In his four Premier League games so far, Hodgson has managed to stem what was looking like certain relegation and is currently undefeated. While Liverpool will be another tough test after facing Arsenal last time around, Hodgson, who, despite not yet managing a clean sheet, has got the Baggies playing much more like a complete unit, and his naturally defensive outlook will be an intriguing contest for Dalglish’s preferred counter-attacking tactics.
Since Hodgson left Anfield his replacement has had the team at times packing the midfield, looking for interceptions and tackles to win the ball, before launching rapid breaks against out of position opponents. A very effective ploy against teams who look to get numbers forward during attacks, such as the West Brom of 2010, but he can, however, also mix it up, as shown with his three-man central defence against Chelsea, starving the strong Blues attack of attacking space.
Hodgson will undoubtedly be looking for the same thing he has implemented at every club or national team throughout his career: solidity. Although not known for their pocket-tight defence – more true than ever this season, with only 7% of home games ending in a clean sheet – West Brom have shown plenty of recent determination at the back, as evidenced in their limiting of Stoke City’s bruising forward line to just a single goal at the Britannia. By its very nature, the solid defensive banks and slow build-from-the-back game slows matches down and requires careful unlocking by opposing teams. Dalglish has proven very responsive to his opponents in his current Anfield spell, in terms of adapting his tactics to exploit weaknesses, but his side will need to do a lot of pressing and probing on Saturday, and the result could be determined by whether or not they manage it.
The collapse against Arsenal last time out for the Baggies, despite them managing to cling on to a point, would have been frustrating for the former Inter, and he will have had his charges doing extra work because of it, especially ahead of another dangerous team in the final third in the shape of Liverpool. Hodgson’s recent record against the Reds is very good defensively, having conceded just three goals in five games, and he will certainly be looking for a clean sheet if he is to get something from the fixture.
Should Hodgson’s players manage to keep their composure against an exceptionally dynamic forward line that includes the monstrous Andy Carroll and the silky Luis Suarez, they have the talent at the other end to cause damage. In the end, the points will most likely go to the manager who most effectively reads his opposite number, be that by Hodgson effectively slowing Liverpool’s threat, or Dalglish finding a way behind West Brom’s hard working unit.