Preview Week continues here at Being Sven. In light of the smashing success* of the original ‘Shades of Red’ Roundtable (*your definitions of ‘smashing’ and ‘success’ may differ from mine), it’s going to become a semi-regular occurance ’round these here parts.
Much like the previous edition in which we previewed the Champion’s League Final, we’re once again blessed by the the presence of other Liverpool fans (whose sites/blogs I readily enjoy) who are thoughtful enough to share their opinions on the upcoming season and what the future might hold for the mighty Reds.
Introducing my panel of ‘guests’, in their own words…
Nate of Oh You Beauty… is more than happy to grasp any chance to write in the third person. He is a Cancer (astrologically and metaphorically), and spends far too much time thinking about a team on the other side of the ocean. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Amanda at You’ll Never Blog Alone is starting her third year of law school. She distracts herself from justiciability doctrines by following Liverpool (and England) and playing in two rec leagues. She would like to be Jamie Carragher when she grows up, but with better boobs.
JT writes about being a music nerd at Feed me Good Tunes and wonders why he didn’t jump on the Liverpool FC blog idea sooner. He’s been a rabid LFC fan since since he could see, and takes great pride in his Scouse heritage wherever possible [by beating up anyone who came from Manchester]. If Steve Finnan were an alcoholic beverage, he’d be in rehab by now.
Let’s get this party started…
Are Liverpool capable of winning the Premier League title this season?
JT: As much of a fan as I am, and as much of a hometown shmuck as I am, I really don’t see it. Liverpool’s critical flaw for as long as I can remember, at least since the mid-90s, has been consistency, regardless of squad makeup, talent, chemistry, etc. We just don’t do it week-in, week-out enough to put a solid challenge in. We’re funny like that, and I feel like with all the new faces and momentum, we’ll find a way to lose both home-and-away to teams like Bolton and Fulham which will put us in 3rd or 4th. Please, tell me I’m wrong; however, the Cubs are winning relentlessly, so maybe pigs will fly.
We are definitely capable of success. I feel like it will be elsewhere though.
Amanda: Honestly, I’m not sure. I think Torres was a good buy, and Chelsea are probably weaker than they were last season, but Manchester United have Rooney, Ronaldo, and Tevez. That’s going to be a tough combination to beat. I have faith in our defense and midfield, but striking’s consistently a problem for us, and good defense isn’t enough to win a title.
What do you actually expect to be achieved this season? (include the final position in the table and any silverware)
Amanda: Hm. Second, a domestic cup (I would prefer FA), and the Champions League semis.
Nate: 1st or 2nd in the league, and/or at least one trophy.
JT: I expect 2nd in the League, thanks to a perceived weakness in Arsenal and Chelsea that I’m probably imagining. We’ll come about 8-11 points short of the eventual winner, which I fear will be Manchester United, and we might well steal a domestic trophy like the FA Cup [if we take it seriously and don’t get drawn against Arsenal in an early round!]. In Europe, I think we have it in us to make the semis, but I don’t see us being able to fight on all fronts with great success. [Ugh, it hurt to write all that]
The first four games of the season; at Villa, vs. West Ham, vs. Chelsea, at Sunderland. Where will we be come September 1?
JT: We will be sitting with 8 points – 2 wins, 2 draws. It’s so like us to underestimate a weaker team and cough up the 85th minute equalizer, especially to a team like West Ham in our home opener. It’s just like us.
Amanda: Eight points — we’ll draw one of the away games, and we still have trouble in the league with Chelsea (probably even with Terry out). It’s not ideal, but it’d still be a quicker start than they got off to last season.
Nate: If the first two answers have any hope of coming true, I’d hope on at least 10 points.
Your preferred/favorite formation and accompanying starting XI? (, if you’re so inclined, you may choose two, ala home & away) (note: I will most likely translate your answer to be accompanied by an image of the names in their positions on a soccer field background)
Nate: These are my “preferred” teams in the two formations we’ve seen the most often, but I’m going to trot out the tried and true “it depends on each individual game” frequently this season.
Amanda: I’m a traditionalist, so let’s go with 4-4-2. The defense picks
JT: I would like to see a 4-3-1-1-1, or a 4-3-1-2. Gerrard deserves the libero role behind the front two, making him far more deadly than on the flank. [btw, it pleased me greatly to see the BBC article interviewing Rafa where he confirmed as much, because “we have plenty of wingers now”].
Notes: Aurelio and Riise are interchangeable in my mind, so really whoever’s in better nick. Not sure Babel is ready for the first XI full-time yet, so Pennant’s our best option. Guys like Benayoun and Voronin should be first considerations off the bench for attack, maybe trying Voronin in attacking midfield to use his energy. Momo can provide more defense in midfield, and let’s see what Leiva has to offer. I feel like this XI is as good as it can get right now, pending how well new faces fit in.
