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Ay, There's the Rub

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King Roy

For all that superficially Roy Hodgson's moment of face rubbing madness had an element of slapstick in its sudden violence, in the end it was more depressing than laughable. At its root it was a display of frustrated, impotent rage from a man who momentarily seemed to have snapped. He didn't know what to do, couldn't do more than stand and watch, and it reflected what I--and I'm sure many--following Liverpool have wanted to do time and again over his tenure.

People can talk about putting out a different squad, but in the end his selection was a fairly obvious one, and the one switch many were talking about ahead of time--Babel for a rusty Kuyt on the right--saw its counter when the industrious but at times lead-footed attacker's work rate momentarily overcame his poor form, leading to a lucky break and Liverpool's only goal. Some might also talk of Torres seeming off, suggesting that perhaps Babel should have instead been brought on for him fairly early in the second, yet this forgets that it is Fernando Torres being discussed and if any player's past performances have earned a bit of leeway for a mostly poor showing it is his. If Hodgson had indeed taken the striker off and Liverpool had still gone down to defeat, those same people would likely use that as a hammer with which to beat the manager, since "Everybody knows that even when Torres is having a rough go of it he's capable of pulling one moment of brilliance out of his hat and saving the day." Even the set up didn't seem overly wrong yesterday, with the fullbacks getting forward and pressing with a high line while multiple players moved into the Newcastle half and sought to exert pressure when possession was los.

So Meireles misplaced half his passes and made a Gerrard return in the middle more likely; so Kyrgiakos and Skrtel had two of the worst individual performances from Liverpool center-halves in recent memory; so Torres bottle perhaps the best Liverpool chance of the match; so N'Gog received a bloody gash that resulted in his enforced substitution and a decline in Liverpool's attacking threat; so Konchesky continued to be a kitted pylon. So what? For all the times in the past when it has seemed painfully obvious that the tactics of the manager were hindering the squad, this one time there were so many poor performances across the board that it became genuinely difficult to know just where to lay the blame.

In a lot of ways it was just "one of those games." There's never been a trophy winning side that hasn't had a few such head-scratching bumps along the road, and as cliché as it is to say it, sometimes that's just the way it goes in sports. In the end, then, Hodgson didn't do anything blindingly, obviously wrong, and yet it was still a heavy loss and he was stuck on the touchline with nothing to do but to snap.

The problem for fans and supporters, of course, is that this Liverpool--Hodgson's Liverpool--is very clearly not a serious contender for trophies. As a blip in an otherwise good season, a match like this is bound to happen. As another away loss in a generally disappointing campaign, well, it's just another away loss. His reaction may have been human and honest in the circumstances, certainly far more so than earlier chin scratches and attempts to burry his head in his jacket like a turtle, but the team played like shit on the road and it was another loss.

On one level his actions may have amused, but they really weren't that funny. If the season had been one long run of performances like recent outings against West Ham and Tottenham and Aston Villa some might even look to form a narrative about passion and a desire to win and how he cared as much as the supporters. Of course that hasn't been the story of the season taken as a whole, and so fair or not his actions get tied in to a very different narrative, because fair or not it was another defeat away from home for a man who has seen more than his share of such.