Hodgson gets real over Liverpool's Premier League ambitions
With the signing of Joe Cole, the seemingly imminent takeover at Anfield and Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres's respective commitments to the club, expectations among Liverpool's fans has soared this summer and are reaching a peak ahead of tomorrow's match with Arsenal.
Yet although Tom Hicks and George Gillett may soon be going after three debt-riddled and controversial years as Liverpool's owners and although Roy Hodgson has done exactly what he was employed for — stabilised the club — the good news is likely to stop there, according to the manager.
As far as he is concerned, it is time for some realism.
He has dampened down any wild hopes relating to the season ahead and accepted that he has simply not had enough time to impose his ideas on his new squad —— with depressing consequences.
“After seven training sessions with what I regard as the key players, it is pretty obvious to all that we are a long, long way from being a team like Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea,” he said yesterday at the unveiling of the midfielder Christian Poulsen.
“I don't even pretend that the team, after six or seven training sessions, are going to be anything like the team we want to be.
“It would be ridiculous to suggest that we can be at the top of our game now in terms of how I want the team to play,” said Hodgson, who also revealed that Liverpool's Board had met in London yesterday, suggesting that a potential takeover bid could be nearing completion.
He may not have Liverpool playing in the manner he wants but he certainly knows whom he wants — and that list includes Javier Mascherano, despite the Argentine publicly stating that he wants to leave the club.
A reunion with Rafael Benitez at Internazionale has been widely expected but Hodgson believes the Argentina captain is not going anywhere — for the time being.
“At the moment I can quite categorically state there has been no offer from any club for Javier Mascherano,” Hodgson said.
“I don't want to let Javier go. At the moment, Javier has shown no signs of going, so it's not a question of replacing him.
“I believe Javier is going to play for us and I believe Christian is going to play for us. I am happy to have both players.
“This is a big club, a club with hopefully a lot of games to play this year and we're going to need a lot of players.
“We made it clear to him that if the offer he wanted came along, we probably would not stand in his way.
“But that offer has not come along and he's working hard to play for Liverpool.
“I think the fans will judge him by what he does on the field of play,” Hodgson said when asked what kind of reception he will get after announcing that he wants to leave.
“If he plays well, does his job and is part of a winning Liverpool team then he'll be very popular. If he plays badly and costs us games then no doubt he won't be too popular at all.
“I don't think it is much more complicated than that.”
Mascherano has also played the diplomacy card, insisting that if he does leave it is because he is tired of Liverpool as a place not Liverpool as a club.
“I know that if I can go to another country maybe it will be better for my life and when I say my life it's not just me, it's also my family and everything else,” he said.
“But I have to say that everyone has treated me fantastically well at Liverpool from the very first day that I arrived.
“This is why I have to stress that it is not about the club. If I leave Liverpool it will not be for another Premier League club.”
Meanwhile, Torres could feature against Arsenal following a swifter than expected recovery from injury.
He has been out since injuring his thigh in Spain's victory over Netherlands in the World Cup final but is making impressive progress and could be employed from the bench.
Should he make an opening weekend return, Torres will get the opportunity to prove that his star is still very much in the ascendancy after a disappointing World Cup during which he struggled to find form and failed to find the net.
And Hodgson has hailed the striker’s work ethic in a bid to make sure he was ready for the boss’ league baptism of fire at Anfield.
“He's made a remarkable effort to get himself fit and ready for Premiership football,” Hodgson said.
“He's worked extremely hard in the two and a half weeks he's been back and I haven't ruled him out — but I haven't ruled him in either.”
Should the Spaniard not make it, David Ngog could keep hold of his place up front.