Which player are you expecting the most out of (or are the most excited to see) this season?
Amanda: I’d like to see Gerrard have a better season than last, and the sooner Torres adjusts to the Premiership, the better. I’m also enjoying watching Agger develop into the go-to partner for Carragher in defense.
Nate: Most excited to see: Torres. Expecting the most out of: Gerrard.
JT: I am expecting a lot from Torres. It’s hard not to; with the hype, the protracted “will-he, won’t-he” surrounding his transfer, the high fee, the long contract and the past performance [both nationally in the World Cup and at home in Spain] make him the highest on my geeked list. He comes in almost as a savior or deity, quenching our deepest thirst for natural goalscoring that we haven’t seen since a healthy Michael Owen. The added pressure of so many failed striker experiments over the past 10 years make me expect more from him too, perhaps unfairly, but that’s life as a high-profile athlete. With price tags come expectations.
Which player do you think will have an absolute stinker of a season?
Nate: On principle, I refuse to answer this question.
JT: I worry that Babel will struggle. He’s so young and so desperate to impress [aren’t we all on some level?] that I think it will translate into hurried, skittish performances in limited exposure. I don’t predict he’ll fail or play terribly by any stretch, but I don’t think he will capitalize on his playing time in Rafa’s system, and will easily get overshadowed by older, lower-profile guys like Yossi when it comes to seizing control of an everyday place on the wing.
Amanda: I wouldn’t bet on Kewell staying fit for the whole season. Beyond that, I refuse to answer this question for fear of jinxing anyone.
Our Top Goalscorer?
JT: Torres. It has to be, right? Right?
Amanda: Depending on how quickly he adjusts, I would love it to be Torres. Failing that, my guess is Gerrard yet again, or possibly Kuyt.
Nate: Completely out on a limb, Kuyt. I’m hoping that pairing him with Torres will allow Dirk to play further up the pitch than he did last year. Yes, Dirk’s been wasteful at times this preseason, but I think that will change.
Torres will make a big difference for Liverpool, but I don’t know if it’ll show in his goal tally this season, what with adapting to the Premiership and that he’s never really been a high-scoring striker.
Nate: Finnan. As always.
JT: I see big things for Kuyt, but living in the shadow of Spain’s golden boy means that he will surely not get much dap by comparison. The media only has so much love to go around!
Amanda: He’s a little bit, um, sung right now, but I still don’t think Steve Finnan gets all the credit he deserves. Beyond that, Crouch had a good season when he got to play.
The Next Big Thing amongst the youngsters?
Amanda: Based on his game at the u20 World Cup (which, yes, I watched — the off-season makes you do strange things), I like Leiva. It’s hard to know what to expect of the tinies, but captaining Brazil isn’t a bad sign.
JT: I see Jordi Brouwer making a big splash eventually. We are blessed with some great skill at the academy level and I really wouldn’t be surprised if El-Zhar is going places. Loved watching his pace and tirelessness during the pre-season.
Nate: Insua. As if I was going to name anyone else after talking him up over the last month of last season. And he’ll have a decent-sized role to play if Aurelio can’t get/stay healthy, and no one else is brought in over the summer.
Your take on LFC’s summer transfers? (be as general or as specific as you’d like)
Nate: Very pleased.
Amanda: Overall, I think they did pretty well — Torres has the potential to be the full-on striker they’ve needed for several seasons now. Babel I don’t know a lot about, but I think he’ll be good for the future (the same with the South American and Ukrainian youth players, who I know even less about). Benayoun, honestly, isn’t someone I would have bought, but I hope he works out, and Voronin will be interesting to watch. Obviously, Torres is the big signing, and I think he’s a good indicator of the ambition going into this season.
JT: Pretty damn good, if your goal with transfers is fulfilling a need. Some teams like to go for the biggest names possible and find a way to make it work [Chelsea, Real Madrid], and some teams like to go for players that fit a system and work in a clearly-defined role that they are expected to play. I think we fulfilled both there, arguably grabbing the biggest name striker available, and shoring up our ineffectual wings. We grabbed additional cover and inventiveness in midfield with Leiva and the wily Benayoun, so I feel like we did an excellent job. If anything, I would have maybe added another defender for variety, but I’m very happy with our scouting and accounting teams for getting the job done and not standing pat while our biggest rivals have become stronger.
A lot of dead wood has been culled this off-season. In your opinion, is there any left?
