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Why Roy Hodgson needs to adapt his approach to get results.


Torres looks to the gods for inspiration. They say to try Lucas.

Another game, another disappointing performance from Liverpool. That a 0-0 draw away to Utrecht is being hailed by Roy Hodgson as a “good point” is an indication of Liverpool’s expectations for the season.

That Hodgson put out the strongest team available to him is an indication of the pressure he is facing at Liverpool this early in his career as manager.

Hodgson knew that defeat would mean further dissent among the media and fans but cannot have conceived of such a disjointed Liverpool performance against a team who while no pushovers, seemed a little shocked that they were going to be given such an easy ride. Indeed FC Utrecht looked far more dangerous in attack, and manager Ton du Chatinier summed the game up nicely when he said: “They had a lot of the ball in midfield but we saw in the second half against Manchester United they have problems when they play against attackers.”

Hodgson has called games badly with his tactics so far in his Liverpool campaign. Only when Ngog came on for Liverpool against Manchester United did they begin to look dangerous with Meireles in a more central position. Likewise the game against Birmingham the team were clueless as to their positions. Kuyt was poor tonight but didn’t seem to have a position and is not a player who thrives in a free role as he poses no danger from long-range shots and doesn’t have the vision to pick out passes. Meireles was once again deployed on the right-wing and didn’t have a clue.

Lucas looks to the gods for inspiration. They don't answer.

When Meireles and Cole were in midfield they combined neatly and Cole at least looked full of energy and attempted to make Liverpool move the ball quicker. But with Poulsen and Lucas sitting behind the duo, it left Liverpool with Kuyt and Torres effectively being swarmed with defenders. No width whatsoever – Johnson has clearly been warned about his defensive positioning and looks less eager to bomb forward – and a lack of pace meant Utrecht’s defence had a comfortable night for the most part.

Most worryingly for Liverpool, the opposition goalkeeper didn’t have a genuine save to make. This is becoming a worrying trend. In their last few games, Liverpool have flattered to deceive by scoring goals. Against Sunderland they had the benefit of the Kuyt goal after a controversial decision by the referee. Gerrard scored a great header. Gerrard’s double the previous week against Man Utd came from set-pieces. Van der Saar had nothing else to do in the game (albeit neither did Reina). In the Premiership to date Liverpool have managed 23 shots on target from six games. Only Blackburn, Sunderland, Wolves and Wigan have had less. Of those four, only Wolves have scored less goals.

Another worry will be Fernando Torres. Of course he would be happier if he were scoring goals, but the pressure is weighing on him, no matter what Hodgson will have you believe. Two good chances went begging tonight, while his attempt to skip round the keeper had commentators saying “he should have gone down for a penalty.” A player of Torres calibre should have been able to control the ball and score rather than play it out for a goal kick.

Roy Hodgson has no faith in Ryan Babel and appears to have lost faith in Jovanovic already. Asked after the game about his decision to deploy Meireles on the right-wing, Hodgson refuted claims he was isolated and said that the team does not play with wingers so Cole and Meireles were utilised in wider positions. Unfortunately, Liverpool are not Arsenal.

The film has been seen more than Babel on Merseyside this season

Arsenal play with a lot of players who can adapt to positions and prefer a role in the centre, like Rosicky, Nasri, Fabregas, Wilshere, Arshavin, but Liverpool don’t attack with the confidence and creativity of those players. Tonight they had four central midfielders with one striker-come right-sided midfielder-come striker again. An organised defence had no trouble. There was no element of surprise. Stick with Torres and all they can do is shoot from long-range. Which is what Liverpool did. To little effect.

The game against Blackpool will be interesting. A home game against ‘weaker’ opposition. Liverpool should be gunning for them. The team Hodgson plays has to reflect a sense that they should comfortably beat the opposition. Combining Lucas and Poulsen again in midfield would be ludicrous. Lucas should start instead of Poulsen and play alongside Meireles; Gerrard behind Torres with Cole and Jovanovic/ Ngog to add some pace/ unpredictability to the team.

Ngog must have sat on the bench tonight crying out for a chance to run at the defence. He will be wondering what he has to do to show Hodgson he is worth a chance, especially in games where the opposition is on the back foot. Meanwhile the rest of us wait with bated breath, as Hodgson desperately seeks a win before the Merseyside derby follows as Goodison Park.

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