View From Anfield
Did the season start match your expectations?
It's exceeded them to be honest. We finished last season well and strengthened over the summer so expectations were higher than they had been for a while but I doubt many supporters would have expected us to be setting the pace alongside Arsenal. Other than the poor home performance against Southampton and undeserved League Cup exit at Manchester United, we have had a very successful first couple of months.
What is the personal target for this season?
Champions League qualification is always the target given the size of the club and the revenue and glamour connected with participation in Europe's top tier. Having not participated in the competition since 2009-10 it is even more important we get back there asap. I really think we can do it this season and ironically the lack of European football should help us.
Has Brendan Rodgers changed anything about the formation this time round?
He has changed things around on a couple of occasions this season when certain personnel have been unavailable etc. Possessing a number of quality centre-backs allowed us to convert to three at the back recently and that has worked really well, especially going forward with Luis Suarez back. A 3-5-2/5-3-2 allows Suarez and Daniel Sturride to work more as a partnership than in the previous 4-2-3-1 formation that we regularly operated.
How do the fans feel about Suarez now? Is he forgiven?
Forgiven but his behaviour will probably never be forgotten. After all the backing the club and fans have given him through his various indiscretions, Suarez's actions in trying to engineer a move over the summer were disgraceful. However, given the fickle nature of fans, if he continues to perform and score goals then we will happily overlook it, for now at least. There is no doubt we are a far better team with the controversial Uruguayan in the line-up; almost every side in world football would be.
Are Liverpool genuine title or top 4 contenders?
Top four, yes, but not the title for me. We are certainly heading in the right direction but it is probably too early for title talk. The league is certainly much more open this season but over the course of a 38 game season I think the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will prove too strong. Their squads are far better and if things need changing they will always have additional finances over us to invest come January.
What do you make of the job Alan Pardew is doing?
I think Pardew is doing ok considering everything he has to deal with. The ownership uncertainty, lack of investment and confusing structure off the field are all potentially decisive factors in ending a manager's reign.
From an outsiders perspective, how do you see the Ashley, JFK and Pardew love triangle?
Bizarre. I've never agreed with having someone other than the manager dealing with player recruitment etc but I like the idea even less if the person bought in is effectively the owner's mate, has been out of the game for ages and has an abrasive nature on the level of Joe Kinnear.
How would you rate the performances of Newcastle this season?
They've varied dramatically, sometimes even in the same game as the 3-2 defeat to Everton perfectly illustrated. In the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Loic Remy there is plenty of talent but, as has often been the case historically, defensively the team is pretty poor. To have so many players from France is also ridiculous and surely counter productive?
Which player do you fear most for Saturday?
Remy is on fire and even though Queens Park Rangers went down last season he managed to show a deadly eye for goal in the few months he was there too. Ignoring his off-field issues, Remy has the ability to play at the highest level although even he will need decent service on Saturday, especially if we continue to operate with three at the back and he is up top on his own.
Do you see us challenging again for top 6?
Unlikely. I think there are at least seven or eight clubs who are vastly superior to Newcastle at this moment in time. Consistency is always a problem with you guys and also strengthening in January will be required but not necessarily forthcoming.
How do you view Mike Ashley? Good owner or bad?
You've had an interesting history on the ownership front haven't you? I quite liked the passion Ashley showed initially and the fact he would watch the games amongst the fans etc. Obviously his interest appears to have waned in recent times and some of his decisions in terms of staff recruitment and sponsorship have been questionable but let's not forget he has ploughed several £100's of millions into the club and things could conceivably have gone far worse; look at Leeds United, Sheffield United or Coventry City. As Kylie once sang, sometimes it's a case of 'better the devil you know'.
How would we find most success against you lot? What's the weaknesses?
As is often the case with the wing-back system there is a chance of getting in behind the team on the flanks and causing problems. Also there have been a number of occasions this term where too much space has been left between the defence and midfield which an intelligent and creative forward/attacking midfielder might be able to exploit.
Can you name a probable XI that Rodgers will start with?
It is likely to be largely the same as the sides that have won the last two games 3-1. Lucas Leiva is back from suspension while Glen Johnson could return from injury and Daniel Agger might be recalled from the bench. For me: Mignolet, Toure, Skrtel, Sakho, Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Gerrard, Moses, Suarez, Sturridge.
A lot of fans aren't happy with the lack of ambition from Mike Ashley and are boycotting the club, what advice could you give to find a successful way of hurting the owner without lining his pockets for the benefit?
That's a tricky one. I cannot really see a boycott working and the bloke has already admitted he is looking to sell so I'm not sure it is entirely necessary. Supporting the players should always come first, so go to the games and just make your opinions known once the final whistle has blown and the players have left the pitch. If you are going to boycott anything then make it the club shop as this will be felt in the owner's back pocket in a similar way to not buying tickets.
Finally, predict the game…
Considering there hasn't been a 0-0 since 1974 and we have only lost one of the last 14 Premier League meetings, everything points to an away victory. Of course that will probably mean a drab, goalless draw but I reckon 2-1 to Liverpool.
Cheers Gavin.... Should be an interesting match