Writer: Mike Field
Date:Thursday December 13 2012
Well you all know what this is, interview time ahead of this weekend's game. Apparently Mr Day from Vital Liverpool wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition...isn't that the whole point?
With thanks to Gavin!
1) What are you expecting from the season?
Going into the season I was fundamentally just looking for an improvement, especially in terms of consistency and final league position (8th), on last season. At this stage a quick glance at the table would suggest things are not looking great, even against those modest targets, but there is a long way to go. Recent form has been good and with a couple of additions in January I think we will climb the table further. Top six is a realistic goal and with the topsy-turvy nature of the league 4th is not actually beyond possibility.
2) Were there any highlights or lowlights from your pre season?
Most of our pre-season was dominated by off-field matters and in particular the pursuit of a new manager (which eventually led to the appointment of Brendan Rodgers). From a footballing perspective the club embarked on a lucrative tour of America but arguably the win over Bayer Leverkusen at Anfield was the playing highlight. The game further emphasised the talent and growing prominence of Raheem Sterling.
3) How do you feel your club did in the transfer window? Oh, and can I just ask, Stewart Downing...do you feel a bit robbed on the transfer fee?
Our failings in the transfer window are well documented. After the departures of Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and, to a lesser extent, Maxi Rodriguez, the decision to allow Andy Carroll to leave on loan without a replacement was shocking. It has left us unbelievably short in attacking options and is something that needs to be rectified quickly come January. Thankfully a host of incredible individual displays by Luis Suarez have helped carry the burden.
Performance wise, the signings the club did make have been varied. Joe Allen has been great, Nuri Sahin and Oussama Assaidi have showed flashes while Fabio Borini initially struggled before suffering a broken foot which has sidelined him for a number of months.
As for Stewart Downing? He's not bad as third choice left-backs go! Seriously though I'm at a loss to explain his situation. I was ecstatic when we signed him but for some reason he looks a different player in the Red of Liverpool to the one that played at both Villa and Middlesbrough. Devoid of the confidence to either take people on or put the ball into the box he has becoming an incredibly frustrating player to watch. £20m is a ridiculous figure until you consider it's roughly the same as we paid for Jordan Henderson and £15m less than Carroll! That wasted £75m is chiefly responsible for the demise of Kenny Dalglish.
4) Has anybody left who you think has seriously weakened the team?
As mentioned previously, the departure of a number of attacking players has certainly left us short on options going forward. In particular I think Craig Bellamy would have worked well under Rodgers' tactics and formation etc. Rodgers was honest about Carroll not suiting his system and philosophy, which is fair enough, but I would loved to have retained him as a viable plan b. That said, the absence of all these players has clearly helped the likes of Sterling and Suso to flourish.
5) Who is going to be your main dangerman when we play?
Unsurprisingly Suarez. I probably don't need to say much more but the man is an absolute genius. Love or hate him, and many Liverpool fans do also get frustrated by his antics, there is no doubting he is one of the most gifted footballers in the world.
6) What are your weaknesses, any clues for the game will be appreciated :-)
Relying too heavily on Suarez for goals is clearly the main one. Generally if you can stop him then your 90% of the way to getting a positive result. This is especially true at Anfield where we struggle to break down defensively minded teams which can lead to anxiety amongst both the players and the fans.
7) Will you have anyone out who would otherwise play?
Borini and Martin Kelly are the only two players definitely missing and whilst both are top young talents neither can be considered a certain starter. Jose Enrique, our player of the month for November, is a slight doubt and has been in such brilliant form of late that he would, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, be missed should he get ruled out.
8) Are you surprised to see how Villa struggled last season and do you think we will again this time round?
A little. The negative tactics and boring football probably made things seem even worse than they were though. To be honest I don't think it was ever going to work for Alex McLeish at Villa Park especially being an ex-Birmingham City man who was never going to be accepted by the majority of fans. I bet many were somewhat happy, in a strange way, that things did go so badly and there was just cause to remove him from his post.
9) Do you have any thoughts on Paul Lambert?
Seems a decent young manager. Securing back-to-back promotions is never a feat to be scoffed at and in doing so he had Norwich playing some decent football without a massive budget. Top player before his time in the dugout and must be an individual accustomed to battling for victory after his numerous experiences of the Old Firm derby whilst at Celtic. He's also a Champions League winner lets not forget - not many Scots can say that over the last few decades - so should know a thing or two about football at the highest level.
10) What have you made of our youth promotions last/this season, anybody caught the eye for you?
Although I've got a funny feeling they may both have been recent acquisitions, as opposed to youngsters who have developed through the ranks, I've liked the look of Andreas Weimann and Ashley Weetwood. Westwood in particular looks a very assured presence in the middle of the park and possesses a decent range of passing. He seems to be doing a job not too dissimilar to the one Allen does for us with ball retention the key to his game.
11) Who has stood out most from our recent acquisitions for you?
Christian Benteke is the obvious one. Not a great deal was known about the striker when you guys paid Genk £7m for his services but that has all changed now! He's got power, strength and the ability to lead the line on his own. To stand out so much in a side that has generally struggled is pretty impressive and if he continues to develop you may struggle to keep hold of him. Benteke has also made a number of impressive appearances of late for the Belgium national team so seems to be able to cope at the very top level.
12) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Given our lack of striking resources Benteke or Darren Bent would do nicely. Although you guys are in dreamland if you think you can get £18m or so for the latter after his injuries and the fact you've not been playing him all season.
13) Who do you see as our main threat in the game?
See answer to question 12... It could depend a lot on how ambitious you are though. Benteke is unlikely to get much joy out of Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel if he is left isolated up top on his own. Gabriel Agbonlahor's pace and directness could be a threat plus, although only just back from injury, Charles N'Zogbia is a bit of a maverick who on his day can cause a lot of damage single-handily.
14) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
I'm not sure your defence is the strongest or the quickest for that matter. You've lost a lot of experience in that area with Richard Dunne out long-term through injury and the likes of James Collins and Carlos Cuellar sold. I fancy a refreshed Suarez to get a few opportunities! That said, your recent defensive record is fairly decent and therefore there might not be too much between the sides come the final whistle.
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Date:Thursday December 13 2012
FA Cup Third Round Tie Set (Wednesday December 11 2013)
Vital Villa's Man Of The Match v Fulham (Wednesday December 11 2013)
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FA Youth Cup To Be Screened (Monday December 9 2013)
Lambert Philosophical Following Defeat (Monday December 9 2013)
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