The Opposition View - Liverpool
The reverse interview can be found here.
1) Last week against West Ham was obviously quite frustrating for Liverpool fans, are you still confident Brendan Rodgers is the right man to take you forward?
I believe he is. Brendan Rodgers certainly deserves more than just the one season to turn the club around and, other than the result against Southampton, things have gone really well over the past couple of months. It was the lack of investment over the summer from the owners that is the biggest contributor to our current position.
Shone of influential and experienced players such as Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez we didn't bring in players of the right type or position. This was rectified to a degree in January and we're subsequently seeing the benefits. Add a few more established stars and an extra season's experience for the youngsters and I genuinely think the next campaign will bare the fruit of this year's groundwork.
2) What do you think the expectation was at the start of the season and where do you think you will finish now?
It's hard to gauge expectation at Liverpool because many fans still believe, largely based on the size of the club and our achievements historically, that we should be competing for success every year. Those of a more level headed nature, of which I am firmly one, always felt this would be a transitional year with Rodgers bringing in his own staff, ideas and philosophies, and needing time to mould the structure of the club to his way of thinking.
In my eyes, the basic aim was to finish higher than last season's eighth and we are broadly on track to achieve that. Sadly though we have been unable to replicate the cup heroics of Kenny Dalglish's second spell in charge which muddies the waters when attempting to determine exactly how well we've done. Hopefully this term was a case of taking a step back to enable us to take two forward next year.
3) Luis Suarez is something special, do you fear losing him in the next transfer window?
Of course and it's only natural other clubs would be interested in acquiring a player of Luis Suarez's ability. Our main problem is that we cannot offer him the Champions League football he deserves but I think he loves the club enough to stick with it for another season at least. But if it again seems we are likely to miss out next year then he will almost certainly depart, maybe even as early as January, and it's hard to blame him should that eventuality occur.
4) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team that you have noticed over the past couple of games?
Strengths of late have been scoring goals and our ball retention has been impressive all season - there have been very few games where we've not dominated possession. In Suarez, ably assisted in the last couple of months by Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and a few others, we now carry a constant and varied attacking threat which was missing earlier in the campaign. However, offsetting these positives, we've been poor defensively with set pieces often proving our undoing. Also there is an argument that a bit of pace in behind can cause us problems given Jamie Carragher's advancing years and the fact both full-backs tend to play quite high up the pitch.
5) What did you think about the sacking of Brian McDermott and the appointment of Nigel Adkins?
It was a difficult one. The team was in a bit of a slump and the board clearly felt they had to act before it was too late and relegation became a certainty. But to be honest, given the players at your disposal etc, even Jose Mourinho would struggle to keep Reading up. Therefore it was perhaps harsh on Brian McDermott who had done brilliantly to get the team back into the top flight especially given his previous limited managerial record.
He also comes across as a really personable, honest guy which is refreshing in the brash world of modern football. As for Nigel Adkins, I think he is a good choice for the future and he was desperately unlucky to be given the boot at Southampton a few games prior to McDermott. His record at gaining promotions is exceptional and as long as expectations return to an achievable level he should do well.
6) What Reading player do you rate the most and why?
I've always had a thing for pacey, direct wingers who like to run at the opposition's full-back and who can get to the byline and produce quality delivery. In this regard Jimmy Kebe is a player I enjoy watching. The Frenchman also has a decent goal scoring record and could easily remain at this level in the event Reading do go down.
7) Who do you reckon will start and what sort of shape will you have?
Rodgers has been pretty consistent with his selections of late and, regardless of the personnel chosen, pretty much always sticks to a fluid 4-3-3 system which in truth is more 4-1-2-2-1 with a holding midfielder and two forwards supporting one main striker. The likes of Suarez and Coutinho, who are creative and technically gifted, also get given a degree of license to roam and get involved in the play away from their starting positions.
The only real debate of late is where to fit Sturridge in? His natural position is through the middle but that means moving the league's top scorer (Suarez) away from his favoured area and so, also partly because of niggling injuries and the form of others, the ex-Chelsea man has had to be content with a place on the bench at times. I fancy he will start against Reading though with Henderson perhaps sacrificed from the middle of the park and Coutinho played deeper.
Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Enrique, Lucas, Gerrard, Coutinho, Downing, Suarez, Sturridge
8) What's your prediction for the game?
We've not quite hit top form in the last few games but against Aston Villa and West Ham there was still enough good football on show to suggest we should be too good for Reading. However, the same was said going into the Southampton match recently and their greater desire resulted in a deserved beating for us. Not sure you have the same quality in front of goal as the Saints though so I certainly cannot see us losing. I'll go for a 2-1 away win.