Hodgson's first moves: ruthless and realistic - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Hodgson's first moves: ruthless and realistic

Hodgson has started well by keeping Gerrard and signing Cole and clearing out Benitez's dead wood

The Anfield boot room, where championships were once plotted, now serves as Liverpool's press room and sometimes Rafael Benitez would point to the pictures on the wall. They showed the team that won Liverpool the European Cup in Istanbul and Benitez would gesture towards the photographs and remark that most of these footballers, the ones he inherited from Gérard Houllier, were not very good. "I wonder how we ever won it," he would say.

The squad Benitez left behind is considerably better than the one he inherited from Houllier but Roy Hodgson knew it needed breaking up and rebuilding. With his half-a-dozen languages and his studied, professorial air, Liverpool's new manager may be the nearest thing to an English Arsène Wenger, but he has begun his first month in office with a deft ruthlessness.

A manager's first signing sets the tone. In his first summer Benitez brought in four Spaniards – one of whom, Xabi Alonso, was exceptional – and allowed Michael Owen and Danny Murphy, products of Liverpool's once flourishing academy, to move on.

Persuading Joe Cole to leave London was an invigorating move. He may have been a free agent but he was a name who did not require a Google search or a subscription to Marca and when he talked of Liverpool being the "biggest club in the world" or recalling the European Cup semi-final in 2005 "when the atmosphere made the hair on the back of my neck stand up" he talked the Kop's language. Curiously, recreating 'atmosphere' in what has been a dispirited dressing room is a word Hodgson uses a lot. More importantly, Cole secured Steven Gerrard's future. The Liverpool captain had not enjoyed last season and he had seldom enjoyed working with Benitez. At 30, he has one move left and did not give his commitment to Anfield immediately after Hodgson's appointment. Liverpool's shortlist to find a successor to Benitez was sufficiently weak for Kenny Dalglish to suggest himself as the new manager. Gerrard would wait and see, although he did not have to wait too long. If there is a photograph that sums up Liverpool's summer it is the one of England team-mates Cole and Gerrard grinning as they cycle beside each other at the club's training camp in Switzerland.

It was not a surprise that Emiliano Insua and Fabio Aurelio had been the first to join Yossi Benayoun on the road out of Anfield. Just as Wenger seemed unable to bring a high-class goalkeeper to Arsenal, full-backs were Benitez's blind spot. Josemi, his debut signing for Liverpool, was the first in a long and dispiriting line, especially as he lost faith in another academy product, Stephen Warnock, who was to prove better than those brought in to replace him.

Wayne Bridge is not the best left-back in England but he is more consistent than Insua and as good as Fabio Aurelio and, if Manchester City are spending £17m to bring Aleksandar Kolarov from Lazio, he would very quickly become a bit-part player at Eastlands.

Meanwhile, the extras in Benitez's productions are being moved off stage. Albert Riera, who called Liverpool "a sinking ship" in March, will join Olympiakos for a fee of around £4m in the next few days. Sotirios Kyrgiakos, a bargain basement buy from AEK Athens, is likely to follow him to Greece.

On the other side, Peter Crouch may be persuaded back to Merseyside or Hodgson could invest £12.5m in Loic Remy, a 23-year-old who scored 14 times in Le Championnat last season and who is rated by his club, Nice, as a striker with the pace and potential of a Thierry Henry or a Nicolas Anelka.

Nevertheless, despite Hodgson's assurances that it was perfectly normal for Javier Mascherano not to return his calls, it seems extremely unlikely that the captain of Argentina will be protecting the back four when Liverpool's season begins against Arsenal. His agent, Walter Tamar, has talked of the "magical taste" of a reunion with Benitez at the new European champions, Internazionale.

Frankly, it would be hard for anyone at Anfield to deny Gabriel Milito's assertion that: "It is unrealistic of Liverpool to think they can keep hold of him when they can't even offer him Champions League football and are not close to challenging Chelsea or Manchester United for the title." As for Fernando Torres, nobody really knows. Perhaps the biggest factor in Liverpool's favour is that there are very few clubs that could raise the fee for the striker.

Perhaps that is why there was a realism about Hodgson as he prepared for his first game, against Grasshoppers Zurich, last night. "It is not going to be an overnight thing," he told the club's website. "I don't want to dupe the Liverpool public by telling them that everything is rosy because Joe Cole has signed. There is a lot more to be done and many more players needed."

Giggs: 'Liverpool still a threat'

Ryan Giggs says it is "dangerous" to rule Liverpool out of making a challenge for the Premier League title this season. The Anfield club are going through a period of transition with Roy Hodgson replacing Rafael Benitez after they finished seventh in the table last time around.

Giggs believes their rivals deserve respect. "Liverpool have a new manager and it is difficult to say what they are going to do," said Manchester United's record appearance holder. "Two years ago they were close to winning the Premiership and you can never write them off. It just depends on how it goes. They have won the same amount of leagues as us. You cannot just dismiss that. They are a huge club and a massive team."

United are aiming to wrest the crown back from Chelsea and Giggs feels six or seven clubs will be in the mix. Those include Manchester City, who ended last season just outside a Champions League place in fifth position.

Life and Style
tech
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week