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Early (Pre) Season Lessons

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 by Paul Grech

So, two games into pre-season with a squad that is nowhere near being finalised and people are already looking for definitive answers as to where Liverpool's fortunes lie.
  
Too Early To Judge?
Pre-season, we are often told, is a time where gaining full fitness is the key and results mean nothing.  That might be the case but experience proves that if the team looks bad in pre-season, then the likelihood is that it will continue that way when the actual games start.  One only has to look at last season's abysmall 3-0 trashing at Espanyol where the problems that would haunt Liverpool throughout the season - lack of creativity in particular - were first laid bare.

The thing with this season is that the games played so far have seen largely inexperienced kids taking part so it is impossible to determine what Liverpool's season will be like.

Keep Your Shape
What has been clear from these first two games is what we have been told all along about Hodgson: organisation is paramount.  What has been encouraging is that it would appear that his early lessons are already being absorbed.  Conceeding one goal in two games with what was a glorified reserve squad was in itself an exceptional result but it didn't come about by accident.  All the players worked hard - that much was to be expected particularly with a new manager in charge - but much more encouraging was how they went about their job, keeping their concentration throughout both games.  Few, if any, of the players on show

There's Talent but no Experience
The goal conceeded against Kaiserslautern neatly summed up the issue facing Roy Hodgson.  Over the two games, Daniel Ayala was pretty impressive and he showed why there is the belief that he is destined for big things.  Yet it was his lack of experience that allowed Kaiserslautern the opportunity to score a goal.  This is not to say that a more experienced player wouldn't have done a similar mistake but rather that it is more likely that a younger one succumb to it especially when the pressure is on.

There are some very talented players at Liverpool but that doesn't mean that they are ready to play in the Premier League, at least not at Liverpool.  Given the state of reserve team football, it would be much better for the likes of David Amoo and Nathan Ecclestone to spend the coming months on loan some where so that they can gain some experience (and make mistakes away from the spotlight along the way).

Some Things Never Change
It might sound harsh to pinpoint any player who did badly at this stage but it is simply impossible to hold back on criticising Philippe Degen.  As one of the few senior players in the squad that made it to Switzerland, the expectation was that he would be setting the example.  But, going by what he showed in the two games played, let's hope that no one took any notice.  Caught far too often out of position when making ill advised runs forward, it was comforting to hear Hodgson confirm that he should be looking for a new club for next season.


What They Say About Roy Hodgson

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Sunday, July 04, 2010 by Paul Grech

Following on from Friday's piece where we took a look at what Roy Hodgson had said over the years, here's what others have said about Roy Hodgson over the years.


"He’s not the best; not by a long way. But is he the best we can realistically expect?"
Paul Tomkins, writer The Tomkins Times 

"Roy Hodgson was an important person in the development of Inter Milan to the point we have reached today. “He saved us at the right time. When he came we were in trouble, and things appeared dark. He didn’t panic, he was calm and made us calm. Disaster was averted at the most important time. Everyone at Inter will remember him for that and his contribution. He is considered by us all as an important person in our history. He left an endowment to this club that’s important in our history.”
Massimo Moratti, Inter owner

"E stato la prima rovina del l'Inter" (He was the first to ruin Inter)
Maurizio Mosca, Italian sports journalist

"My problem at Inter was Hodgson, Roy Hodgson. He wanted me to play as a forward when I'm a defender – I prefer to have space ahead of me to run into rather than be a winger already up there; for me it's better to have 80 metres to play in than 20. I didn't like the system or where Hodgson wanted me to play in it. He wanted me further up the pitch, sure, but stopped, still, rigid. The Copa America was coming up and I was playing at left-back for Brazil, so I wanted to play there for Inter too. I had to leave because I didn't want to jeopardise my chances with the national team. If I couldn't play the way I do I wouldn't be able to play for Brazil. I spoke to Massimo Morratti [the Inter president] to see if he could sort things out and it soon became clear that the only solution was to leave."
Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos, sold by Hodgson when he was at Inter

"Hodgson's philosophy has remained more or less unchanged since he joined Maidstone as Bobby Houghton's assistant coach in 1971. There they implemented the ideas of Allen Wade, the modernising technical director of the FA, who, in a quite literal way, rewrote the coaching manual. Wade saw no point in drills that weren't specifically related to game play, and so formulated a whole theory of coaching based on specific match situations. Houghton and Hodgson moved to Sweden, Houghton at Malmo and Hodgson at Halmstad, and it was there that Wade's ideas took root, as Sweden was divided between the modern, English method – which favoured pressing, zonal marking and counter-attacking with direct passes – and the more traditional German school with a libero and man-marking."
Jonathan Wilson, writer and author of Inverting the Pyramid 

"We work on it [the formation] every day. I've been working with the manager three seasons now and every day is team shape. He gets the 11 that he wants and he drills everything in that he wants. We've got the ball - it's never unopposed. It's certain drills, defensive and attacking, and we work very hard at it. There's no diagrams, it's just all on the pitch. We do a lot of work after every game, sorting the bad things out, sorting the good things out. It's nice to know what you work hard on works so well."
Simon Davies, Fulham midfielder 

