Liverpool's Immediate Problem Is Manager Roy Hodgson, Not Hicks and Gillett

Nabeel KhokharCorrespondent ISeptember 27, 2010

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22:  Liverpool Manager Roy Hodgson looks dejected during the Carling Cup Third Round game between Liverpool and Northampton Town at Anfield on September 22, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A point against Sunderland at Anfield on Saturday saved Liverpool Football Club from their worst start to a season in over 50 years. 

Languishing a single point above the relegation places, the depths to which Liverpool have sunk is almost unimaginable. With six games played, the Reds have a dismal six points and a solitary win.

For long-suffering fans, this is almost too much to bear.

Pundits, so-called experts, and other media journalists have written volumes about the mire into which owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have plunged the club. And this is not disputed, neither is it doubted that the owners are the source of the club's overall woes, but its immediate problem lies closer to home.

Liverpool Football Club's immediate problem is their fledgling manager Roy Hodgson. From the offset, he was the wrong choice to replace Rafa Benitez.

Dispute his age, Hodgson is a rookie when it comes to managing a major, high-profile, high-expectation club in the English Premier League.

It was no secret during the selection process that the Englishman was desperate for the position. He understood this was the job of his lifetime and an opportunity to manage a club of this statue had not come along in his past and most likely would not come along again in his future.

Other Premier League managers, in particular Sir Alex Ferguson and those of the so-called "big-four," were and are quick to praise Hodgson for the job he did at his last post at Fulham. Nothing is mentioned of his shambolic time at Blackburn Rovers, his previous attempt at managing in the Premier League.

And if truth be told, his record and achievements with Fulham in the Premier League are nothing more than average.

These managers must have been secretly rejoicing at the Anfield board's appointment of Hodgson. For they would have known that with him at the helm, Liverpool Football Club would be one less threat to them and the league title.

Of course these managers praise Hodgson and say how Liverpool have got the right man to lead them into a new era; they are just talking him up and providing fans with a false sense of security. It is all mind games.

Managers know their counterparts and if asked honestly, they would never place Hodgson in the same calibre as Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, or Carlo Ancelotti. He is not in the same league. A manager in the same league as these were what Liverpool required.

The current league position of the team, its displays, performances, and overall results cannot be blamed on their owners. They are not picking the team, deciding the formation, or determining the tactics—that is being done by the manager.

So much is written—that without new ownership and an injection of money into the team, it cannot compete at the highest level.

But a simple look at the squad currently illustrates the talent that Hodgson has available to him: Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Raul Meireles, Milan Jovanovic, Dirk Kuyt, and Fernando Torres.

This is hardly a squad that is short on players of the highest calibre. Regardless of any new players that a change of ownership could bring in, Hodgson currently has more than enough to work with to produce better results.

The Englishman is failing in some of the major reasons why he was brought into the club as manager in the first place.

He was supposed to be a calming figure amidst the turmoil of the boardroom antics; he has failed to do this.

Incorrectly, Liverpool's failings on the pitch are being attributed to off-the-field problems. This is far from the truth. In any case, Hodgson was supposed to protect and isolate his players from all of this. If ownership issues are being used to explain the team's poor performances, then he is failing to isolate them.

Hodgson was attributed to be able to draw out outstanding performances from average and lesser players. It was thought that if he had better players at his disposable, then the displays he could get out of them would be exceptional. Again, he has failed.

In short, Liverpool under the guidance of Roy Hodgson play with little passion, few creative ideas, and no width—just to name a few of the team's failings. Hodgson has consistently played the wrong formations and incorrect players within those formations.

So much has been said of his attributes and qualities, but Liverpool lie a few places off the relegation zone and play atrocious football. These facts speak for themselves.

Hodgson has done away with the zonal marking system and installed his man-to-man approach. Of course, this will take time to perfect. But there was a quote from a famous manager from Liverpool's illustrious past about not fixing something that was not broken.

Zonal marking was not broken.

Steven Gerrard is no longer playing in a position that he has become so accomplished in that it has become known as the "The Gerrard Role." In recent seasons, Gerrard and Torres have forged a telepathic link akin to that of Toshack and Keegan.

Rather than maintain that, Hodgson has pushed Gerrard back into central midfield, where his attacking instincts and linking up with Torres is less effective.

However, Cole could be a very able substitute for Gerrard in his role behind Torres. And indeed Cole would revel in that position, with license to roam and not be confined to a flank.

But in recent weeks, we have seen Cole on the flank and Kuyt and even Meireles playing behind Torres. What has happened in these instances is that Cole simply drifts infield, leaving gaping areas of the pitch unattended.

That being said, it is only when Cole has taken it upon himself to play behind Torres, that Liverpool have come alive and become threatening.

From watching the matches, it is clear that Liverpool are far more effective if Gerrard operates in his role behind Torres, or if he is deployed in central midfield, that it is Cole that slots in there.

Hodgson must find a formation, and install the correct players within such a formation that allows Liverpool to be a threat. Currently, they have Torres, Cole and Gerrard, yet are still toothless and have scored only six goals.

In the long run, Liverpool Football Club must come under new ownership to solve its overall problems. But currently, manager Hodgson has more than enough at his disposal to have led his team to the upper end of the league table and not to fifth from bottom.

If Liverpool do not begin to string a run of wins together in the coming games, their aim of a top four finish may become out of reach. And Hodgson will be left blaming the owners though it is his own shortcomings that will have led Liverpool to this predicament.


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