Blues were content to hold on to their lead and allow their hapless opponents to keep possession in the knowledge that Liverpool seemed incapable of doing anything with it.
For the Reds’ new owner John W. Henry it must have been a sorry sight to see the team he’d worked so hard to buy in the last few weeks cave in before his eyes. Had Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres et al shown any of the commitment on the pitch that the new ownership and vital figures such as Martin Broughton and Christian Purslow had shown off it then the game could’ve been different. Perhaps this defeat will make the players and, more importantly, the manager realise that Liverpool are in a different kind of fight this season. In recent years the fight has been either to win the Barclays Premier League or to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Now the club is fighting to drag itself out of the bottom three and up the table. Yes, it is still early days and Hodgson can justifiably still ask for more time to prove himself but following the strange upbeat tone of his post-match comments today perhaps Hodgson is now in danger of deluding himself that things are not as bad as they appear. Either that or he’s very good at deflecting attention away from his players’ recent inept performances.
In my opinion Roy Hodgson only became a contender for the Liverpool job following his achievement in taking Fulham to the UEFA Europa League final last season which, admittedly, was a marvellous feat for somebody at a club of limited resources. Nonetheless the English media, who slaughtered Benítez at any opportunity for his negative tactics, have been very quiet in their treatment of Hodgson who has shown no greater desire to play people in their correct position or to adopt an attacking mentality in the team’s play. Today’s post-match comments have not helped with Hodgson saying he “thought at half-time we were a bit unlucky to be a goal down because we had got back into the game well…in the second half we did everything the team could possibly do, we played well, created chances, we limited them to very few and put them on the back foot.” What Roy calls putting Everton “on the back foot” was really the Blues comfortably holding on to a lead they never looked like relinquishing and it is a disservice to Hodgson who has tried to put a positive spin on what everybody else saw: a continuation of the clueless nature of Liverpool’s play so far this season which has seen them only attain six points in the first eight games.
Next up in the Premier League for Liverpool is Blackburn Rovers, a team coached by Sam Allardyce who is known for making life difficult for any opponent. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog will be at Anfield for the game next Sunday and you will be able to read my report on the game in the Away Days section next week.