Hodgson’s Choice

So, Yossi Benayoun has become the latest person to accuse Benitez of not treating him properly and practically forcing him out of the club. Given the list of others who’ve complained about Rafa (Pennant, Riera, Itandje and, to an extent, Babel) and the obvious case of Xabi Alonso, it seems that for all his tactical brilliance, he was a poor man-manager – a crucial attribute while dealing with multi-millionaire egos.

Presumably, from the pleasant bloke that he is, Roy Hodgson is better at that, though he may not be as tactically astute as Benitez. While I’m not overjoyed at Roy taking over, I understand that given the various constraints around the club, he’s perhaps the best choice under the circumstances. My biggest expectations from him would not be any significant form of success on the pitch, but bringing back stability, confidence and unity – all of which seem to have gone AWOL in Benitez’s final few months. This is, of course, assuming that he’s allowed to do his job and a change in the club’s ownership does not affect his position.

Hodgson’s strongest suit could actually be that expectations from on-pitch performances at Liverpool are probably at their lowest ebb in about 30 odd years. So, a decent league performance combined with a good cup run may be enough to get back some confidence and stability to the team. Personally, I don’t really expect an immediate return to the Champions League. That hope is perhaps best kept for the 2011-12 season, assuming that by then Man City is not the only club left in England’s top flight.

Coming to the player situation, what are Hodgson’s choices? It increasingly appears that Masch will go. If so, the best thing would be to settle that quickly. But the interesting questions are really where he would go to and who could replace him. Barca seemed the more obvious choice, what with Yaya Toure’s departure from the blaugrana, but recent reports that Barca are also skint indicate it may not be very likely. That leaves Inter Milan, and here we have the tempting option of giving them Masch and getting Cambiasso (or, perhaps, Muntari – though he always appears to be half a tackle away from a red card!) in exchange plus a wad of cash. It may not be in the same league as the Eto’o-Ibrahimovic swap of last year, but I’ll live with it!

The other big talk surrounding the club is about Gerrard to Real Madrid and Torres to any number of clubs. While it will obviously take some time to sort out the Torres situation given that he’ll just about begin his vacation in a day or two, it would be good to sort out the Gerrard situation asap. Personally, I think if we get anything in the region of 25 m pounds for him, we should just take it and let him go – obviously assuming he wants to go. Who knows, maybe the departure of Gerrard would exactly be the tonic for Aquilani to flower. Plus, if we can get Van der Vart in exchange for him, that would be nice too, thank you!

Torres’s situation was more complex. Obviously he is now the club’s prize asset and the question was should he be cashed in now, or used to further the club’s hopes? While I would love to see him continue to ply his trade in our colours, I also see it would be very difficult for Hodgson to hold on to him if bids well in excess of 50m pounds started to coming in. That is serious money which should, if invested well, reap significant rewards. A host of names (Gyan, Dzeko, Ruiz, Huntelaar) are doing the rounds already as potential replacements, of whom I would prefer one or more of the first three rather than Huntelaar. Thankfully, Torres as signed on the dotted line which will see him serve out the contract or fetch a huge price.

Away from the marquee names at Liverpool, Hodgson should use this opportunity to take a fresh broom to clear out all the riff-raff in the dressing room. A good start has been made with Degen, it should continue with Itandje and El Zhar, and perhaps accelerated with Lucas, Ngog, Plessis and Riera. Hopefully, between them, he should be able to raise 10-12 m pounds to add to the 15-16 m pounds he reportedly already has (including the money from sale of Yossi to Chelsea).

Those 25-28 m pounds should be used primarily to strengthen the left hand side of the team, beginning with the left full back position. Insua is the only person right now who can play there and we need better. Maynor Figueroa is being mentioned as the possibility and frankly, I have no idea about how good or bad he is other than that crazy 60-yard goal of his from last season. Further up the pitch, we already have Jovanovic and hopefully Babel can also do the job. But it would be good to get in somebody like Chile’s Beausejour who impressed me a lot at the World Cup – a left-footed player full of pace, trickery and imagination. Just what the doctor ordered.

Finally, as said earlier, one hopes Hodgson is a better man-manager and is able to bring out the best in the likes of Babel and Aquilani, as well as gradually blood some of the more promising youngsters (Spearing, Pacheco, Nemeth, Eccleston, Ayala, Kelly, Darby, Irwin) more regularly and groom them into future stars.

So, all in all, I am, as always, eagerly looking forward to the new season and reasonably sure we’ll do well – partly because we can’t possibly be as bad as last year and partly because there is going to be much less expectation this year.

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