Deeper Running Problems?

Posted: January 5, 2011 by mcdonaldtaf in Liverpool FC, Manager Talk, Team Talk
Tags: , ,

One of the supposed benefits of Roy Hodgson’s arrival was his ability to get closer to players and re-invigorate their on the pitch performances. Despite what he has eluded to, or (some of) Fleet Street will spout, we do have  a squad of players and certainly a first XI which should be competing for fourth place – as a minimum.

Carragher, Gerrard and Torres

Data utilising TPI from Pay as you Play (Tomkins et al, 2010, GPRF Publishing) has shown that we still retain the fifth highest squad value (without taking account of free transfers such as Gerrard, Cole and Carragher). We’ve also utilised that squad to provide for the fourth most expensive team put out this season to date, on average. So the players have been at Roy’s disposal, which begs the question – what exactly is going wrong – to the extent that we are losing to minnows?

Journalists along with Fulham players and fans alike spoke very highly of Hodgson’s man management prowess. He would turn the slumped shoulders and long faces into driven and highly motivated team players. This after all was all that may be needed at Anfield, after the years under Rafa Benitez’s ‘cold regime’ (of course those without an agenda who knew Benitez talk about a passionate and engaging character; if not a warm and cuddly one).

But half way through the season and some of our players’ shoulder slumping is starting to make them look like apes, as their knuckles drag along the ground. Unless of course they’re scoring, but even our goal celebrations don’t seem as passionate as they once were.

Is it possible that both Benitez and Hodgson have both fallen foul of a dressing room culture where the egos have taken over? Not that I ever felt Hodgson was right for Liverpool, but I do wonder whether any efforts applied have been hampered. Sure, you can point to dressing rooms with even bigger egos or collection of stars. But have any of those teams been through what we have over the past few years? The politics within the club created opportunities for individuals to gain more power than you’d normally see at clubs. I include players, or certain players, who may have taken advantage of any power vacuum within those individuals.

Some will tell you that this is only human nature. Man as a rational actors will always look to work in his own self interest. Others will insist that man will instead work towards a common goal. That doesn’t stop him being mis-guided in his beliefs, mind. Either way question marks have been raised over the attitude of our players for two seasons running. With the recent power struggles seen at the club, you have to wonder whether ‘the tail is wagging the dog’.

Fenway Sports Group (FSG) have arrived at the club and started their shake up of the hierarchy and culture of the club. If they are to deliver on the pitch success though, is it now time for a radical shake up of the playing squad? When considering this, fans tend to concentrate on the players attributes in relation to playing abilities. Judging a player often on their value or perceived value; or even those magical moments they delivered. When looking at our top players FSG need to go deeper. They need to really look at the pyschology of every player – what is motivating them, are they difficult to get on with and how do they react when challenged?

No one player or group of players is bigger than the club, or they shouldn’t be. What exists at Anfield though is pretty unique. We’ve had politics and power plays creating power vacuums. While our first team includes a few star players and two home grown stars. People rarely look at themselves when things are going wrong and the player collective, especially at our club, has to be a prime breeding area for groupthink.

The impact of the recent years works both ways. Maybe players are just tired of everything that has happened. They often thrive on success, which has been in short supply. On a personal level, why should star players miss out on champions league football? Especially if missing out becomes a regular occurrence. Just how many false dawns should they have to contend with? The reality is that, at the moment, Liverpool Football Club may not be aligned with our star players’ needs. If you can’t meet their needs, how do you motivate them?

In my opinion Roy Hodgson is out of his depth and not the right manager for Liverpool Football Club. I’ve said it from day one and unless something miraculous happens I’ll continue to say it. However, we should not ignore other factors which may be impairing any future success. Rafa Benitez was, I believe, the right man to take the club forwards – yet he also failed to deliver last season. Which was another season where poor player attitude was observed. There is one common denominator for both managers.

Will another new manager deliver success with the existing squad? Will they only make a difference until we hit a bad patch? Only time will tell I guess. But two managers who in many ways are diametrically opposed appear to have both failed in motivating the current squad of players.

FSG need to fully assess the psychological make up of the current crop of players. That assessment must include all players, without exception. They must also look at the club as a whole and see if it can, within the required timescales, deliver the environment (from a success point of view) to allow players to thrive. They may come to a rather painful conclusion which will see them have to overhaul our current squad of players.

Something doesn’t add up to me and I suspect that FSG may well be faced with tougher decisions than appointing the right manager next summer. There’s little point in finding the right manager while insisting he has to work with certain tools. FSG must find the right manager and then back him to the hilt, even if that means saying goodbye to those who no longer fit the vision.

  1. Sam Wanjere says:

    I suspect the club’s deeper problems will no doubt include squad morale, wear and tear from LFC’s civil war, and direction. Where exactly is the club heading in terms of direction?

    All these are significant when considering the troops’ morale. I don’t see what Roy has done right managerially to motivate LFC’s XI. The tactics that allowed us to press, force opponents into erring and get goals have been replaced with unclear defensiveness and overall lack of imagination.

    Our marquee players, at present, Torres, Reina and Gerrard must all be wondering what they’re still doing at Anfield. There is love for the shirt, no doubt, but none of them has yet tasted league glory. Isn’t that what professionals live for?

    I believe that if players would see some semblance of ambition from the club, easiest seen through player purchases, attempts at constructing a new ground, seasonal developments like financial deals, etc., they would hold their heads high and play on. They would play on trusting the club to keep doing whatever it takes to make them compete properly. Have our players seen such evidence?

    There is nothing more to add about Roy’s being overwhelmed by the managerial hot seat at Anfield. That’s the most obvious part of this puzzling equation. The problems are not blamable on Rafa. That’s the escapist and red herring the English media want us to believe. Our squad, qualitatively, is just as good as Spurs or Man City. Depth is certainly a problem, but also greatly exaggerated.

    What is the criteria of loaning out creativity (Aquilani) and defensive future (Insua)? The answer cannot be Konchesky or Poulsen. This January will be instructive in keeping our top quality. Signings will go a long way towards this. It’s a pity we cannot change coaches mid-season because I am really worried about our final league position come May 2011.

    Whoever doesn’t yet see the implications of finishing outside seventh position clearly hasn’t understood club financing as is done today. A club like LFC that has excelled financially courtesy of merchandising, top four league finishes and regular CL football is on the road to financial doldrums under Hodgson.

  2. philip says:

    From what im led to believe is that we are looking at youth in january i hope its not true because jan is not for signing youth but to sign improvements to the first team something we really need,but in saying that i look at liverpool when they play without gerrard and torres and think the whole team look more hungry happy and balanced,weather this is to prove we can play without them or is it that their dirty looks from their big egos at other players when things arent going right saps surrounding players morale and that isnt there when they arent? i dont know, but take the villa match recently babel and ngog where hungry an we looked settled on the ball that couldve been down to villa too. it might be time for egos to go but roy will not do better than he is now even if we signed messi ronaldo and xavi he doesnt know how to use skillful footballers he is too stuck in small team tactics lets get physical and get them at set pieces and the counter we are liverpool we dominate possession well we shold be when did it all change its sad roy said he would bring it back but he is tactically incapable.

  3. […] “One of the supposed benefits of Roy Hodgson’s arrival was his ability to get closer to players and re-invigorate their on the pitch performances. Despite what he has eluded to, or (some of) Fleet Street will spout, we do have a squad of players and certainly a first XI which should be competing for fourth place – as a minimum.” Invincible Bastion […]

  4. […] Deeper Running Problems? One of the supposed benefits of Roy Hodgson’s arrival was his ability to get closer to players and re-invigorate their […] […]

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