Have we, I wonder, stumbled upon a perfect storm of managerial changes?
We had Roy Hodgson to stabilise a team that didn’t know whether it was coming or going. That was great and successful.
But had he stayed in charge there’s a risk that the team would have grown older and staler together. At no point did Hodgson seem inclined to bring in young players. I mean, he was a fine judge of talent and I’m sure could have replenished his team, but we can’t know how long this would have lasted.
So in some ways it worked out quite well that he left for Liverpool. Mark Hughes appreciated what was in place but felt it needed shaking a little. So he worked with what he had, phasing out certain elements while bringing in more flair. He made Clint Dempsey into the team’s main attacking threat (while Dempsey had his moments under Hodgson he never rose above what Duncan Jenkins might call the Parrot Pit).
In retrospect this worked well, too. The team didn’t lose its identity, but started to transition away from the big discipline and associated limitations of Hodgson’s style.
The thing is, the players still had Hodgson’s coaching in their bones. So even though the midfield might not be as quick to get back or as perfectly positioned when they do so, they still knew what good team defending was all about. When the time was right, Danny Murphy could organise his midfield into a ‘safety mode’, the team could be very hard to beat when they had to be.
It’s hard to know exactly how these things work, but now, as we see Martin Jol’s team turn in a sizzling performance to destroy Norwich (the fourth time in just over a season we’ve scored five or more goals, right?), we seem to have stumbled upon the best of all worlds. Jol’s attacking play built on the Hodgson/Hughes base seems to be a perfect match. And while we all know that we won’t win 5-0 every game, if this team stays injury free there’s no telling what might be possible.
Richard Allen started this website in 2006.