“He changed the whole way we were playing, He made us more of a footballing team than the direct-ball team under Lawrie. His knowledge of the game, his philosophies . . . he has that temperament a manager needs. He never gets too down, and he doesn’t let us get too carried away when we’re having a good spell.”
Danny Murphy, former Liverpool midfielder currently at Fulham FC

"His entire management career has been based on imparting method and discipline into teams. Occasionally, there have been accusations of rigidity, but Hodgson’s sides are never sterile. Fulham seldom deviate from 4-4-2 and the wide players, while expected to track back, are encouraged to be audacious...Mavericks are too temperamental to fit into Hodgson’s conscientious approach, so Jimmy Bullard was sold to Hull for £5m and some of the money spent on Dickson Etuhu, an industrious, hard-running midfielder."
Richard Wilson, writer Scotland Herald 


Roy Hodgson In His Own Words

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Friday, July 02, 2010 by Paul Grech

A lot has been written about Roy Hodgson in recent days so any attempt to do so now would risk repeating what others have already said. So instead here are some comments that the man himself has made over the years which provide insight both into how he sees himself and also what Liverpool are in for.

"Of course, my track record, if people bothered to study it, would put me in the same category as [Sir Alex] Ferguson enjoys today, but people don't talk about what I've done outside England."
The Independent, 24 March 2002

"I think at Blackburn I was very successful in the first year [they finished sixth] but unfortunately that success was wiped out by a bad first half of the second season. I see a lot of things written about that which I don't really know where the stories come from. But after the first season at Blackburn, I was riding high but unfortunately I suppose getting the sack in the second season when the team was near the bottom of the league has wiped all that away."
The Independent, 1 January 2008

"I would like to think that my style could be considered as studied player-orientated, and with an emphasis on preparation and tactics. Because you take on leadership responsibilities, inevitably you have to be somewhat authoritarian. The game of football doesn’t lend itself to true democracy. Certainly as I get older, I have become more aware that you can delegate certain things. For example, the players’ opinion can be useful when discussing training times or deciding travel schedules, etc. Indeed, most things to do with the players’ preparation can be open for discussion.

When it comes down to the major issues, for example, team selection, how you are going to conduct your training sessions, what you will emphasise, and how you will deal with any conflict situation which might arise, I don’t think there is any room for a democratic approach when dealing with these matters. Players expect you to take the lead, because that is what you are paid for. But I think it is good to involve them in things which make a big difference to their life but don’t compromise your position."
The Technician, June 2007

"The fundamentals [of being a good manager] remain: "Can you coach? Can you earn the players' respect?" He adds: "The other things, they are bonuses: the scouting reports, fitness details et cetera. You could do away with a lot of that and be successful as long as you are able to use your time on the pitch wisely, and convince players this is what you have to do."
The Independent, 2 May 2009

"Sometimes choice can be a dangerous thing. No choice can be very good. Quite simply I was not well enough known as a player and I did not have contacts. It wasn't a question of coaching the Arsenal or Birmingham reserves, it was continue playing non-league football or go to Halmstads."
London Evening Standard, 15 December 2009

"Authority gets challenged now. My players challenge me every day. We are developing a thinking group of players. They analyse things. I don't want robots. I'd expect Murphy, Schwarzer, Hughes, Hangeland, Baird, Konchesky and Duff all to chip in. We've got an experienced and good group. I trust them implicitly. There's no one in that group who won't give everything. Those ones have left the club."
The Telegraph, 18 December 2009

"We [Alex Ferguson and Roy Hodgson] have been friends for many years from his early days of United when I was at Malmo. His major strength is retaining the desire to repeat something that has been so good the previous year. His single-mindedness is very important. The number of times Alex and United are written off but he just rides right the way through that. Who's the man who has the last laugh? Alex. Alex has a lot of emotion in him. I certainly have. We both attempt to control that emotion but it's also a blessing. The people who don't have that emotion it eats them up from within. Alex and I can get very angry very quickly but it doesn't lie there and fester for weeks, eating away. There are not many managers at the top level who are not emotional people. The quiet introverted man doesn't get to those levels so often."
The Telegraph, 18 December 2009

"I do not think World Cups are great places to sign players from because World Cup football is often very different from the type of football played in the league that you are looking for players to play in. Of course it is a great showpiece for players and, as a manager, I am always looking at players and trying to assess their qualities. But hopefully if I was watching someone here I would be, if you like, confirming a decision I had made from watching them in their league matches rather than suddenly deciding that player X is a wonder player on the back of one or two games at a World Cup."
BBC, 21 June 2010

"I always tell my players what I want them to bring to the team. Their job then is to interpret the roles they have been given. I would always hope my players are happy because I am a great believer in putting round pegs in round holes. If you move players around and play them out of position, then there is a risk they might react negatively."
BBC, 23 June 2010