You would expect nothing less from veteran coach Hodgson, who has built a respected reputation around the globe for his deft hand in the transfer market, supreme wisdom and diplomatic approach to football management. As one of the game’s elder statesmen, the 63-year-old has the knowledge and experience needed to fashion a Liverpool side capable of challenging for the top honours once more. Hodgson has not rushed his business in the transfer market and Liverpool have benefited from this steady approach in their summer re-building programme.
The revolving door at Anfield has been spinning throughout the summer with no fewer than eight new arrivals on Merseyside, set against the departure of four. In total, former Fulham manager Hodgson has generated around £30m through player sales and spent in the region of £23m on moulding and re-shaping his squad ahead of the new campaign. You would imagine the final £7m was earmarked for a new striker, yet Hodgson was left frustrated in his efforts to capture West Ham striker Carlton Cole on deadline day.
Effectively, taking into account the club’s enormous £350m debt, failure to find fresh investment and Hicks and Gillett’s imminent departure, Hodgson was not given any funds to transform the club from the league’s seventh best side into prospective Champions League contenders. Hodgson clearly knew this before taking the job and was forced to fund his spending by offloading the likes of want-away Spanish star Albert Riera and the aging Yossi Benayoun for a combined £10m. Javier Mascherano’s prolonged exit into the arms of Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola at the Nou Camp boosted the club’s coffers by a further £18m. The £2m sale of French midfielder Damien Plessis to Greek side Panathinaikos brings Hodgson’s total income to £30m.
Liverpool’s first new recruits were signed courtesy of former manager Rafael Benitez. Highly-rated England youngster JonJo Shelvey was signed in April for £1.7m and this did not use up any of this summer’s budget. Serbian forward Milan Jovanovic also arrived as a free transfer from Standard Liege and he showed at the World Cup and in his opening games for The Reds that he could well be an astute addition to Hodgson’s squad as a replacement for Riera on the left of midfield.
Hodgson’s first signing was England international Joe Cole from Chelsea, persuading the 28-year-old to snub the advances of Tottenham Hotspur, amongst others, to make the switch to Anfield. Cole should prove to be a fantastic signing for the five-time European champions and as a free transfer represents minimum risk. Persuading star players Fernando Torres and captain Steven Gerrard to stay is also a testament of Hodgson’s future vision for the club and keeping the pair could well be Hodgson’s best business of the summer.
The new Pool boss got ‘two for the price of one’ when he offloaded troublesome Argentine Mascherano to Barcelona, bringing in the experienced former Juventus star Christian Poulsen and cultured 27-year-old Raul Meireles from Porto for just under £18m. With Alberto Aquilani leaving on loan, the presence of Meireles and Poulsen in the heart of the Liverpool midfield will be a big bonus this season. Left-backs Paul Konchesky and Fabio Aurelio will add depth to the squad, as will new goalkeeper Brad Jones from Middlesbrough. Scottish Young Player of the Year Danny Wilson, who arrived from Rangers, is one to look out for in the future.
Hodgson’s failure to purchase a new striker, after admitting it was his priority just a few weeks ago, will leave fans frustrated however. Liverpool struggled without a proficient back-up striker for prolific Spanish international Torres last season and the pressure will again be on youngster David N’Gog to perform. The emergence of the highly-talented 19-year-old Daniel Pacheco could ease these concerns however and Jovanovic and Dutchman Dirk Kuyt can fill in when needed. Cole and Gerrard can also be used as support strikers.
Liverpool have built well over the summer and have increased their first-team options, as well as their youth prospects. Hodgson will be pleased with his business and fans should be comforted by their manager’s refusal to sign a forward just to make up the numbers. Despite this, Hodgson will know his failure to add a striker to the club’s ranks could cost his team in their hunt for honours this season.