Hodgson expects summer signings to shine

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The Independent Football

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has backed his summer signings to come good in the same way midfielder Lucas Leiva has emerged as a key performer this season.

The Brazil international was one of the club's most derided players of recent seasons after suffering a couple of years of unfair criticism.

However, Lucas, still only 23, has grown in stature in a difficult campaign and put in a man-of-the-match performance in Sunday's 2-0 victory over Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea.

The former Gremio midfielder, harshly compared to Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano - both of whom have now left the club - is starting to put in consistently good displays.

It was expected the arrival of the experienced Christian Poulsen from Juventus would restrict his first-team appearances but the opposite has been true.

Hodgson admits the 30-year-old Dane, whose substitution in last week's Europa League win over Napoli was greeted with ironic cheers, has struggled to adapt after moving from Serie A.

But he believes he and his other summer signings Joe Cole, whose Liverpool career has been interrupted by suspension and injury, and Raul Meireles will play key roles this season.

"Lucas is a young player and I have to keep being reminded he is not that old and does not have that much experience," said the Reds boss.

"People clearly marked my card as regards to many players and when I came I knew there was a prejudice against him.

"I have got to say I don't see what people really found to criticise in him.

"I can only judge as I find and I find him very hard working, a very diligent player who works hard on his understanding of the game and team performances.

"Christian Poulsen, who has had a bad start to the season, is to some extent also a victim of prejudice at the moment.

"I am convinced in both of these players we have really useful players who will serve us to great effect for the rest of the season.

"Maybe Christian will have to go through a bit of what Lucas went through but I know the players have the quality we are looking for and I know they are going to help us win matches.

"Raul is a good footballer and was very good in setting up the second goal for Fernando Torres against Chelsea and I think we will get a lot of use out of him.

"I am quite happy players like him don't necessarily get put totally under the microscope from the day they arrive because even coming from a top team like Porto it takes time to settle.

"Every player who comes here has to go through that adaptation process."

The hamstring injury which kept Cole out of the game against former club Chelsea will also sideline him as Liverpool look for a fourth success Barclays Premier League win at Wigan tomorrow.

Defender Glen Johnson is set for a return after sitting out Sunday with a groin problem but youngster Martin Kelly excelled as his deputy and Hodgson now feels competition is starting to grow within the squad.

"They will work hard to get back. Joe Cole is a magnificent professional but he would have wished for a better start to his Liverpool career - we all would have done," he added.

"No-one wants it more than him so I don't have any fears on either score with those two players.

"Johnson will want to come back and perform better in order to maintain his England place and Joe will want to get his England place back.

"Joe thought hard and long before choosing Liverpool and he could have taken an easier option by staying in London.

"He chose to move to a big club in the north-west and a difficult club to impress at because he wanted to do it and I think he will.

"I haven't certainly lost faith in him and I hope the fans have not lost faith in him and will give him plenty more chances."