Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Outspoken Houllier in a Tight Corner after Sermon on Sunday

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Outspoken Houllier in a Tight Corner after Sermon on Sunday

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE STAMMERS

SHOULD Liverpool lose to Arsenal tomorrow the after-match press conference could be a cracker.

Since Gerard Houllier has already described the game as "make or break", he will presumably have to admit that defeat has broken their season - and even concede the title in the first week of October.

All will be revealed if Liverpool repeat the sort of performance which prompted Houllier's outburst following his side's 3-2 defeat at Charlton on Sunday. But experienced Houllier watchers are not holding their breath.

Chances are he will adopt the classic defence of all managers who say something and then realise it was an enormous gaffe. A misquote or a misinterpretation taken out of context: you can almost hear the Frenchman prepare his defence in front of the Sky cameras.

On Merseyside the jury remains out on Houllier. While any opposition to the management regime rarely manifests itself on matchdays at Anfield, if letters to the local newspapers and callers to radio phone-ins are an accurate gauge, then Houllier cannot count on unconditional support in his quest to break the Arsenal-Manchester United duopoly for the Premiership title.

The most worrying aspect for the fans is that the team have not made progress, appearing to lack thrust.

The fact Houllier did not capitalise on the chance of bringing Nicolas Anelka to Liverpool on a permanent basis is revealing.

Houllier likes order and discipline in the dressing room and is suspicious of any maverick spirit. Robbie Fowler is no longer at Liverpool, for instance, and neither is Anelka.

The French attacker may have his quirks - he once took to signing his autograph in Chinese - and replica shirts bearing his name are a collector's item around Highbury way after the problems he caused. But he can play. He has pace and strength in abundance and Liverpool could have had him. …

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