Roy Hodgson deserved everything he got at Goodison Park
Everton 2-0 Liverpool
HAVE Liverpool ever surrendered the Merseyside derby in such a gutless manner?
There have been heavier defeats of course – Everton’s last derby win before today for starters. Then, in 2006, Liverpool lost 3-0 at Goodison Park.
But that day, unlike this, Liverpool put up a fight. There were chances, penalty appeals, near misses and strikes against the woodwork.
Today, that fight was gone. Everton showed more passion, more skill, and more effort. David Moyes got his tactics right, Roy Hodgson got his wrong. Again.
Patience is wearing thin with Hodgson – many did not welcome his appointment in the first place – and his bizarre post-match press conference theatrics did nothing to dispel the view that he is hopelessly out of his depth at Liverpool.
From the first whistle it was hard to see what his plan was. Liverpool sat deep, inviting pressure and Everton found it all too easy to put balls into the box.
When Liverpool did have possession the attacking threat was easily snuffed out. Fernando Torres was too often isolated and despite Hodgson’s insistence that he had plenty of support and plenty of chances, he didn’t. The service to the Spaniard was poor and he was clearly left frustrated.
A spat with Jamie Carragher, which ended with Torres gesturing for him to keep his opinions to himself, hinted at deeper problems within the Liverpool dressing room.
It’s no wonder the 26-year-old is rumoured to be disenchanted with life at Anfield. The striker is again shouldering the blame for a poor attacking display when Liverpool’s midfielders are offering little to back him up.
On the rare occasions Liverpool did break in the first half, they seemed too wrapped up in defensive duties to dare to push forward.
Here lies Hodgson’s problem. He is, and always has been, a negative, defensive manager. He has only one way of playing and it’s failing. The former Fulham manager has had 15 games in the Anfield hotseat and still there are no signs of his approach reaping dividends.
In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint anything Hodgson has improved.
Liverpool didn’t play at Goodison until it was too late. A head of steam, sustained pressure – there was no sign of either until Mikel Arteta made it 2-0 with a well-taken strike in the 50th minute.
Even when Liverpool did venture forward with some regularity it was hard to gauge how much was down to Hodgson. Everton were happy to sit on their lead and try to nick a third on the break.
As Moyes said: “I was happy to concede possession to Liverpool after the second goal because like us they haven’t been scoring goals.”
“We’ve played better and lost,” he added.
It was hard to disagree with Moyes’s assessment – Everton did not have to pull a performance out of the top drawer to claim the three points.
Hodgson on the other hand appeared to have seen something different to the 39,673 at the match and the millions watching on TV.
During a spiky press conference in which he regularly berated journalists for their questions and even, amazingly, chastised one reporter over his nationality, Hodgson said: “The result was very, very bad but I am refusing to accept it was a bad team performance.
“I didn’t see a lack of confidence. The second half was as good as I have seen Liverpool play under my management. It was a sterling effort from the players to produce that second-half performance.”
Just when you thought Tom Hicks was the most deluded man to be associated with Liverpool Football Club…
Hodgson’s supporters, who must surely be diminishing by the day, keep talking about time. He needs time to stamp his mark on the club, time to turn it around. How much time? Liverpool have already played almost a quarter of their league fixtures.
The quality of the squad is also questioned, rightly so. Yet this is essentially the same group of players that finished seventh in the Premier League last season. Eight of the team that thrashed Real Madrid 4-0 at Anfield remains on the books and 15 of the squad travelled to South Africa for the World Cup.
This is a team that should be achieving much more than it is.
No-one is calling for a title challenge but the talent at Hodgson’s disposal is more than capable of matching last season’s finish.
Yet Liverpool lie second bottom, avoiding the basement only because goal difference, minus six, is marginally better than West Ham’s, minus nine.
For that the finger has to be pointed firmly at the manager. It the current manager that has selected Carragher at right back, has bought Paul Konchesky and Christian Poulsen, has frozen out Daniel Agger and has too often played players out of position. It is the current manager who failed to address the paucity of options up front.
Can Hodgson motivate the players? Do they want to play for him? It appears not. Even Pepe Reina, a player who penned a six-year contract at Anfield under Benitez and has frequently spoke of his love of the club and the city, is considering his future.
It’s hard to see what Hodgson offers. At the very least he was said to be a ‘nice man’ one that offered ‘class and dignity’. There was little of that on display today.
When asked on Friday about his future, Hodgson said: “I find speculation about my future insulting to both me and the club.”
Fans may say the same about his attempts to dress up poor performances, dampen expectations against average sides and suggest safety-first tactics are anything other than that.
New England Sport Ventures is credited for carrying the Boston Red Sox to a World Series within three years of their takeover at Fenway Park.
That was achieved after sacking the manager they inherited within weeks of their arrival.
After John W Henry’s telling grimace at Goodison this afternoon, don’t bet against history repeating itself at Anfield.