Give Us An International Break
The Premier League is the most popular league in England and everyone welcomed its return when it kicked off again in August. The surprising inability of the top teams to string any decent results together only furthered the intrigue, with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea enduring a terrible start to their defence of the Premier League crown.
Why, then, must the whole thing ground to a halt after just four games in order for the players to disappear off to every corner of the globe for pointless internationals? Admittedly this season seems slightly better now that teams play four games rather than the three of the past, but it’s still frustrating and annoying.
From Liverpool’s point of view the terrible performance against West Ham at Anfield before the break has left a sour taste in the mouth, with the players and fans having to stew over the 3-0 loss with nothing to fill their time except keyboard warriors spouting bile on the internet. Personal attacks on Brendan Rodgers, pathetic #RodgersOut hashtags and constant references to Jurgen Klopp have filled the airways, as if Klopp didn’t have a whole host of issues during his final season at Borussia Dortmund.
What makes the whole thing worse is that the international matches aren’t even really worth bothering about. San Marino’s goalkeeper is an accountant, for example, whilst other members of the team are employed as bank clerks, bar owners and an olive oil company owner. In fact, only one member of the team is employed professionally as a footballer. Are games like this really necessary? As the country wondered whether Wayne Rooney would be able to break Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record, did no one stop and ask whether it was even an achievement worth shouting about?
Didn’t Bobby Charlton have to score his goals in actual competitions against actual teams that featured actual footballers? Should Rooney really be lauded for scoring goals against such ludicrously amateur opposition as San Marino? It seems more like that we should be talking about the fact that he’s the only footballer who’s managed to go bald twice.
For fans of Liverpool most of the international break is spent hoping that our players can return safely and without injury; something that Daniel Sturridge failed to do last year when Roy Hodgson and his backwards ways refused to acknowledge how Liverpool were dealing with the striker’s fitness, sending him home with an injury which essentially saw him out for the season.
Can we not put an end to this nonsense? Is it really impossible for FIFA and UEFA to explore ways that competitions such as the European Championships and the World Cup can be made to only feature actual football teams? Of course it’s exciting for the Welsh and Northern Irish to see their teams on the brink of qualification for the Euros, but did Brazil really need to play this week? Did Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino honestly have to jet halfway around the world so that Brazil could play Costa Rica?
From the selfish point of view of the Premier League, it does nobody any favours. Christian Benteke reportedly picked up a muscle strain when training with the Belgium squad, with the manager Marc Wilmots then criticising him in the aftermath of the team’s 1-0 win over Cyprus, saying he turned in a ‘half-performance’. What a brilliant, confidence building bit of feedback that must have been for Liverpool’s new £32.5 million front man.
As for the England players, what are they going to learn going away to play under Hodgson? The backwards old fool uses tactics, training methods and ideas that were useful in the 1970s but are entirely without worth in the modern game. Brendan Rodgers has barely got the players understanding his own methods but now he has to spend a few days trying to make them forget what The Hodge has tried to get them doing before a massive, season defining game against Manchester United at the weekend.
Here’s What We Could Have Won
The international break also has particular resonance for Liverpool fans as it’s a chance to be reminded of what the Reds could still be having to put up with if FSG hadn’t removed Hodgson from office before it was too late. Brought into Anfield as a ‘safe pair of hands’ after the press hounded out Rafa Benitez from the Liverpool hotseat, Hodgson was the worst Reds manager in living memory, taking the club dangerously close to relegation during his time in the dugout. His chief accomplishments appear to be that he reads books and can speak many languages – what a brilliant CV.
Hodgson’s defenders are quick to point to his history, citing his work in Switzerland and Finland as being instructive into how the Croydon born manager can succeed when given the right tools. Yet all he did in those places was introduce a 4-4-2 system that was unheard of there at the time, drilling the teams to play well defensively and achieve the bear minimum required of them.
