Hodgson's Key Decision; Persistence or Change?
Fourteen games into the season, and Roy Hodgson finds himself at a fork in the road, where each path could lead Liverpool to a very different outcome in May.
Of course, it has been said after almost every win this year that Liverpool will kickstart their season, and by contrast every loss has apparently indicated 'an end to Liverpools top four hopes'.
The key point here is that no one action or event will define Liverpool's season, but Roy Hodgson and the club's director find themselves needing to make a variety of crucial decisions which cumulatively may do just that. After a strange premier league period of wins followed by one point from two games and then a convincing home thumping, it is difficult to know if the club is on the right track or in need of a drastic rerouting.
Whilst the game against West Ham was not exactly a clash of the titans, many positives can be drawn from the performance, and perhaps give an indication of what Hodgson should do in future.
The decision to play 4-4-2 clearly paid dividends, and the majority of reds fans would tell you that this formation is the way forward.It is widely believed that Hodgson is often too defensive and a club like Liverpool don't need to play with two holding midfield players and one striker.
Of course, this system worked under Benitez, but this was due to one man.
No player as of yet has been able to take up Alonso's role of being the superb defensive rock with a fantastic football mind and passing ability. These attributes of Alonso caused him to connect with Gerrard so well and inject an attacking feel to the side.
Whilst no player can recreate Alonso's prescence, there would appear to be a way around it. On almost every occasion where Liverpool have played 4-4-2 the team has functioned much better. The reshaping at Old Trafford using David Ngog after which Liverpool clawed themselves back into the game springs to mind.
Many may argue that Liverpool do not have a striker of sufficient quality to accompany Torres. Interestingly though, perhaps the more important point is that this season Torres has appeared to play much better with someone next to him, regardless of their ability. So in using a second striker, not only could Hodgson give the side a more positive outlook but also improve the performance of his main frontman.
On the subject of position selection, Raul Meireles causes much debate.
The two best performances of Meireles have undoubtedly come against Manchester United and West Ham. The connection? In both matches Meireles played in central midfield. Obviously there have been occasions where he has played in the middle of the park and not impressed, but crucially every time Hodgson has stuck Meireles on the right flank he has been simply average.
As much as Hodsgon wants him to be, Meireles is not a right midfielder. However, he is worthy of a place in central midfield alongside Steven Gerrard. The sooner the manager realises this the sooner Meireles can improve and excel as a player.
If Hodgson can make the right decisions on these points activity during the transfer window will not be as important, and a string of good performances and results can set Liverpool's top four challenge in full motion.
Furthermore, these few games leading up to Christmas are paticularly important as they can convince the owners not only to invest transfer funds but also to keep Hodgson in the job.
If Hodgson decided to stick with the 4-5-1 defensive formation it may end up succeeding, but there is also a high chance with this method of action that Hodgson may look back come the end of the season regretting his lack of courage to change things, and now is the point where decision is key.