Too harsh on Hodgson?

Posted: December 7, 2010 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC, Manager Talk, Post Game
Tags: , ,

A better performance against a flat Aston Villa, following an improved performance against Spurs, seems to possibly be turning the huge wave of criticism against Roy Hodgson. It is after all the performance which I personally have moaned about, more so than the results. I’m not sure if Roy is adapting or his players are; but something is beginning to gel. Liverpool look a much more cohesive unit both in attack and defence. There are still moments when I believe we sit too deep and invite pressure. Although on the whole it is pleasing to see us pressing higher up the pitch in a more up-tempo manner.

But; and it’s a big but. We should not get too excited on the basis of last night alone. Aston Villa were poor and looked dis-organised, much like Roy’s Liverpool at the start of the season. Houllier is obviously doing his own adapting. Ryan Babel looked the part playing up front with N’Gog, but was given time on the ball. Something he too often requires as his first touch, at times, can be poor. He will not be allowed that luxury against better organised opposition. Lucas and Meireles are also worthy of special mention, although all of the team were (at times) guilty of some poor passing.

So when it comes to Roy – if things are improving – are we being too hard, expecting too much? Should he not be afforded the time any other Liverpool manager would? My immediate response to both would be no. But am I being unfair so early on into Roy’s tenure? Realistically, if performances continue to improve will the doubters (myself included) have to re-think their ‘position’?

Everyone is trying to find a way to assess Roy. Given the recent chatter about Roy, Rafa and Gerard I decided to take a snapshot of each of their seasons at this point for the last 13 years. Following that I placed them into a league as follows:

(NB sorry about the wavy formatting but wordpress doesn’t seem to have tables)

Manager     Season           Points     GD

Benitez           2008/09          37            +15
Benitez           2005/06          34            +14
Houllier         2001/02          33            +10
Houllier         2002/03          31            +12
Benitez           2007/08          30           +17
Houllier         2000/01          27            +9
Houllier          1999/00          27            +7
Benitez            2006/07         25            +4
Benitez            2009/10          24            +10
Benitez         2004/05        24           +6
Houllier       1998/09        22            +6
Houllier          2003/04          22            +5
Hodgson      2010/11         22            +1

All league points calculated at the end of 16 games (Source:

Although Hodgson is bottom of the pile, the results in bold italic are the first seasons of each of the managers. With only two points  between those three seasons (and only separated from Houllier by goal difference), it is surely legitimate to ask whether Hodgson has performed any worse than either of his predecessors so early on. One factor to take into consideration though is just as Rafa inherited a stronger squad than Houllier, so did Roy. It has been a case of stepping stones, until now.

A lot has also been made of Roy’s away record. Now, while I have undertaken the same exercise for away results, it is important to note that Roy’s away record before arriving at Anfield was poor; especially compared against Rafa and Gerard. That has certainly tainted my view to date. The results for the away snapshot league is:

Manager     Season           Points     GD

Benitez           2008/09          19            +8
Benitez           2007/08          17           +6
Houllier         2001/02          16            +5
Houllier         2002/03          13            +4
Houllier         2003/04          12            +4
Benitez           2005/06          12            +3
Houllier         1999/00           12            +2
Houllier      1998/09         10            +1
Benitez            2009/10         10             -2
Benitez        2004/05        6               -4
Houllier          2000/01         5               -4
Benitez            2006/07         5              -7
Hodgson     2010/11          5              -8

All league points calculated at the end of 16 games (Source:

Again, Roy is bottom of the pile. But in fairness both Houllier and Benitez experienced seasons comparable to Roy’s away record with Liverpool (to date).

This post is not one to defend Roy and I remain confident in my view that he should be replaced next summer. However, statistically he has not done much worse than his predecessors (especially in their first seasons). It is also true that no manager should be judged until the end of the season, at which point we will have a much clearer idea of how good Roy is / could be.

It remains the performances, his press conferences and transfers which continue to worry me. As I said at the start of this post though – if Roy can continue to improve performances on the pitch then at the very least it should be acknowledged that some criticism has been over the top, especially so early on.

  1. bathoz says:

    Good points, and I think Roy is starting up the hill of being given some space, but those stats do make some good points.

    The first is that, even with excuses, Roy’s bottom of both tables. Second, he really did inherit a much stronger first team than either of the two before him. Even then, I’d take the team Houllier inherited over the one he bequeathed. There was a lot of young talent in it – something to build on.

