Since arriving at Liverpool from Juventus in August, Danish international Christian Poulsen has sparked much discussion amongst the Anfield faithful.
Poulsen has made 12 appearances in a Liverpool shirt, but he has not started a Premier League game since the shock 2-1 home defeat to Blackpool at the beginning of October.
To say he has struggled to find his form and win over the supporters this season may be something of an understatement, but he now seems to have reached the nadir; when replacing Dirk Kuyt as a second half substitute in the 1-1 draw at Wigan on Wednesday night, his appearance was heralded by a chorus of boos from the away end.
The dilemma I find myself faced with is this: ‘are we expecting too much too soon from Poulsen, or is he out of his depth at Liverpool?’
Certainly he has had successful spells at Copenhagen, FC Schalke and Sevilla, as well as Juventus, so he seems to be no mug, and of course there are many foreign players who have initially found it difficult to adapt to the pace and style of Premiership football.
Poulsen admits he is still trying to find his feet at his new club. He said: “I’m still trying to settle in. I have only been here for three months and it has been a very hard start, not just for me but also for the club. I haven’t done as well as I would have liked.”
However, the Dane is determined to turn things around, adding: “Do I feel I have to prove myself? Yes, for sure. I have got to work harder because I have been brought in. I’m trying to work hard at Melwood [theLiverpool training ground] and I hope that, after some time, I can improve. I want to show the fans that I can help the team and I am a good player.”
His manager, Roy Hodgson, has also acknowledged that the player has had a difficult start to his Liverpool career.
Speaking of the booing of the player following his introduction during the Wigan game, Hodgson said: “Unfortunately I can’t do anything about the fans, but he’s had one or two games in front of our crowd where he’s not played well. He’s devastated by that and the crowd, who aren’t stupid, know he’s not played well, it’s a fact of life.”
However, Poulsen will be heartened by the fact that, despite his failure to impress so far, he has the support of his manager. Hodgson stated: “He’s got quality, he’s a good defensive midfield player. Every player gets sad if they’re not immediately accepted by the crowd or their performances aren’t good enough to do that. But he’s doing his best and people have bad games. I have every faith in him.”
Furthermore, after receiving such a dispiriting reception in the Wigan game, Poulsen responded by giving a much-improved midfield performance, prompting Hodgson to say: “His introduction secured the point at least because he was very good when he came on. He didn’t miss a pass and won several challenges.
“That’s what he was on there to do and he will get better. Without his introduction, with a very tired Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt, who knows we could even have lost the game.”
So, will Poulsen build on this performance and answer his critics? Only time will tell. Hodgson intends to freshen things up for the difficult game away at Stoke tomorrow, so the Dane may well find himself starting his first Premiership game for several weeks. It can be argued that with his display at Wigan he won a minor skirmish, he now needs to concentrate on winning the major battles if he wants to secure a place for himself in the hearts of the Liverpool fans.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.