Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson blasts critics: You wrote us off far too early this season

22 November 2010 10:21
Making his point: Roy Hodgson watched his Liverpool team beat West Ham on Saturday

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson believes his team have been tainted by two matches which have done 'untold damage' but insists the improvement from the start of the season shows they were written off too early.

Liverpool's 3-0 win over West Ham at Anfield on Saturday evening was achieved with the minimum amount of fuss - somewhat helpfully in the injury-enforced absence of captain Steven Gerrard - 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, and 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.

Encouraging performances from Raul Meireles, given the freedom of central midfield by the Hammers, and Glen Johnson show there can be optimism despite Gerrard being sidelined for a month.

Hodgson thinks, however, that his side is still being judged on their early-season form.

'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 one defeat 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.'

Right-back 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.

Eye for goal: Glen Johnson fires home Liverpool's first goal against West Ham

The England international chested down 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.

On the spot: Dirk Kuyt scores with a penalty against West Ham

'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 and Jay Spearing both out for the foreseeable future and Lucas Leiva suspended but the much-criticised Christian Poulsen had his best game since arriving in the summer, admittedly against weak opposition.

Meireles looked 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.'

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 Explore more:People: Glen Johnson, Danny Gabbidon, Paul Konchesky, Roy Hodgson, Dirk Kuyt, Christian Poulsen, Maxi Rodriguez, Steven Gerrard Places: Liverpool, Portugal, United Kingdom, Europe

Source: Daily_Mail