Hodgson admits the Kop's calls for Dalglish are hard to hear
Stoke 2 Liverpool 0
Monday 15 November 2010
If their new American owners fired Roy Hodgson now, Liverpool's history would remember him as the manager who took three points in total from games with Stoke, Wigan, Blackpool, Sunderland, Birmingham and Everton, with a defeat by Northampton also on the charge sheet.
Jermaine Pennant served Liverpool during happier times, but on Saturday he helped Stoke to a 2-0 win that can only have damaged Hodgson's chances of constructing a more auspicious legacy. Now playing better than when he reached the fringes of Steve McClaren's England squad, the on-loan Zaragoza winger recognises the pressure that supporters' expectations can generate.
"They expect to win everything, the Premier League and Champions League," Pennant said. "It's hard living on the past and to live up to the reputation Liverpool have. They want to be the best team in the world and the fans think they should still be. It's difficult with other clubs spending so much money, signing players from all over the world."
One week Liverpool beat champions Chelsea, the next they are vanquished by a side who started the match in the relegation zone. "Great teams can play a different team within the squad and get results but Liverpool are struggling to do that," Pennant reflected. "Certain players have gone and others have come in. Some are struggling to cope with the pace and demands of the Premier League it seems."
Only three years ago, Pennant lined up for Liverpool against Milan to try take a sixth European Cup to Anfield. Citing their present position, behind Stoke in mid-table, he added: "They've got a lot of work to do if they want to be challenging the Chelseas and Man Uniteds."
Hodgson, who was yesterday watching Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila, admitted the chants for former manager Kenny Dalglish were not easy to deal with. "There's nothing I can do about it, and I can only continue to do the best job I can under these circumstances," he said. "If the club decide they want to give the job to somebody else, then I'll have to accept that. I can't get upset every time the fans chant someone's name. Maybe they're just showing their frustration because they've lost, and they're entitled to do that.
"Unfortunately they may have to do it a few more times this season, because I can't see us going through a season winning every single game."
Whether New England Sports Ventures adopts such a philosophical stance remains to be seen. While losing at Stoke should not be labelled a humiliation – that would do a disservice to a definitive team display by Tony Pulis' players – this was a capitulation of sorts. Its roots lay in a negative game plan which appeared to concede that Liverpool's current side are incapable of building from the back or passing and moving at a high tempo; prerequisites in the trophy-laden eras. There are lies, damned lies and football statistics, but even if the official figure of 64 per cent possession for Stoke sounds fanciful, the overall picture it paints is accurate.
To compound it all, after Kenwyne Jones' side-footed flourish had added to Ricardo Fuller's scuffed shot after a Rory Delap throw-in landed like a hand-grenade and Lucas was banished for a second bookable offence, Hodgson seemed in denial about how poorly Liverpool had met the physical and tactical challenges Stoke posed.
Ominously for the club, the Kop and for Hodgson's prospects, the impression was of a decent man out of his depth.
Sent off: Liverpool Lucas
Man of the match Pennant Match rating 7/10.
Possession Stoke 64% Liverpool 36%
Shots on target Stoke 7 Liverpool 6
Referee M Halsey (Lancashire) Att 27,286
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
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