  2. Jonathan Bradley says:

    For me the minimum target is a challenge for fourth place. Not even fourth place, a challenge. That has to be the minimum expectation considering the last manager got sacked for doing just that. Right now we’re 7 points away from Manchester City which isn’t uncatchable but its a concern. Quite frankly the side needs to improve its away form drastically to challenge and until Roy can show that he can produce a winning side away from home, he will be questioned.

    Also its perhaps notable that the two managers mentioned had “get-out clauses” for those first seasons. Benitez had lost Owen and was on his way to winning the Champions League and a final in the Carling Cup, excusing any poor league form. He also replaced a largely unpopular manager.* Houllier shared the first half of his first season with Roy Evans. Hodgson has been managing on his own and has had us eliminated from the Carling Cup at home to Northampton. Hodgson also replaced a largely popular Rafa and was in the way of us having King Kenny back. It was always an uphill battle.

    *Houlllier may have got a good reception yesterday but the majority accepted it was the right time for him to go when he did.

  3. Jarrod says:

    I firmly believe that any new manager should be given some time to work with a team and instill their principles and tactics. Roy came under criticism before he had even been in charge for one match from those who thought he was the wrong choice from the start. It is clear that he is starting to motivate and use players more effectively, and his tactics are starting to prevail. It’s a transition period for Liverpool, and it does not happen overnight.

    That being said, I think that you’re analysis does not take into account a few factors that may (or may not) skew your Conclusion. First, it does not take into account the teams that were played to start the season. Through the first 16 games, Roy’s Reds have already faced Arsenal, Man U, and Chelsea, nevermind the other Champions League side Tottenham. In Benitez’ and Houlier’s seasons, had they already played the other notable powerhouses in the league (presumably the fixtures at greatest risk for dropping points) in the first 16 matches? Just something to consider- I dont actually know the answer.

    Another thing to consider, which probably can’t be measured as easily or accurately, is the fact that this has been one of the most competitive seasons in recent memory. Teams that generally languish in the bottom half of the time have found themselves propelled to the upper half through a series of good results (i.e. WBA, Sunderland, and Bolton), including against Liverpool, Chelsea, and Man U. This is obviously challenging to quantify, but it must be recognized that the level of competition in the Premier League this year is elevated for whatever reasons, and it is not as easy to be successful against the smaller clubs, as proven by the number of points dropped by the league leaders in recent weeks.

    Still, I’m glad to see one of Roy’s critics taking a logical approach and recognizing the fact that he has possibly come under fire too quickly and too often for, barring a few mistakes (Pepe’s blunder against Arsenal, and Konchesky caught sleeping against Spurs) which would put us a point ahead of Spurs and 3 pts out of 4th, and of course the embarrassing loss to Blackpool at home. There is still a lot of time left in the season to make a run at the Champions League, and I have confidence in Roy.

  4. Sam Wanjere says:

    Fair and mature points from clearly knowledgeable fans. Roy was not a popular choice, and not just for me. However, the infamous Liverpool Way of old demands minimal respect for any of our managers. I’ll concede to that.

    The PL’s clearly evolved, becoming much stronger than most realize in the last two or three seasons. We have also regressed thanks to the financial misadventures of G & H, and seasonal weakening of our squad. That makes Roy slightly disadvantaged in terms of squad inherited.

    HOWEVER, our squad is clearly, and has been clearly FAR better than the cast he had at Craven Park, with eight of the first 11 left from our runners up season. That blunts Hodgson’s excuses somewhat. In addition, Rafa recruited a minimum of 12 senior internationals and a host of over talented youth – Suso, Shelvey, Wilson, Kelly, Mavinga.

    We’ve been dreadful especially away under Hodgson, but Spurs was not a bad result in the least, the end notwithstanding. For once we played unshackled and dominated only to be unlucky come game’s end. Our performance yesterday, AGAINST THE TEAM IN FRONT OF US, was superb by recent standards. Are we still seen as a two-man team? Point to note is we were a two-man team even back when we also had Alonso, Masche, Reina and Agger!

    RHs tactics will be severely tested against Newcastle and a tough Fulham, the latter who took Arsenal to the very limits of dropped points. We might end up seeing just how much we’ve improved. Press conferences have to improve, as is treatment of fans and respect for LFCs rich traditions.

    I sincerely pray that Hodgson proves all of us wrong. I would welcome that, but still don’t see him beyond being a caretaker type. The appointer, Purslow’s left, why not Hodgson, in order for us to start again?

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