Liverpool produced an improved display to gain a well earned 0-0 draw against Napoli. Reds boss Roy Hodgson opted to make a whole host of changes for the game, but his fringe players certainly impressed with notable performances from Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey.
While I don’t want to take anything away from the Liverpool display you have to question the Liverpool side that Hodgson put out. He opted to leave star men and Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard at home, claiming it was important they got rest before the ‘crucial’ game against Blackburn on Sunday. While Torres and Gerrard have both had problems with injuries in recent times, surely a win in any competition would be a just what the club need.
Yes Liverpool are in the bottom three of the Premier League, but in reality we know that it would take a miracle for them to still be there come the end of the season. They are already out of the Carling Cup, and Premier League success does look a million miles away. So surely the Europa League is of quite high importance for Hodgson.
Well apparently not. Despite his success in the tournament with Fulham last season, it looks as if Hodgson isn’t particularly fussed about another challenge for the trophy this term. But given their dreadful start to the season, I don’t think he is in a position where he can pick and chose what trophies he goes for.
At Fulham he could have probably got away with a lack of competitiveness in a European tournament, but at Anfield expectations are much higher and the Liverpool fans who travelled over to Naples will surely have been left bemused at the sub-standard side that Hodgson fielded.
I think in many ways Hodgson is still adjusting to life on Merseyside and coming to terms with the expectations of the fans, and while they may have been forgiving during the turbulent times where a takeover of the club was in the balance they will be expecting to see results improve very soon.
Hodgson can still succeed at Liverpool, I have no doubt about that. But he needs to start turning things around quickly. The new owners will be looking to make a statement of intent, and if the Reds are still languishing around the foot of the Premier League, or out of Europe in December, it would certainly demonstrate their expectations and ambition if Hodgson was shown the door.
I don’t want to see Hodgson used in this way, because he doesn’t deserve it. But unfortunately football is a cruel world, and results talk. Wins on all fronts for Liverpool in the next few weeks will be crucial for Hodgson and in my opinion vital to his tenure.