Hodgson fends off Liverpool crisis talk but…
With their new owners perched in the stands and the shackles of their long-running takeover saga finally cast off, the Merseyside Derby was meant to be the dawn of a new era for Liverpool.
Instead the 2-0 defeat served to highlight the depth of the problems engulfing the club and under-pressure boss Roy Hodgson.
To put their current predicament in context, this is their worst start to a campaign since 1953-54, and Liverpool fans will not want reminding they were relegated from the top flight that season.
Hodgson did his best to put to bed talk of a crisis in his post-match interview, but when a club with Liverpool’s history and reputation is edging towards the precipice of relegation, ‘crisis’ is perhaps more appropriate than the Reds boss would want to admit.
On the pitch, nothing seems to be going to plan for Hodgson at the moment.
Rafa Benitez was roundly criticised for finishing seventh last season with the players Hodgson has inherited. Although early in his reign, the current manager is doing markedly worse.
And one player in particular seems to be suffering more than any other under Liverpool’s current cloud.
Fernando Torres, who at his high-octane best strikes fear into every defender in the Premier League, looks a forlorn shadow of his former self.
The problem seems to be exacerbated by the system Liverpool are using, one that appears not to suit him at all. Tactically Hodgson’s Liverpool sit deeper than Benitez’s side, who hustled and harried opponents in their own half.
The result is a cavernous gap between midfield and attack and Torres is not thriving in the industrious, hold-up role Bobby Zamora fulfilled for Hodgson at Fulham.
Joe Cole, the man recruited to provide extra ammunition to the Reds’ Spanish hitman, looks lost in the current set-up, while Argentine Maxi Rodriguez adds little on good days and nothing on bad ones to Liverpool’s attacking play.
For many, the responsibility for the frailties of the current squad lies squarely at the feet of the previous owners who for whatever reason let great players like Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano go.
Money has been spent, including 10 million pounds in the summer window on Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky, but they are yet to convince fans they are Liverpool quality.
Benitez arrived at Liverpool with two Spanish Liga titles gilding his CV. Hodgson has no such finery and must convince the new owners, as well as war-weary fans, that he is part of the solution to the club’s issues and not part of the problem.