Hodgson hits back at doubters

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his team have been unfairly criticised because of the early-season defeats to Northampton and Blackpool.

Saturday’s 3-0 win over West Ham at Anfield was achieved with the minimum amount of fuss against a side who struggled to rise above mediocre.

The Reds’ fourth victory in six Premier League matches came on the back of a defeat at Stoke the previous week, but it lifted them to within touching distance of the top four.

Having endured their worst start to a campaign since 1953/54 with six points from eight games, they have now accrued 13 from their last six.

And Hodgson is more than happy with his side’s recent form, claiming too much emphasis has been placed on the Carling Cup defeat to Northampton and league slip-up against Blackpool.

"There are two games this year which have done us untold damage," he said.

"The first was when a total reserve team – although it does not seem to have been noticed we had 14 first-team players who didn’t play – lost to Northampton in the Carling Cup.

"The other was the disastrous (2-1) defeat to Blackpool at the end of a three-match week when we played in Europe.

"Those two defeats were costly for us because they encouraged people to make bold conclusions but we’ve lost once in eight (in all competitions).

"There are still a lot of things to do but what pleased me against West Ham was the shape, discipline and organisation of the team.

"If we can keep that going with the quality of players we have got we can have a good season.

"Don’t ask me what a good season is because I don’t know but after the start we have had where we are now is making us feel pretty pleased."

Glen Johnson returned after a three-match absence with a groin injury to score the first and put in a display which suggested he could very quickly rediscover his marauding form of old.

The England international chested down Raul Meireles’ corner to fire home before Dirk Kuyt converted from the spot after Danny Gabbidon’s handball and Maxi Rodriguez headed in left-back Paul Konchesky’s cross – all in the first 38 minutes.

West Ham were complicit in allowing their hosts the time and space they needed to pick them apart but there were small signs Hodgson’s blueprint is beginning to take shape.

And his two full-backs are set to play a pivotal role.

"Glen was very good in everything he did, as was Paul on the other side," added Hodgson.

"It was nice to see Glen scoring the first goal and Paul crossing for the third because we do try to do some work in getting our full-backs in advanced positions by using the space the midfield players create.

"It gives you a chance to cause your opponents more problems because your movements drag them around.

"If you play with wingers up there who hug the line all the time it is a little bit easier to mark them rather than having players who move off the line into other positions.

"If you can work on that aspect to your play and you have full-backs who know when to go forward and exploit the space and, more importantly, can deliver the ball then you have half a chance."

Central midfield was expected to be a concern with Gerrard our injured but the much-criticised Christian Poulsen had his best game since arriving in the summer, admittedly against weak opposition.

Meireles lalso ooked much happier operating centrally, where he does for Portugal, than he has done out wide.

"We work hard every day to win games but sometimes we don’t win but we showed great football against West Ham," said the 27-year-old.

"I feel more comfortable playing in the middle but I play where the coach wants."