One year back, at the start of last season, we saw Liverpool finish 2nd behind Manchester United by 4 points and appear as genuine title contenders. Rafael Benitez who was into his new 5-year contract with Liverpool, along with a few stars of the club, claimed that the next season could very well be the time they won the premier league.
As the season progressed, Liverpool appeared to be far from their best. They never managed to gain consistency and this saw them get eliminated from the Champions League at the group stages. Despite the fact that Liverpool had conceded late goals which turned around things in each of these games, it was clearly evident that they were struggling to win games which they should have been winning easily.
The injury afflicted pair of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard frustratingly watched from the sidelines on many occasions as Liverpool crumbled to 7th spot in the league. The absence of Xabi Alonso who had been sold to Real Madrid was felt. Their only hope remained to be the Europa League but luck outdid them there as well, as they had to go out in the semifinals against Athletico Madrid on away goals. This eventually led to the end of Rafael Benitez’s era as manager.
Now, two weeks before the start of the season, Liverpool are in an entirely different position. With top players like Torres and Mascherano on the verge of leaving the club, none of the fans would have predicted that they would be struggling to get into the top four. It is going to be a tough season for them indeed.
But, over the past few weeks, things have not looked so bleak, and the credit should go to one man – the new manager. Grabbing Roy Hodgson was perhaps the best thing that the chairman could have done at times like this.
This is why:
For those of you who do not know, Roy Hodgson is a very good manager. He has vast experience and has won different titles with different clubs in different leagues throughout his career, which began in the 70s. Here is a list of his achievements.
Swedish football champions: 1976, 1979, 1986, 1988
Allsvenskan: 1976, 1979, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989
Svenska Cupen: 1985–86, 1988–89
UEFA Cup Finalists: 1997
Danish Superliga: 2000–01
Danish Super Cup: 2001
LMA Manager of the Year: 2010,
UEFA Europa League Finalists: 2010
Let us now go into recent history. Last season, Roy was in charge at Fulham, a club in financial turmoil just like Liverpool and he did wonders with them. He not only succeeded in keeping Fulham clear of relegation, but made sure that they remained in mid-table all the time. And the silver lining was the Europa League run, as Fulham reached the finals, having overcome teams like Juventus on the way.
They staged dramatic comebacks on their run to the finals and grabbed the spotlight. And all of this was achieved with little funds, without any big names in the squad and good consistency.
Back here at Anfield, things are not so different. He faces a very similar situation at Liverpool, but the expectations are high from the fans. Roy has been very clear and open in the press conferences and stated that this was the time to rebuild, instead of growing ambitions of challenging for the title, and I think he is spot on. The Reds now need to get back into Champions League football next season. Anything more than that, will be unrealistic.
However, Roy has already started his work and sent out some good news to the fans.
- Making Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard stay – This was the first task assigned to Roy and he seemed to have done it. It shows how much caliber he as a manger and the respect he has with the players.
- The free transfer of Joe Cole – convincing a player like Joe and signing him on a free transfer is a great achievement. Despite the departure of Yossi Benayoun, it looks like Liverpool have made a swap deal for both players and made 5 million pounds out of it.
- Signing players like Milan Jovanovic and Danny Wilson – two great deals considering Liverpool’s circumstances. Selling useless and surplus players like Albert Riera, to avail more funds so that more signings can be made before the end of August.
- Retaining Fabio Aurelio – The left back position is no longer uncertain with Martin Kelly backing up Aurelio.
- Winning the first two tricky games of the season against Rabotnicki convincingly.
Javier Mascherano is the only player who is keen on leaving the club, but with the price tag set on his head, not many clubs will be too willing to buy him. A question, however, still remains over his future. But with Christian Poulsen coming in, and with Lucas becoming a better player everyday, he will not be missed much.
Talks have started about the ownership of Liverpool with three different parties showing their interest but from the looks of it, none of them is willing to put in 600 million pounds, being asked by the current owners. The idea of a Chinese ownership is easily the most promising one. If a takeover is complete before the end of August, Roy Hodgson will have a transfer kitty which might be as high as 150 million pounds. If this happens, I am sure Hodgson will be knowing who to buy. Liverpool’s run of debt and unsuccessful transfers might just get over.
There seems to be a great confidence and spirit around Anfield this season, despite last year’s disappointment and I give most of the credit to our new leader Roy Hodgson. Let us wait and watch as the season is set to unfold. What do you think people? Please leave your comments.