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How to Win Friends and Influence People

Anguished Hodgson
...and then the dog ate my homework!
You have to believe me!

"We're not overly blessed with centre-halves," he says...

And I feel as though I've gone to the proverbial well too many times already in recent weeks, but Roy Hodgson waits for no man. He's certainly not sitting there asking himself if saying yet another daft thing will give Noel a hard time when he doesn't really want to put out a Tuesdays with Roy every second day. And now I've gone and referred to myself in the third person, and that just fills Noel with an unpleasant loathsome feeling like you wouldn't believe.

This week it's his moans about losing "talismanic center-half" Jamie Carragher, and as much as his

last-ditch blocked shot against Spurs may have argued that he still has a valuable place as a squad member, the slow fade of what little pace he ever had along with his penchant to hoof first and ask questions later don't quite line up with how I've always understood the term "talismanic" to be used, in football or otherwise. For all his valuable years of service, and for all that there may have been times not so long ago that the Kop would sing of a team of Carraghers, it would be more than a bit of a stretch to suggest that as he went so too went Liverpool. Now it's not that I don't want to see Hodgson speak well of our players, but it is a little jarring to see him heap mountains of praise on a center back in the twilight of his career before he turns around and once again belittles the healthy players Liverpool does have at hand.

Most would agree that of all the potential weak points in this squad, the heart of defense is hardly one to lose sleep over even with both Agger and Carragher currently injured. After all, Skrtel has been the starter more often than not when healthy for Hodgson, so it's fair to say he still very much has one of his first choice center backs available. Then there is Kyrgiakos, quite possibly the strongest fourth choice in the league and a player very much on form who has started more than his fair share of matches this term and quite possibly been Liverpool's best defender--and at times their best player, period--when he's done so. From that standpoint the loss of depth seen with the injuries to Carragher and Agger might be worrisome, but with Agger looking to get back to fitness soon and hardly featuring before his enforced layoff it hardly seems end of the world stuff.

What Hodgson is doing is building his excuses. It doesn't matter if on form Skrtel-Kyrgiakos is probably a better pairing for right now than Skrtel-Carragher. It doesn't matter that most would rather see Agger start than Carragher once the former is healthy. And it doesn't matter that in Kelly, Wilson, and Ayala Liverpool just might have the three best young center half prospects in the league on the club's payroll. Because Hodgson isn't actually talking about Jamie Carragher or Sotirios Kyrgiakos or Danny Wilson when he bemoans the loss of his talismanic, all-world all-time starting defender and the supposed dearth of options to replace him with. He is only once again, as ever, talking about--and worrying about--himself.

This apparent defeatism is really nothing but a thinly transparent attempt to build in an excuse should the team stumble in the coming weeks. Most keen observers know that Carragher's injury, though unfortunate, is hardly cause for a bout of hair pulling and a rush to find a sympathetic deity. It seems, however, to be a glorious opportunity for Roy Hodgson to once again make it look as though anything that goes wrong isn't his fault, it's beyond his control, it's the conspiring of cruel fate or incompetent former managers. Don't get me wrong, losing Carragher is a blow, but it isn't the blow our manager tried to make it out to be. And the options with him out aren't anywhere near as thin or poor as he again tried to suggest. For all that Hodgson may have appeared painfully slow on the uptake since joining the club, one could never call him slow to grab the slightest opportunity to bolster his own image by putting himself ahead of the players he manages and club he works for.

It's preemptive excuse making. Again. Just in case. Because if there's one thing a manager has to do it's set out the narrative that will put them in the best light no matter what happens. Or maybe a manager's supposed to put the club first and do his job managing the players he does have. It's getting harder and harder to remember which this season.

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