Saturday, September 18, 2010

Anfield expectations falling as uncertainty looms over Liverpool

An outsider may look at Liverpool Football Club and say that the switchover of managers was incredibly smooth. 

Roy Hodgson has come in, quickly made changes, getting rid of some players and adding others, and he’s getting favourable comments from a number of Liverpool players, including club captain Steven Gerrard.

In the Europa League performances have been good, with Roy’s record now five straight wins in a row when taking in to account both the qualifiers and Europa League proper. Domestically things have been harder, with just one win recorded out of a possible four and a trip to Manchester United scheduled on Sunday.

The former Fulham boss seems to be a straight up and honest guy, with no ulterior motives other than to do the best he possibly can this season in order to bring success to Anfield.

The question is what is considered success this season?

Last season anything below Champions League qualification was considered a failure, with many predicting – following the fantastic 08/09 campaign - Liverpool may well be able to push for the title.

For various reasons, which will be debated by many but is not the point of this article, the Reds failed to qualify for Europe’s top competition and thus Rafael Benitez’s time on Merseyside was brought to an end six seasons after he arrived.

Hodgson has been very friendly with the media since his arrival, talking seemingly daily about the goings on around the club and what he feels he needs to do to improve the way Liverpool are playing and bring some exciting football back to Anfield this season.

But after Liverpool’s clash with Birmingham at St Andrew’s Hodgson spoke of the Reds putting on a fantastic performance and the game as a whole being an “Entertaining nil-nil”.

Maybe the boss was trying to show respect to a formidable opponent, who have now managed to go unbeaten at home since this time last year. But the comments gave the impression that this is our level now, that the performance, which was poor by anyone’s standards, was an acceptable one.

Hodgson received a mixed reception from Liverpool supporters when he arrived, with some seeing it as a step in the wrong direction, bringing in a journeyman with a wealth of experience but ultimately no major success around Europe in the form of silverware.

That, coupled with his comments after recent bouts in the Premier League, seem to have shifted the goalposts in terms of what is considered success at Anfield this season.

Many supporters have talked about being fairly happy with a finish in the top seven this season, a stark contrast to last season when anything below fourth place was unthinkable.

But maybe this is what, as Liverpool fans, we’re slowly getting used to.

Another transfer window has past and once again Liverpool have made a profit on selling players. Not only that but more players have left the squad, which was already lacking strength-in-depth, than have been brought in.

As the penny pinching continues and other clubs – such as Chelsea and Manchester City – continue to spend big this constant lowering of standards may well continue.

Roy Hodgson is isn’t the problem, he came here with the best of intentions, but his appointment, as an older manager with limited success, gives a clear picture of the troubles currently surrounding Anfield and if Tom Hicks is allowed to refinance the usually high-standard set by us as supporters may well keep slipping.

(Photo provided by Andy Nugent) 

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