With even BBC Sport now believing that Roy Hodgson will be appointed Liverpool manager by Thursday, it is time to reflect on what the new season may bring with a new manager in charge. If he is appointed, he will certainly not be the chosen candidate among the Anfield faithful, and he will have to work hard to win over the majority of fans, although I am sure most will get behind their manager even if he is not their first choice.
To say he has got a job on his hands is an understatement. Board members who know more about business than football, two owners who only care about selling to the highest bidder, a backroom staff exodus and players unsettled because of poor performances on the pitch, is probably as bad as it can get. Perhaps not as bad as taking on the mantle of rebuilding the England team though. So, whether it is Roy or not, where should the new manager start?
Priority No 1: Ensuring our top class players are committed to the club – Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano, Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun are five big names that have yet to commit their futures to Liverpool. It will be up to the new manager to either persuade them to stay or to discern from them their desire to leave the club. If the latter is the case for any of them, the manager must get the best price for them in the transfer market and re-invest the money in new recruits who are capable replacements. Hodgson, and any other manager, would not take on a role such as Liverpool manager without guarantees of having money to spend to create their own team. Otherwise their appointment as manager would seemingly be a waste of time. In Hodgson’s case, if he has already got a guarantee from the Reds board, he must ensure he buys the right standard of players, and my concern with him is that he will buy steady, hard-working players rather than the creative talent that is required.
Priority No 2: Ensure he has good relationships with staff – If Roy is appointed, his relationship with Kenny Dalglish will be an interesting one to watch. Kenny has made it be known he covets the Anfield role, but he is also a good friend of Hodgson’s, and may not look to rock the boat. Any new manager will also look to bring in their own coaching staff, leaving a question mark over Sammy Lee and some of Rafa’s Spanish staff. Hodgson or any manager must get to grips with the Academy issues very quickly, and understand the project that Pep Segura and Rodolfo Borrell have set in motion. If he allows such coaches to leave, we would be in an even greater mess.
Priority No 3: Making sure he identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the squad – The biggest areas that need addressing are in the striker and wing positions. There is also a pressing need for a left back, and if a new manager doesn’t address these areas in time for the new season, we will face some of the same problems Rafa Benitez faced with the lack of squad depth last season. Players such as Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel, Albert Riera and some reserve players may have to be sold, and it is a priority that these sorts of players are replaced with quality.
If the new manager could deal with all of these pressing concerns, we may be in some sort of shape for the new season. Many will dread that if Hodgson does takeover, we may become a mid-table team due to his record as manager. In some respects I can understand this fear considering the style of play Roy employs. Even during his World Cup punditry work for the BBC, he reserved most of his praise for teams who defended well rather than the attacking aspects of some countries. It is his mentality to keep it tight at the back, and his style of one of a regimented tactician whose prime focus is to prevent the opposition from playing.
It is a criticism that can be justifiably levelled at him, but we must take into account the standard of players he was worked with in the past. Roy has had to work on a tight budget at Fulham and at times he has come to clubs in crisis to steady the ship. That is most probably why he has become the leading candidate for Liverpool but Reds fans will want more than somebody who can steady the ship, they need somebody with the ambition to get the club back where it belongs.
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