Early Doors

Let the Merseyside sack race begin

Early Doors

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Sunday October 17, 13:30 at Goodison Park - stick it in the diary right now because it could be a Premier League managerial eviction special. David Moyes or Roy Hodgson? Who goes? The Merseyside derby decides.

Moyes has been at Everton for eight largely successful years while Hodgson has been at Liverpool barely eight minutes, but unless the two Scouse teams buck up and start producing some quality performances soon then both managers are going to have their heads firmly on the chopping block come derby day.

We will start with Everton whose miserable start to the season reached a new low last night as they crashed out of the Carling Cup to lowly League One outfit Brentford.

Everton's seasons under David Moyes have traditionally always been a bit like a Ken Loach movie - they start off very slowly but usually reach a fairly satisying climax despite some obvious budgetary constraints.

However, over the last year or so, a better approximation would be the London Underground - devoid of any noticeable improvement and now full of useless strikers.

No doubt Moyes has been an excellent manager for Everton over the years, but Liverpool fans would be the first to admit that sometimes you can hang on to a manger for a little too long.

A palpable stench of staleness hovered over Anfield during the final seasons of both Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez, to such an extent that the famed patience usually extolled upon Liverpool managers may now be revoked forever; but more on that later...

Back to Everton and their current situation: they have just two points in the league, they're not in Europe, they're out of the Carling Cup and none of their forwards - whether it be Louis Saha or Jermaine Beckford or Yakubu or Victor Anichebe or whoever - looks to be nearly as good an option up front as midfielder Tim Cahill.

It all looks pretty grim for them and it could well be about to get grimmer.

Their next two games are away against Fulham and Birmingham, tough opponents, but unheralded enough to make you look bad if they beat you. So if there is no victory in either of those two, then a home defeat to their rivals from across Stanley Park might just fuel a desire for change at Goodison Park that sees Moyes's tenure finally come to an end

In contrast to Everton, Liverpool's matches in the run-up to the derby all look eminently winnable but with that comes its own kind of pressure.

Everyone banged on about how the Reds' clash at Manchester United at the weekend was their biggest match of the season so far, but at the same time nobody really expected them to get anything out of that game either.

However, now they face Northampton at home in the Carling Cup, then Sunderland at home in the league, then they travel to face Utrecht in the Europa League, before another home league match with Blackpool.

The two league games in particular are absolutely huge for Hodgson and a slip-up in either will no doubt lead to an already unconvinced supporter base questioning whether the man who did so well with little old Fulham has the cojones to take on the challenge of a beast like Liverpool.

Make no bones about it, Liverpool have been awful in the Premier League this season. They laboured to their only win at home to West Brom, and while Hodgson claimed his side showed fighting spirit and quality against United, in truth they were gifted their way back into the game by a clumsy Jonny Evans tackle and a defensive 'wall' that had more space in it than the Milky Way.

Already there has been some grumbling in the camp, with Daniel Agger back-tracking on some ill-advised comments he made in his native Denmark at the weekend.

And Hodgson's policy at Fulham - where the system, and not the players, always ruled - might not be compatible with a side that is so reliant on a select few individual talents like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Joe Cole.

Of course, Liverpool's current malaise has nothing to do with Hodgson, but with clubs like Tottenham and Manchester City having now stepped up firmly to their level; and teams like Chelsea and Manchester United way ahead of them; Liverpool don't have time to stick around and give someone who is unsuitable 'a fair crack of the whip' - especially as much of their future depends on getting in new owners who might want to bring in their own manager anyway.

Saying that Hodgson is already under pressure after just five games might sound like extreme hyperbole, but if the poor results continue over the next four games and are then compounded by a derby day defeat - then, like a poker player with a middling hand - Liverpool will have a tough decision to make. Hold or fold?

The stakes are huge.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If Mousa has avoided serious injury, then he is a very lucky boy considering the tackle. His career could have been put at risk. I just don't know what the Stoke player was thinking about at that stage of the game. There is supposed to be a certain code of conduct in such circumstances. With the result of the match assured, you should look after the wellbeing of fellow pros and protect them. Instead we saw an absolutely ridiculous challenge, utterly unnecessary and possibly placing Mousa's entire career at risk." - No, it is not another anti-Stoke rant from Arsene Wenger but from Fulham boss Mark Hughes this time who was furious with Andy Wilkinson's late challenge on Mousa Dembele, which could leave the Belgian on the sidelines for a lengthy period alongside fellow striker Bobby Zamora.

FOREIGN VIEW: Lewis Holtby, a 20-year-old striker with an English father, scored twice last night to help little Mainz 05 maintain their perfect start to the Bundesliga season by beating Cologne 2-0. Sign him up Fabio - it's not like the Germans have any problems scoring goals, and they get all their strikers from Poland anyway. Meanwhile, also in the Bundesliga last night, Bayern Munich's playmaker Franck Ribery limped off with an ankle injury midway through their 2-1 win at Hoffenheim and the club fear the Frenchman could be out for some time.

COMING UP: Follow live commentary of Scunthorpe v Manchester Utd 19:45, and keep updated with every other score, including Liverpool's game with Northampton and Chelsea v Newcastle, via our Carling Cup multiplex. We also have a double bill from La Liga as a Messi-less Barcelona take on Sporting Gijon (19:00) before surprise league leaders Valencia host Atleticto Madrid (21:00). And from Serie A we have full live comments of Lazio's clash with Milan (19:45).

Finally, those of you who haven't already been the result of the fifth and final ODI between England and Pakistan by a dodgy bookie can follow live scoring and comments from 13:30. It should be frosty.

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