Hodgson: Fitness is the key
Roy Hodgson believes Liverpool can be successful this season if he can keep his key players fit. Pivotal among them will be striker Fernando Torres, who in three seasons with the Reds has yet to get through an entire campaign injury-free.
Last season was the Spain international's worst to date on Merseyside as he struggled with a groin problem before Christmas and then, afterwards, underwent two knee operations in four months, the second of which prematurely ended his domestic involvement. Other players missed sections of last season with captain Steven Gerrard, defenders Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Fabio Aurelio and the now-departed Yossi Benayoun affected.
It is something Hodgson knows he has little control over but he hopes, with the medical staff having had an overhaul during the summer with a new head of sports science in Dr Peter Brukner, that overall fitness will generally improve and contribute to more success on the pitch.
"It's to do with the quality of the sports science and medical department," said the 62-year-old. "Ours is very, very good, so I am sure that will be an enormous benefit. The other thing is how big a squad you've got to enable players to be rested when they need it, and to ensure they're not being thrown into situations all the time where really and truly they'd have been better off having a rest.
"If we are to proceed in the Europa League (Liverpool face Trabzonspor in a two-legged play-off) it is going to mean an awful lot of matches, so the strength and size of our squad will be of vital importance. It doesn't matter if you're Fernando Torres or anybody else, to play three games a week for something like 35-40 weeks of the year is an impossible task at the level we're playing at.
"But matches are won by players who go out onto the field; the better the players you've got to put on the field, the more chance you have of winning matches," he added. "In this convoluted world of football today we try to find excuses and reasons for things all over the place and forget sometimes the most important people in the game of football are those guys you pay to go and watch."
One player who has experienced his fair share of injuries at Anfield is Fabio Aurelio who, with cover at left-back thin on the ground, was re-signed by Hodgson last month having left the club at the end of the seaon. The Brazilian, who made just 23 appearances last season, is determined to seize his opportunity.
"When you are in a top side like Liverpool you will always have competition for your place," he said. "I know they are looking for another full-back but if I can concentrate on my job and do well, hopefully that can convince the boss that I can be the first choice. I am thankful to the manager that I am back here. He wanted me to come back and now I want to repay him on the pitch, where I hope to be for most of the time this season."
Despite bringing back Aurelio, Hodgson has warned all of his squad that they cannot hope to exist on past reputations. "My job will only be made easier if they perform like big players. Names don't win you anything, football players do," he said. "Sometimes football players can get names and cease to be the player they were - but that has not been the case with the players we've got here and I am sincerely hoping it won't be the case in the future. We've got to hope Liverpool Football Club will continue to have the players who can get out and win football matches."