I have inadvertently become the internet’s number one Roy Hodgson apologist
Well, a pretty terrible start to the season for Liverpool. Eight games in, and languishing in 19th, a relegation spot. Inevitably, people are already calling for the head of new manager Roy Hodgson. One of the most visible commentators on Twitter, Paul Tomkins, has been at the forefront of these discussions, but has been good enough to retweet my more pro-Roy tweets. This has led to me receiving a barrage of messages questioning me, and demanding the removal of Hodgson.
I’ve fought my corner because, on a very basic level, I see no logic whatsoever in sacking a manager after only eight games. Any club that followed that kind of short-termism would be doomed to failure, and doomed to a very large compensation bill too, from paying off all those discarded managers.
Let me be clear, Rafa Benitez had to go over the summer, after Liverpool finished a very disappointing seventh, and thus lost out on the payday of Champions League football. Also, with the uncertainty that surrounded the club’s ownership, there were only so many managers who would be willing to step in, with the immediate issue of a lack of funds to bolster an average squad, and the threat of a new owner coming in and appointing his own man hanging over the post too. Hodgson offered a calm, experienced hand. He was as good as it was going to get, manager-wise.
Also, I think Hodgson has been the victim of the kind of ‘perfect storm’ that no manager could have weathered.
First, the aforementioned money situation. He inherited a squad that lacked depth and lacked quality. Yet, he had limited funds to improve it. Rather than spend, spend, spend, Roy had to take his chances on the likes of Joe Cole – a great player, but not a dead-cert to perform. The departures of Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun, two key players, made matters worse. Hodgson did well to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres on board.
Injuries didn’t help, especially to Fernando Torres. Torres hasn’t looked fit for a long time, and there have also been question-marks about his attitude. What manager would thrive with their star striker not at full fitness? What manager could cope with an inherited squad that lacked quality strikers, and lacking the funds to bring in anyone better?
And how about the uncertainties over ownership of the club? The Hicks/Gillett situation was bound to unsettle the squad, at least to some degree. With the clubs plans essentially ‘on hold’ right up to the sale to NESV, morale couldn’t have been high.
On to the games themselves…I won’t make any excuses for a home draw with Sunderland, or the home loss to Blackpool. Bad, bad results. But what of the others?
If it wasn’t for a rare blunder from Pepe Reina, Arsenal would have been defeated in the first game of the season. Manchester City, Everton and Manchester United away were always going to be tough fixtures. And Liverpool were unlucky to not get something out of the latter game. Hodgson has been unfortunate to have to face all three of those fixtures in quick succession.
The draw away to Birmingham was understandable too – they have always been incredibly strong at home. The defeat of West Brom looks pretty good in light of the Baggies performances defeating Arsenal and drawing with Manchester United.
So, really, how much better would a team managed by Benitez, or anyone else, have done?
I think that squad depth issues, quality issues, off-the-pitch issues, injury issues, and a tough set of fixtures have had more of an influence on results than Hodgson’s management. To remove him now would be to ignore the wider issues that have affected Liverpool FC, and in many cases continue to do so.