The biggest problem with Hodgson is his complete and utter lack of ambition. He is the master at lowering expectations and then throwing someone else under the bus if his lowered expectations aren’t met. Let’s take his attitude towards the recent game against San Marino as an example. After the match he said, “We’re very pleased. We knew what we had to do and even had quite a good idea what the game might look like. What we wanted was a disciplined performance, tactically and professionally, and a victory. As it turned out, I was spoiled with a few extra goals”.
San Marino, just to remind you, have one professional footballer in their ranks, yet Roy Hodgson was hoping for a solid 2-0 win and was surprised that his team of highly trained footballers, most of whom play for some of the best teams in the world, managed to score six. Way to set your aims so high, Roy, we’re surprised you didn’t get a nose bleed with such desires.
Hodgson gets team playing a structured, defensive formation with two deep lying banks of four and two up top. He does not like creativity. He does not like experimentation. He is not even that keen on people playing the actual football. He is a man devoid of ideas that will help his team to get anywhere in a major competition and is fixated on the idea of not losing rather than winning.
In the wake of England’s exit from the European Championships in the 2012 Hodgson said, “I think we have done well to come through the tournament without losing a match, in normal time at least”. England drew 1-1 with France, beat Sweden 3-2 and got a 1-0 win over Ukraine to make it through to the knock out stages, only to fail to score against Italy and get knocked out on penalties and Hodgson was pleased that they didn’t get beaten in normal time.
For a man who is meant to be an intelligent and knowledgeable football expert he comes across as being remarkably dim. In the wake of England’s departure from the World Cup in 2014 Hodgson had this to say about the difference between his team and the side that would eventually go on to win the trophy, “I don’t believe in the nonsense spoken about the identity of certain countries and how they play. I don’t see the vast amount of difference between how we try and the way Germany try to play. Now there is a major difference between the 11 players in the German shirt and the 11 players in the England shirt. But if we are talking about how they attack and build up their attacks, or how they keep possession and seek for openings when they have got the ball, I don’t see a vast amount of difference in philosophy or style”.
No difference between England’s two banks of four trying desperately not to lose and the Germany team that beat Brazil by seven goals to one in their own backyards. England scored two goals in three matches against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica. Germany scored seven against a talented Brazil side in the semi final of the competition, yet Roy Hodgson can’t see any difference in the ways the two teams try to play their football.
It’s also worth remembering than Hodgson had only been England manager for a little over a month when they went into the Euros and got knocked out in the quarter finals. He had been the boss for nearly three years when they failed to make it out of the group stages of the World Cup, meaning the team had actually got worse under his management. It’s no wonder that so few Liverpool fans give a thought to the international break.
Roy Hodgson isn’t a bad manager, he’s just an average one. His career win ratio is 43.32%. His highest win ratio came at Malmo FF when he 61.82 % of his games, his lowest was 15% at Bristol City and 23.53 at The United Arab Emirates. If a Hodgson team plays three games then they are statistically likely to win one, draw one and lose one. If you are West Bromwich Albion you’ll love him as he’ll keep you safe in the league. Yet why anyone thought he was good enough for Liverpool Football Club will long be a cause for puzzlement.
Is Rodgers The New Hodgson?
One of the cruelest criticisms leveled at Brendan Rodgers is that he is as bad as Roy Hodgson. Aside from being blatantly incorrect for anyone who has seen either of the manager’s teams play, it’s also factually wrong, too. Roy Hodgson’s win ratio at Liverpool was 41.94; he managed 31 games and won thirteen of them, drawing eight and losing ten – he won only 7 of the 20 Premier League games he was in charge for. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, has so far been in charge for 159 games, winning 82 of them, drawing 36 and losing 41 meaning his win ratio is currently 51.57.
There’s also the fact that Rodgers nearly won the league for the Reds in his second season, whilst the current England boss took the Reds worryingly close to a relegation battle. Yet are there some similarities that should be considered?
