There was much optimism when Roy Hodgson took over at Liverpool FC last July. He was seen as the perfect man to bring stability to the club, who had been mired in off the pitch public squabbles between the owners and then manager Rafael Benitez. Liverpool had finished out of the top four and looked in need of a change.
Hodgson looked the perfect man to provide that change and in the transfer market seemed to have dealt well by capturing Joe Cole on a free transfer and Raul Meireles for around 13 million euro’s, following the departure of Javier Mascherano to Barcelona.
But as the season got underway Hodgson struggled with the demands of the clubs fans. Liverpool stuttered and stumbled and after Christmas they looked candidates for a relegation scrap. Hodgson left Liverpool on the 8th of January with Kenny Dalglish taking over on a temporary basis.
Observers note that Dalglish had cast a cloud over Hodgson from the off, after he had put his hat into the ring in July before being told he wouldn’t be considered. Fans never got behind Hodgson with many calling for Dalglish to be given the job.
But the problem with Hodgson wasn’t the fans; it wasn’t the protracted ownership saga nor was it the lack of funds. It was his in ability to work with what he had. The exact reason he had been brought in was his reputation for working with the limited squad he had at his disposal at Fulham.
He blamed the previous regime for the clubs perils. He said that Liverpool’s squad didn’t have the same strength as the other top teams. This may have been true, but the problem with Hodgson’s reign was the meekness that they surrender with. The manager was resigned to the fact that the team was poor and it rubbed off on players.
Under Dalglish it has been the other way round. He came in and gave the team belief. He takes every opportunity to heap praise on his players. He has been bold enough to thrust youngsters into big games. He knows these players inside out having been involved with the academy in the past few years.
Dalglish brings the confidence; Steve Clarke brings the tactical direction. As a double act they have worked wonders with what they have at their disposal. The decision to play three at the back against Chelsea was a masterstroke and a very brave one at that too.
Dalglish realised when he took over that it wasn’t so much a case of revolution but evolution. He appreciated the work done under Rafa Benitez. The overhaul of the academy “That’s great credit to Rafa who brought in Pepe Segura, Rodolfo Borrell and Frank McParland. He reorganised the whole Academy and you can see the benefit in the kids now. It’s fantastic to see,” Dalglish said.
The foundations are there for Liverpool to become a force once again. They have a burgeoning academy. They have a world class spine in Reina, Carragher, Gerrard, Meireles and new addition Suarez. Now they have a canny operator who knows the club inside out.
But the acid test is the first few months of next season. Slow starts have cost Liverpool in recent seasons. If they can get off to a flier and maintain momentum through the winter months they stand a good chance of securing a top four spot next season. In the past few seasons Liverpool have tended to have a good run at the back end of the season. But the clouds are beginning to recede at Anfield.