Liverpool's new owners have been warned that even the sacking of Roy Hodgson might not be enough to stave off an exodus of their key players, including Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina. Although the manager's departure appears inevitable, and the two Spanish players would not leave during the winter transfer window, frustration at the club's inertia means they will go in the summer if they are not convinced by the new manager and handed reassurances of major investment.
The choice currently before Liverpool's owners, John W Henry and Tom Werner, is a huge one which will bring with it significant consequences. For some senior players sacking Hodgson is a step in the right direction. But while Hodgson continuing at the club would guarantee summer departures, his exit does not necessarily mean that Liverpool will be able to keep hold of their most important assets. With Liverpool immersed in a sale process last summer moves were blocked for Steven Gerrard, Torres and Reina; this year, it will be harder to prevent their departure. Liverpool quoted prices so prohibitive as to be a "not for sale" sign. At the same time reassurances were made regarding ambitions. Hopes had been pinned on new ownership and massive investment. As yet only half of that proposition has come to pass.
The arrival of a recognized, high-achieving coach will be vital if they are not to push for a transfer. Didier Deschamps, who was interviewed for the job last summer and remains a favoured candidate, appeared to rule himself out yesterday. The Marseille coach said: "When I talk about being the coach of Marseille in the new stadium, I mean it. It is an idea that pleases me. Now, 2014 is a very long way away in my profession. But I have said people should understand I am not a tramp. I proved it last year. I could have left."
Key Anfield squad members have been dismayed by the lack of activity from the new owners since they took over in mid‑October.
The lack of activity in this transfer window only increases that impression, with the club currently considering an offer for the Tottenham defender Vedran Corluka. Players feel that promises have been broken before and will not endure another season of underachievement and uncertainty.
Possible destinations are already being studied in case they should be required, but no decisions have been taken. Those clubs that tabled bids for Gerrard, Torres, Reina and Dirk Kuyt last summer are not necessarily expected to return 12 months on. The players are not expected to consider a move to Manchester United.
Following Liverpool's 3-1 defeat against Blackburn Hodgson refused to discuss a possible sacking, saying: "I am not prepared to talk about my future. At this moment I am depressed enough with the performance and the result. I am not here to talk about that. I have no comments to make and I don't intend to answer any questions on the subject." The club's director of communications then brought the press conference to a close and there was no indication from the owners today that they intend to change manager before Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie at Manchester United.
But Hodgson's days at Anfield are numbered. Fans have railed against him – he was met with graffiti at the club's training ground yesterday – and pressure builds to replace him. Progress is stalled by the absence of a chief executive at Anfield and the fact that the New England Sports Ventures group that owns the club continues to be based in the United States.
There has also been little opportunity over the Christmas period properly to discuss the club's next move. Kenny Dalglish, who currently occupies an ambassadorial role, made it clear that he wanted the manager's job in the summer before the former regime employed Hodgson – and he is still keen to take charge. There is, however, a reluctance to make a definitive decision at this stage, which only increases the uncertainty. With the situation being monitored closely by key players, it is a decision that must be made carefully.