Monday, November 22, 2010

Hodgson: Liverpool FC Still Have Midfield Competition, Despite Steven Gerrard Injury

Roy Hodgson believes the absence of Steven Gerrard can prompt an increased competition for places in Liverpool’s midfield.

Gerrard will be missing for the next four weeks after suffering a hamstring injury while on international duty with England last week.

The skipper watched from the Anfield directors’ box on Saturday as Liverpool bounced back from their dreadful defeat at Stoke City the previous week with a routine 3-0 win over rock-bottom West Ham United.

With the suspended Lucas Leiva and injured Jay Spearing also missing, Raul Meireles and Christian Poulsen impressed in central midfield against the Hammers.

And Hodgson reckons Liverpool have shown they can learn to cope without Gerrard for the short term.

“Steven Gerrard is important, he is decisive, and if we are to have a good season we are going to need him,” said the Anfield manager. “But I think it’s very good for the players who came in and took his and Lucas Leiva’s place.

“It increases competition for places but, most importantly, it stops people accusing us of being a one or a two-man team. It was also nice to see Fernando Torres doing so well. He didn’t get a goal but he was a constant thorn.

It was a good team performance with some very good individual performances. I suppose it will be written off a little bit because West Ham are not having a good time but we can’t change that. We can only play against the opposition in front of us.”

Meireles was Liverpool’s most impressive performer while Poulsen, a target for the boo boys in recent weeks, earned the praise of his manager.

“Poulsen has not had a good time,” said Hodgson. “He’s been criticized and not played up to his potential. Often he’s played in a team that has not done well. But he gave an outstanding performance and showed his mental strength.”

Defeat for West Ham increased the pressure on their beleaguered manager Avram Grant, who had to endure chants from the away fans calling for his sacking.

“I do have sympathy,” said Hodgson. “It’s not easy when you are watching your team play and you don’t see where a goal is going to come from but you can see your team conceding a lot more. It’s a very unpleasant situation.

“They came up against a good Liverpool.”

Of the barracking Grant received from West Ham fans, Hodgson – who has suffered similarly at the hands of certain sections of the Liverpool support this season – added: “You get that. We have to learn to live with that these days I’m afraid.

“When I first went to Switzerland in the early 1990s we used to watch French football and I was astounded by how often a team was booed off at half-time if it was losing or the cat-calls that came at the end.

“I remember saying to my wife ‘That wouldn’t happen in England’. Here at Anfield in particular I remember seeing away teams applauded off after winning, which may have been a one-off, but today all of that has gone out of the window.

“Today you know what’s coming. It’s not nice but you live with it.

“I’ve got to say I thought the West Ham fans were quite humorous in what they were singing. To be fair to them, they travelled a long way to watch their team here.

“They came with high hopes and they’ve watched their team given very little hope of getting anything out of the game, so I suppose they found their comfort where they can.”

Niko Kranjcar's Spurs To Liverpool Transfer To Be 'Hijacked By Hamburg'

Niko Kranjcar has been offered a January exit route from Spurs, but it is to Hamburg rather than Liverpool, according to a report.

The Croatia midfielder has indicated he wants to leave Tottenham in search of first-team football after dropping down the pecking order at White Hart Lane following the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart.

Liverpool was thought to be leading the race for his signature, amid rumours that the Anfield club is planning a £7 million bid.

However, German website 4-4-2 reports Hamburg have already opened talks with Spurs about Kranjcar's availability.

According to IMScouting, the negotiations centre on a proposed deal that would see the 26-year-old move to the Bundesliga club on loan in January.

Harry Redknapp recently admitted he understood why Kranjcar may want to leave, but warned clubs chasing the ex-Portsmouth midfielder's signature that Spurs would demand big money.

'We're not going to give Niko away - he's a top player in my opinion,' said the Tottenham boss.

Hodgson Pleased With Response

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson admitted his side's 3-0 victory over West Ham was as comfortable as it gets for a manager, despite the absence of injured captain Steven Gerrard.

The match was won in the first half after goals from Glen Johnson, Dirk Kuyt from the penalty spot and Maxi Rodriguez, taking the Reds within three points of the fourth place currently occupied by Bolton.

Rock-bottom West Ham was woeful in the first half at Anfield and improved only slightly after the break.

"It was important to win and I think we did it in some style," said Hodgson.

"We knew what we had to do today. We were concerned we would have to do it without Steven and Lucas Leiva (who was suspended) but the players selected today did really well.

"We got the three points we needed and we got it with not only a good performance but a thoroughly professional performance.

"I don't think the words comfortable and relaxed are words us managers use too often but if you're not comfortable 3-0 up at half-time and they've not had a shot on goal you're never going to be."

