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‘Patience is a Virtue’: Why Anfield needs to give Roy Hodgson time…

October 14, 2010

SportingBlogs takes a look at Liverpool’s poor start to the season under new manager Roy Hodgson, paying particular attention to comparisons with the beginning of his managerial stint at Premier League rivals Fulham, whilst also noting the unsettling background factors currently enveloping the Anfield club…

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When Roy Hodgson took over at Anfield in the summer, the reaction was mixed. Numerous pundits, fans, and ex-players praised the well-travelled incoming successor as the right man to return the famous club to winning ways, citing a long career that had seen him win League titles across Europe, take both Inter Milan and Fulham to European finals, and achieve relative managerial success at the international level, most notably in the early nineties when he worked wonders with the unfancied Swiss team, getting them to the World Cup Finals in America (something, lest we forget, England failed to do).

Most recently, Hodgson had enjoyed a highly successful two-and-a-half season stint with league rivals Fulham, where he engineered an unlikely survival for the seemingly-doomed side in his first season in charge, took the club to their highest ever league finish in his second season, and then to the Europa League final (Liverpool went out in the semi-finals) in his last season at Craven Cottage. Indeed, so impressive were Hodgson’s achievements with the diminutive London club, that he was duly named manager of the year by his fellow managers.

However, many Liverpool fans were unhappy at seeing the back of Rafa Benitez, the manager who had memorably brought Liverpool the prestigious Champions League in his first season with the Merseyside club, and were naturally immediately distrusting of his replacement. Furthermore, apprehensive detractors found arguments all too easy to come by: that Hodgson’s league successes had come in the relatively minor European leagues (Sweden, Denmark, etc); that his sides had failed to win any of their European finals (unlike Rafa, of course); that he had been sacked as Blackburn Rovers boss during his only previous stint in the Premier League.

With an abundance of sceptics ready to jump on his back at the first opportunity, anything but immediate success was likely to result in questions being asked of his capacity to manage such a powerful and historically successful club. And duly this is how it has transpired, with an inauspicious start to Liverpool’s league campaign seeing them languishing in the relegation zone and knocked out of the League Cup to lowly Northampton Town. Consequently, dissenting voices have emerged, some more vociferous than others, perhaps non more alarming for Hodgson than when the Anfield faithful who started singing Liverpool-hero and potential alternative managerial choice Kenny Dalglish’s name at the recent shock home defeat to league minnows Blackpool.

Liverpool is a club whose fans are typically given to patience when it comes to new managers, but with results going against Roy, the dissenting cause gains momentum. However, recent history should tell such sceptics to abate and permit Hodgson the patience he deserves. His time at Fulham began in an equally-inauspicious manner, with his team being knocked out of the FA Cup at the hands of League One Bristol Rovers, and the Cottagers only picking up one win (and two) draws in their first nine games under his stewardship.

However, with the London side gradually taking to their managers methods, results picked up for the relegation-threatened club, culminating in a remarkable last-day survival, with much thanks being directed towards four wins from their final five games, including three on the bounce away from home – a feat that no other league club (title challengers included) had managed that season. Then, as mentioned above, further time at Fulham resulted in a highest ever league finish and an entirely unexpected European final for the Whites. Liverpool should by no means count themselves relegation candidates (not just yet, anyway), but if Hodgson’s form over time with Fulham is anything to go by, then the Merseyside fans of the red persuasion should expect a turn around in fortunes over the coming months.

Part of why it took a few months for Hodgson to stamp his authority on Fulham was in persuading his players to believe in his style of play and execute his plans; the man himself said: ‘It’s about leadership skills, practice, repetition and bloody hard work’. He targeted a passing game, based on a solid and compact defence (and midfield), which was in stark contrast to his predecessor Lawrie Sanchez’s long-ball tactics that the players had become adjusted to (see graphic below [click to enlarge], note increase in passes made, and the lower percentage of long passes).

Whilst Liverpool are far from a long-ball team, chances are that Hodgson is attempting to get his new players to adjust to a more compact formation and approach to games, something that takes time, practice, and finally results on the pitch to convince the players – and fans – that it works. With time, results and belief, Hodgson is highly likely to have yet another self-playing piano

For the fans and pundits that have been quick to jump on his back they must bear in mind the undoubted state of turmoil the Anfield club is in – an unfortunate factor, albeit one that was always going to be present, that has further complicated his early days at this prestigious English club. Furthermore, Hodgson has had to contend with the sale of key-player Javier Mascherano to Inter, as well as star-striker Fernando Torres’s well documented troubles with form and fitness; both are vital issues that have negatively impacted on his early days at the club. Patience with both on- and off-field departments is required from the Anfield faithful if they wish to get the best out of Roy Hodgson and his Liverpool side.

Their greatest blessing is that Hodgson has a higher standard of player quality to start with at Anfield compared to what he had at Craven Cottage. As such, it should mean that once he has recruited further suitable talent and has his team playing the way he so wishes (not to mention the potential solving of off-field problems), there is every possibility that Liverpool might end up seeing a return to glory days of the past.

