Opposition View - Liverpool
Has the season gone as expected?
In many ways, yes. Most realistic Liverpool fans always believed this would be another transitional year where we struggled to make an impact on the top four. Broadly speaking, results wise at least, we've not improved a great deal on last season but given the amount of youngsters Brendan Rodgers has bloodied and the more aesthetically pleasing style of play deployed, we certainly have reasons to be optimistic. He's also put a lot of structural work in place behind the scenes to do with coaching, fitness, performance analysis and the academy which will hopefully bare fruit in future seasons.
What is your personal target for next year?
Given the groundwork of this season, the greater experience of playing under Rodgers and a few summer additions (especially at centre back), I think we will improve next season. Top four will always be the target and the club desperately needs the money and glamour associated with playing in the Champions League. Without it, bridging the gap back to winning things regularly will be even more difficult.
Has Brendan Rodgers surprised you in any way?
Not really. His philosophies and tactics etc were well documented before he arrived and he hasn't disappointed on that front. From a personality point of view he comes across as a decent, open guy - certainly a lot more enthusiastic and media friendly than his predecessors Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson, which is refreshing.
Any comments to make over the Suarez banning?
Plenty but everyone is probably sick of reading about it by now! I predicted ten matches, based largely on a cumulative effect of his past misdemeanours, so the severity of ban came as no surprise. However, it's the inconsistencies that wrangle. How can leg-breaking, potentially career ending tackles often just get the mandatory three match violent conduct charge but a fairly harmless, if inexcusable and shocking, bite be deemed worthy of ten? Is it because it's Suarez? Quite possibly.
Have Liverpool given up in the league now or is there anything left to play for?
The season has pretty much been over for a while sadly. Finishing above Everton would offer some solace I suppose but even that looks tough after three straight draws and only one win in five. The Toffees do have to visit Anfield still so sixth might be possible. We finished eighth last year so even a final position of seventh, as looks likely, will represent an improvement of sorts.
What do you make of the job Alan Pardew has done this season?
Not a lot. After how well you did last season, this year has turned into a bit of a disaster. Some of it is probably down to the board as well though for naively handing out ridiculously long contracts to Pardew and his staff and then not building on the 5th placed finish by investing in the summer. January saw you go from one extreme to another by bringing in lots of new players - too many to bed into the side at once successfully.
How would you rate the performances of Newcastle this season?
On your day you've still turned in some very good performances but you appear to rely heavily on a lot of talented individuals like Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse and not the collective team. That said, injuries to key personnel such as Fabricio Coloccini have obviously not helped. I very much doubt you'll go down though and there's a decent team there potentially so hopefully this season is just a blip.
Which player do you fear most today?
Ben Arfa; when fit and on form he can be unplayable. The technically gifted Frenchman has pace and skill in abundance and I also like the fact he is versatile and can play right across the attacking midfield areas and even up front behind a striker.
If you could have a free pick at three of our players, which three would you pick?
Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Tim Krul.
Do you see us challenging again next season (if we survive) for top 6?
I don't see why not. There's certainly the nucleus of a good team there but you may struggle to retain your best players after the season you have had. Keeping the likes of Cisse, Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Cheick Tiote will almost certainly determine aspirations for next season.
How do you view Mike Ashley? Good owner or bad?
He seemed to suddenly grasp what he was doing a year or two back but then the contract situation, renaming St James' and a lack of summer investment undid a lot of his good work. Initially Ashley come across as a bit of a clown who treated the club as a hobby that could amuse him on a Saturday afternoon. Although, as we can testify when it comes to owners, there are far worse ones out there.
How would we find most success against you lot? What's the weakness?
Defensively we've not been great this season especially at corners and set pieces. There is also a school of thought that a bit of pace can get in behind us given Jamie Carragher's advancing years and the fact both full-backs play high up the park.
Can you name a probable XI that Rodgers will start with?
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Henderson, Gerrard, Coutinho, Downing, Sturridge.
(Returning the compliment) If you could pick a mixed NUFC/Liverpool XI, what would it be?
Am I allowed to pick Suarez? If so: Reina, Johnson, Coloccini, Agger, Santon, Lucas, Cabaye, Gerrard, Coutinho, Ben Arfa, Suarez.
Finally, predict the game...
2-2. I think Newcastle's greater need for the points will see you get something from the game.
Thanks Gavin and may the best team win.... as long as it's us for a change.
To view the alternative article on the Liverpool site where it's us in the hotseat, click here
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