According to Rodgers’ critics he talks far too much, a criticism that was leveled at Hodgson quite regularly. On the surface, then, there might be something in that critique of the Northern Irishman. However, as always in such circumstances, questions of context need to be asked. Whilst Rodgers can sometimes be guilty of waxing lyrical about his own ideas and his own accomplishments, Hodgson just seemed to talk endlessly.
Here are some of The Hodge’s more bizarre babblings:
“Sometimes you can be winning and you think your defending is fine and your attacking is good but really it might be quite poor. You can then lose and after you’ve re-analysed, you see it’s not bad”.
“I don’t want to be seen to be making excuses. We lost to a strong team, they outbattled us on certain occasions, but we know that. Our midfield is not a battling midfield. With Raul Mereiles and Maxi Rodriguez we don’t have big boys in there but they are battling to be fair so I will take that back”.
“One defeat in eight is a good run at any stage of the season. We have to be happy with that but we are not stupid. We know that if you go to Tottenham it could be two defeats in nine”.
“We’ve been working together for four months. Everyone I know in football respects the job I’m doing here and aren’t too surprised it hasn’t been an easy start. In fact, 95 per cent would have predicted it as [Jose] Mourinho did. ‘Liverpool will get worse and worse’ is what he said and if the great man Mourinho says it, I don’t know why you don’t quote him!”
That’s the Liverpool manager there, saying that Jose Mourinho is a ‘great man’, because Liverpool supporters have always had such a huge degree of respect for the self-serving Portuguese narcissist. It’s the Liverpool manager suggesting that the team is likely to lose to Tottenham before a ball is even kicked. It’s the Liverpool manager slagging off his own players and saying they’re not battlers before changing his mind and saying they are. In short, it’s the then Liverpool manager not understanding the club or its fans. He once criticised Tony Barrett, a journalist for The Times, for being ‘too Scouse’. If you’d like to read more quotes from Hodgson – and they are brilliant comedy – then head of to Ben Johnson’s The Hodge Files on The Anfield Wrap’s website.
Whatever criticisms you can try to level at Brendan Rodgers you cannot suggest that he hasn’t immersed in the culture of the club or its people. He knows what a responsibility it is to be Liverpool manager and he won’t let his previous relationships with different managers – including the ‘great man’ Jose Mourinho – get in the way of that. After Liverpool’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the title run in of 2013 – 2014 Rodgers said, “José is happy to work that way and play that way and he will probably shove his CV and say it works but it’s not my way of working. I like to take the initiative in games and let players express themselves. We tried everything we could but our game is based on being offensively creative as opposed to stopping… There were probably two buses parked today instead of one”. In your face, Special One.
Yet still those that have taken a personal dislike to the man will throw anything and everything that they can think of at the manager in the hope that some of it will stick. In the wake of the car crash TV that was “Being: Liverpool” many took to Twitter to decry the manager for having a portrait of himself hung up in his home – what unbridled arrogance, the Rodgers haters claimed. Yet actually the portrait was a gift from a charity Rodgers helped in Swansea.
There’s also the type of football the two managers play. Hodgson, as we’ve already said, has long preferred two deep lying banks of four with two strikers for the defence to attempt to hit it to when they are under pressure. The Londoner was famously caught on video telling Daniel Agger, one of Liverpool’s best footballing centre backs since Alan Hansen, to “just f*cking get rid” when he had the ball at the back.
Rodgers, on the other hand, actively encourages his team to play football and will happily take the blame should things not work out for his defenders when they try to play it out when under pressure. If Hodgson is religiously married to an old school style of football then Rodgers is, if anything, a little too willing to explore different tactical approaches. Perhaps the Northern Irishman would do well to choose one way of playing and stick with it even when it hits some trouble, rather than abandoning it as soon as something goes wrong.
Whatever else you might want to say about Rodgers – and it seems that his critics want to say a lot – there is no comparison between the current boss and the pretender who occupied the hot seat for far longer than he should have been allowed to.
If you still think there is a link between the two then make sure you spend time trying to sit through an England match during the international break – you’ll soon see what we could have won.