What’s the Way Ahead for Roy Hodgson?

24/10/2010 § Leave a comment

The primary evil may be off the Merseyside but trouble abounds for Liverpool FC. The club lay a lowly 19th, very much entrenched in the relegation zone and have only West Ham to “ha-HA” at and that too because somehow they have managed a poorer goal difference than us. After defeats to Blackpool and Everton, draws against Birmingham and Sunderland, our club cannot even hide under the excuse that we have been playing against awesome clubs. Nor can we delude ourselves by saying that we have been playing great football, and luck has contrived to see us beaten each time. No. We have been rubbish and we have only ourselves to blame: Our players, our tactics, and primarily, our coach.

When Roy came to the club there was much doubt among the populace regarding his managerial credentials. Several said that Roy lacks big-club management experience and his successes have been all with small clubs, a lot of them in inferior leagues. But no I said. I thought that the man with such a colourful career deserves a shot at one of the biggest clubs in the world. And look how he has disappointed all those who chose to believe in him. To be fair to Roy, he’s more or less carried his Europa League credentials with good pomp, but where it really matters – back home in the Premier League – his record has been nothing short of dismal.

For some reason, and quite obviously, he has tried too hard to relinquish the one great legacy that Rafael Benitez left us with: The long balls. Unsightly as they may be to footballing purists, Liverpool played those lovelies in with purpose and malice. Every time the ball fell to Alonso, he would waste little time in looking up and plonking the ball accurately at the feet of the target. Or the head, if the player he saw was Peter Crouch. And these were the times before Fernando Torres, mind you. It was an approach that more or less worked every time. If you get the ball on the counter and aim it at the head of a striker 8-10 times in a game, even strikers like DjibrilCisse will score at least one. It was dirty, negative, whatever. But yes, it yielded results. So I can’t believe I’m saying this but when Rafael Benitez was at the helm, there actually seemed to be some sort of purpose to the team; some game plan; some raison d’etre.

And then this Roy Hodgson comes to this club where long balls are just as much entrenched in our legacy and playing style as the plethora of sub-standard Spanish and Latino bargain-basement purchases, and tries to completely dismantle the platform on which players like Gerrard, Carra and Reina have played for the longest time. Instead he tries to work on this ridiculously overrated short pass console – with terrifyingly bad results – and tries to make players do what they can’t. Like making Poulsen pass the ball, when he so clearly cannot; Like making Lucas play football when he so clearly sucks at it. Like making Daniel Agger play at left back, when he is easily the best center back we have today. The whole fucking model is gobshite. Not only are the team playing incoherently, in a system which they cannot manage, but the roles assigned to each individual are outright incorrect and doesn’t take into consideration, their core competencies.

I may be terribly young, but let me give Roy a small management lesson – because the way things are going here, any Liverpool fan who knows even squat about football is entitled to believe that he can do a better job with the club.

One of the very aspects of management – any management really – is to understand your team’s inherent strengths and weaknesses and then try to form a model around it. To give a crass business example, Bill Gates cannot walk into his Microsoft Office, and tell his workers, who for years have been wired to write programs and work on computers, to build a car. It does not work that way. You cannot simply break down the core competence of a unit and then try to build another one more suited to your whim. Rafael Nadal’s coach cannot tell him to ditch the backhand and only play forehands. Nadal will tell him to get the fuck out.

Liverpool do have a good core of players who are very comfortable in their own space. Perhaps then Roy should build his model with more focus on his key players – Torres, Gerrard, Agger, Joe Cole and try to understand which role suits them best. And then try and come up with a formation and a game plan to help make the most of his best players’ best talents. Perhaps Gerrard needs to sit deeper in the midfield. Perhaps Joe Cole is suited well in the whole behind the striker. Perhaps Jovanovic should be played as a second striker alongside Torres. Perhaps Lucas should be left on the bench or better yet, sold off.
As we approach the Blackburn game tonight, Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool fate hangs in the balance. If we win at Anfield today, Roy’s constant chest beating about how good a manager he is might hold some water. If Liverpool fail to get a result at home, then Roy Hodgson’s reign as Liverpool manager might be effectively over given that his biggest backer at Liverpool Football Club – Christian Purslow – has left the Anfield board and the new CEO might just jump on the opportunity to try and win the support of the Liverpool faithful by bringing on the talismanic Kenny Dalglish or should King Kenny not be willing, one among Frank Rijkaard, Manuel Pellegrini or Martin O’Neill.

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