Johnson, who missed the last three matches with a groin injury, was criticised by Hodgson nearly a fortnight ago for failing to display the form which had made him an England international.

Apart from his goal, the right-back showed that had taken on board what had been said and was starting to rediscover that form.

"It was very good. I think Glen profited from the fact he has been obliged to undergo an enforced rest with the injury but has been fit and trained hard all week," added Hodgson.

"He was full of running, enthusiasm and energy and scored the important first goal.

"Today his performance, as for all of the back four, was pretty-nigh perfect."

Asked whether he thought the criticism of Johnson had sparked a response

Hodgson joked: "If that is the case I'd better get you (the media) to stir up a bit more mischief.

"I'll start it with all the players if it can get the best out of them.

"Glen is a top-class player and it was nice to see him playing so well."

Liverpool Line Up Move For Fenerbahçe And Turkey Star Emre Belözoglu

Liverpool are lining up a move for Fenerbahçe and Turkey star Emre Belozoglu, according to German reports.

The 4-4-2 Web site says that the Reds want to sign the 30-year-old playmaker in January and are willing to part with €7 million plus left-back Fabio Aurelio in exchange for his services.

Emre is a vastly-experienced, technically gifted player who possesses a rare touch and vision, and a stinging left-foot shot.

The former Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Newcastle United player has scored four goals and provided one assist so far this season.

Benitez Attempts To Scupper Liverpool Move For Teenage Sensation

Inter Milan are in talks with Swiss sensation Xherdan Shaqiri, according to reports.

Italian sources are quoted in a report from German website 4-4-2 suggesting that Inter are prepared to pay 7 million euros for the 18-year-old Liverpool target.

Shaqiri's stock rose considerably after he scored a stunning goal for Switzerland in their 3-1 Euro 2012 qualification defeat against England in September.

The Basel winger has since been linked with a move to a £2 million January move to Anfield, with Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson allegedly a key player in any potential deal.

Hodgson, 63, was the Switzerland national coach between 1992 and 1995 and is understood to still retain potentially influential contacts in the country's footballing hierarchy as he pursues the highly sought after Shaqiri.

A deal for Shaqiri would represent a coup for new Liverpool owners NESV and Hodgson who are want the Reds to be competing with the top clubs in Europe once again.

Hodgson commented recently that it is the vision of himself and John Henry that Liverpool will be competing for players with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona - and Shaqiri would certainly fall into that bracket.

The Liverpool manager said: "We want to be attracting the players that Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter are chasing. It would be nice to think that we can shop at a high level."

Liverpool have been linked with moves for an array of young talents including Israeli starlet Omri Altman and Shaqiri’s teammate Valentin Stocker in what is sure to be a busy January at Anfield.

Liverpool Join Race For Paris St Germain Centre-Back Mamadou Sakho

Liverpool are reportedly interested in highly-rated French centre-back Mamadou Sakho, who has also been linked with Arsenal, Juventus and AC Milan.

Sakho became the youngest ever captain in Ligue 1 when he was given the armband by Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in a game in the 2007/8 season when he was just 17 years and eight months old.

Sakho is a very complete defender able to play all across the backline. He is pacey, extremely strong and has excellent aerial ability. He is renowned as a very determined and hard working player. Sakho made his international debut against England at Wembley last week.

Sakho is contracted to PSG until the end of the 2011/2012 season, but he is currently in talks with his club about a new deal. In the meantime, Arsenal and Italian sides Juventus and AC Milan have been linked with a move for the 20-year-old.

According to Italian website Tutto Mercato, Liverpool is now also interested in Sakho. With the Anfield club finally under new ownership, speculation persists over what additions Roy Hodgson will make to his squad. It is unclear as yet how much money new owners NESV will make available to Hodgson. However, given Liverpool's shaky start to the season, a solid centre-back such as Sakho could be a possibility.

Martin Broughton Steps Down As Liverpool Chairman

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton is stepping down from his position to make way for NESV representative Tom Werner.

Broughton had been brought in to oversee the sale of the club and having finally completed the deal with John Henry and his NESV group to take over at Liverpool, he is now stepping aside for the new owners' man Tom Werner.

Broughton confirmed his exit, writing in Saturdays match program for the game against West Ham, "That evening's game was my last home fixture as Chairman.

"It was always my stated intention to stand down once the sale was completed and I am happy that the club is now in good hands.

"This has been one of the most memorable experiences of my working life and would like to wish Liverpool and its supporters every success for the future.

"Everybody associated with the club can now look forward to an exciting future with the right owners and the club on a secure financial footing.

"I am proud to have been chairman during this turbulent time and would like to thank you all for the support you gave me, Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and all the staff."

John Henry himself will reportedly be given the title at Anfield of Principal Owner.