Guaranteed on-field success is certainly far from set in stone, but should Roy be forced to jump or indeed pushed before he has had adequate time at the helm, then the club and fans would only have themselves to blame for denying themselves the potential of a golden era under the affable and widely-respected Roy Hodgson. He has a track-record of disgnosing and curing problems with struggling teams, and a track-record that points towards a future of success, even – as in this instance – when it involes slow and unemphatic starts. Here’s hoping he is afforded the patience he deserves…

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2010 9:43 am

    Excellent post. Whole heartedly agree. Uncle Roy needs more time.

  2. October 15, 2010 9:03 pm

    Fantastic imput. Totally agree time will tell. Give him a chance

  3. October 15, 2010 11:37 pm

    I agree that Hodgson needs to be given time, it would be unfair to judge him when he his managing mostly Benitez’s squad, but how long? Will the new owners want to invest in a new squad that Hodgson wants when they know a new manager could be just around the corner with different ideas for signings.
    I like him as a manager, he is and well rounded in his media responses, however I do not think he is a ‘winner’; and that ‘winner’ attitude needs to be rubbed off onto the players. He came across as weak when Fergusson critised Liverpool recently, he needs to come out all guns blazing against rival mangers even if he happens to be friends with them.
    Although I would like to see him be given time I do not see it as the next logical step and a club like Liverpool does not have the time to wait around for him to find his feet, they need to get themselves back to winning as soon as possible before it gets worse. Yes he did well with Fulham in adjusting their tactics but that bears little relevance to Liverpool, we were not a long ball team. The truth is he has been managing for 35 years and what has he got to show for it? A few titles in Sweden and Denmark – he is not world-class. Once the new owners buy new world-class players, they will want a manager to match…

  4. October 19, 2010 12:24 pm

    Granted, the specific example of Hodgson adjusting Fulham’s tactics bares no direct relevance to his tenure at Anfield (Liverpool, indeed, were not a long-ball side under Rafa), but the example was used to demonstrate the mere relevance of the fact that he will be introducing his own approach to tactics at Anfield (admittedly these won’t be as glaringly obvious as at Fulham), and that this will take time for the players to adjust to and the fans to witness the benefits of.

    The Everton result has weakened my stance somewhat; not great news for the players, fans or new owners. However, my view still stands that when he is given time at a club (or national team), the results have generally followed. I should have included the following in my article, to support this view:

    In his longest managerial stints, he has always achieved success. Five years with Malmo rendered five titles. In five years with Halmstads he took them from relegation to two league titles. Three years with Switzerland saw them qualify for the ’94 World Cup from a group containing Italy and Portugal, ranked third in the world at one stage, and easily qualify for Euro ’96 (before leaving for Internazionale, where he took them from 13th and 6th to 7th and 3rd). The Fulham achievements were mentioned above. Given time and patience, he has achieved.

    In some of his shorter managerial stints (circa one or two seasons), he has also acheived relative success – a title with Copenhagen, improvements with limited resources at Neuchâtel Xamax (including beating Real Madrid), Udinese, Viking (from relegation to fifth and Europe), and Finland. Indeed, his brief but successful tenure with Udinese was only cut short after allegedly stating that he regretted joining the club.

    In his other short managerial stints, when he has left or been asked to leave early on, the clubs in question have denied themselves the potential of what Hodgson might have achieved in the longer term. Inter and Udinese, as mentioned, he had already improved, and as such was unlucky to depart early on. The only real blot on his copybook is with Blackburn Rovers, where he took them from thirteenth to sixth and Europe in his first season, but was dismissed the following season with the club bottom.

    In short, he has a mixed record when only given one or two seasons at a club, but when properly backed in a patient manner by the players, club, and fans, he has a fine record of achieving success.

    For Liverpool fans, the following paragraph (admittedly lifted from wikipedia) is most relevant – the parallels are almost uncanny:
    “[With Inter] He presided over a rebuilding phase. Inter had finished 13th and 6th in the seasons prior to his arrival. After a terrible start to the season, Hodgson was brought in and guided the club to 7th place in the 1995–96 season, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. The 1996–97 season saw Hodgson leave Inter after 14 wins, 13 draws and 5 losses in Serie A, with Inter placed 3rd in the league, and was replaced by Luigi Simoni. Hodgson says of his time at Inter, “We lacked stars […] ”

    A shoddy start, recovered to seventh and Europe, and then up to third with a squad lacking stars… I think Liverpool would take that, right?

  5. October 24, 2010 6:29 am

    Honestly one of the best places i’ve found for quality reading, it’s very respectable to run into a great blog like this and it literally brightens up my day to be able to find knowledgable sources when browsing the net, nowadays things are so bland and outsourced so yeah thanks!

  6. October 24, 2010 1:09 pm

    Thank you very much for your kind words. Very much appreciated….

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