Hodgson hits back at doubters

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.”