Anfield manager has taken his fair share of flak.
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[picappgallerysingle id=”10138486″]Perhaps Liverpool are turning the proverbial corner.
Not only are they securing points on the board, but with the successful takeover by John W. Henry’s NESV group, the return of Fernando Torres to the form of old and Roy Hodgson’s clear willingness and ability to learn from his mistakes, there is a wave of cautious optimism sweeping over the red half of Merseyside.
It is Hodgson that this article will focus on.
The former Fulham boss began his tenure with the mentality that he was still managing a midtable side. A point seemed to be considered a bonus in away games and matches against the Premier League elite, while apologetic comments in the media failed to create the siege mentality needed at the club.
That appears to have changed.
In the last few weeks, Liverpool have looked a different side.
Tactically, Hodgson has appeared to have had a revelation. The days of sitting back and soaking up pressure – so costly in the Merseyside derby against Everton – have vanished as Liverpool transformed into a pressing game. Now Liverpool don’t allow their opponents time on the ball, and force them into mistakes. When Liverpool attacks broke down against Chelsea in yesterday’s match, there were multiple times when the ball was won back in the Chelsea half. The normally indefatigable Blues were regularly panicked into giving the ball away – particularly in the first half.
His deployment of Raul Meireles and Martin Kelly on the right flank to counter the dangerous combination of Ashley Cole and Florent Malouda worked a treat, and the returning Dirk Kuyt behind Torres finally gave the Spaniard some much needed support and ensured Steven Gerrard’s tackling ability was available in central midfield.
The selection of Martin Kelly was notable for Hodgson’s trust in the youngster in what was arguably Liverpool’s toughest match of the season so far, and similar faith in youth for the Europa League ties against Napoli and the rest of the Europa League matches has proved enough – though Steven Gerrard was required to salvage the home tie against the Italian side. Kelly, Jonjo Shelvey, Nathan Eccleston, Dani Pacheco and Danny Wilson are gradually being given the game time that they need to develop – at least in Europe – and Hodgson deserves credit for giving them a chance.
Finally, his approach to his media work has noticeably changed. Instead of just revelling in the victory against Chelsea, Hodgson elected to attack his side’s critics who he believes have been too severe and indeed written falsehoods. It finally appeared he had realised that he was the manager of a big club – and the players are beginning to respond to his methods.
Still, there is a long way to go until the end of the season. Liverpool need to continue in this vein of form if they are to be able to attract top quality reinforcements in the January transfer window, with NESV promising investment, and will need to push hard to challenge for the UEFA Champions League places at the end of the season.
However, finally it appears there is light at the end of the tunnel for Liverpool – and Hodgson deserves credit for his part in turning it all around.