Club Focus – Liverpool – Hodgson’s men prepare for Spurs test

Liverpool may have thrashed struggling West Ham at Anfield on Saturday, but fans will not be getting too carried away by the 3-0 result. Roy Hodgson’s men were by far superior to their opponents, but in truth this victory over the Premier League’s bottom side was inevitable.

The Reds were without influential skipper Steven Gerrard who was injured on international duty last week, but Anfield did not feel his absence as the rest of the team got on with their jobs and tormented Avram Grant’s side. But for Liverpool, although the result was important and took them to within three points of fifth-placed Bolton, this victory will be meaningless unless they now go on a good run.

Hodgson’s side outclassed champions Chelsea at Anfield a few weeks ago, but then went on to draw away at Wigan and lose against Stoke. The Reds are reasonably comfortable at home, but their away form is woeful and will need to improve drastically if they are to finish in a European spot come the end of the season. Liverpool fans know the facts and will resist the temptation to celebrate this win over West Ham for the time being.

However, should the Reds manage to secure victory over Champions League outfit Tottenham at White Hart Lane next week and then follow that result up with a home win over Villa, then supporters could be in for a better time. It will be interesting to see whether Roy Hodgson can encourage his side on to such results without the presence of Gerrard.

A key success for the former Fulham boss was the performance from right-back Glen Johnson against the Hammers. Johnson, who was publicly criticised by Hodgson recently, played his part by opening the scoring at Anfield. His performance may have been sparked by those negative comments and if so, credit must go to the manager who has got the best out of the defender. Should Johnson continue to perform as admirably in the future, then he is sure to avoid being embarrassed by the boss. Whether the England full-back can carry on so impressively against tougher opposition is another question.

That question may be answered as early as next weekend when Liverpool travel to north London to face Spurs. Johnson will come up against the ever-impressive Gareth Bale, in what should be an interesting test of the defender’s capabilities. Hodgson’s qualities as a manager will also come under scrutiny at White Hart Lane. His away record in the Premier League is terrible, largely thanks to his defensive approach to these games. The key question is – will he change his tactics to stop the rot away from home?

Overall, the week has been a mixed one for Liverpool. Although Steven Gerrard was ruled out for a month, three valuable Premier League points were always welcome at Anfield on Saturday. The Reds can leapfrog their next opponents, Spurs, should they beat Harry Redknapp’s mean by two clear goals. If they manage that, then the pressure will be lifted off Roy Hodgson’s shoulders once again.

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