Nate: Not really. I’m not convinced about Aurelio’s ability to stay fit or Paletta’s ability to settle in England, and although Liverpool’s defense is probably the best part of the team, I’m still a little worried about its depth. Although I can’t say I consider either player dead wood. Le Tallec may technically still be in the squad though…
JT: We cut a lot of guys who were taking up room and costing us money, but there is still work to be done. Moving forward, with the youth and new faces up front, I worry about Crouch’s future role with the club in limited opportunities. He’s very much being pigeonholed as a one-trick pony for those late-game, desperation substitutions, and I don’t see him being able to hold a first-team place with must faster, harder-working players in the mix. Between Kuyt, Babel, Voronin and Torres, there’s little room for much more, especially with the fast development of Brouwer and Idrizaj below. I also wonder how much goodwill Kewell still has banked with the club; we can recoup 3 or 4 million for him that we might well need in January, and he’s really not lived up to any significant or sustained expectations for the club during his time here.
Amanda: I wouldn’t have cried to see Kewell or Pennant go (though Pennant’s done a lot better recently), but I think they’ve done a good job of clearing out most of the problem players. I’m just glad Cisse and Zenden are gone. Oh, and Dudek. Real Madrid is an odd destination, but if they want him, more power to them.
Is there a signing you’d still like to see the club make, maybe in January?
Amanda: No one’s coming to mind right now, though some cover in the defense would be nice, especially in the center.
Nate: Only if no one else is signed before the close of the summer transfer window, and then, to fill the need that’s been discussed in the media over the last couple of weeks: defensive cover, someone with experience, who can play LB or CB if needed. Although I don’t know if it’s as imperative as some have made out.
JT: Not really. Depending on Pennant’s first-half of the year, we could do something big with the right flank, but other than that, I don’t see any really. Injuries would be the only motivation to look outward for help, because I think our squad is pretty solid heading into the season. Of course, I will buy into any hype or outrageous rumours as the season pushes on, so expect this position to change.
Thoughts on the newly-released stadium images?
JT: Bold, modern, nothing like the old days. I’ve made my peace with it, and realize that change is a part of life and that nothing is permanent, but I hope its futuristic confines are filled with the same passion and love we’ve enjoyed at Anfield since 1892. It’s one of the most electrifying places in sports, and I’m spoiled to have grown up near it and lived near it for as long as I did.
Amanda: It’s, um, interesting. I’m not an architecture critic, but I think I like it. And I definitely like the larger Kop and overall capacity. Mostly, though, the new drawings remind me that I really need to get to Anfield while it still exists.
Nate: Honestly, it’s a little futuristic for my liking, especially in parts of the exterior, but I love that Gillett and Hicks took opinions into account as soon as they came on board, have tailored the new design to the Kop and towards retaining Anfield’s atmosphere, and are pushing for an even bigger capacity.
Still thinking about Athens?
JT: No. You win, you lose, you move on. I am still wondering why we didn’t replicate the first 45 minutes in the second 45 minutes. Some mysteries will never be revealed, I guess.
Nate: Surprisingly, not really. I thought Liverpool would win, I obviously wanted Liverpool to win, and was gutted when they lost. But I can’t begrudge Milan, especially after how heartbreaking 2005 must have been. That and Liverpool couldn’t put one in the freaking net until the 89th minute. Milan were (sigh) fair winners.
Plus, there’s this season to look forward to.
Amanda: Sometimes. The last time we did this, I predicted 2-1 to Milan, because every time I’d predicted a Liverpool loss before, they won. Apparently that streak ended in May, and I feel a little bit responsible. But you can’t have Istanbul every time, and they didn’t embarrass themselves, so it hurts, but not as badly as some losses.
According to El Nino (“which is Spanish for ‘The Nino’!”) himself, Torres is flirting with getting “You’ll Never Walk Alone” tattooed somewhere on his person. Should he? Where would you put it?
Amanda: Sure, why not? He’s already got plenty of tats, some of which look
like they’re in Elvish, so that wouldn’t be any more strange. As for me, were I to get a Liverpool-related tattoo, it would probably be just the initials, and probably on a hip or shoulder blade.
Nate: Sure. And is this a leading question to get me to say he should put it on his ass?
JT: I would do it, and I would put it on my predominant shooting foot so every goal is being struck with the logo. Weighty symbolism, I know.
Carra quiting England: Your thoughts?
Nate: Tempest in a teapot, really. He’s not first choice, he’s not even third choice for England, but you can’t even put a value on him for Liverpool. And if that’s the situation, he wants his sole focus to be on Liverpool. How is this even arguable? I don’t know why the ‘Ingurland’ crowd (which I usually defend…) is so up in arms; I didn’t think they rated him anyway.
Amanda: He wasn’t getting any time, and McClaren kept attempting to play him out of position. If you’re not getting respect, then I don’t see anything wrong with retiring. Especially since England is the Clusterfuck of the Year. I’d like to see him live up to his talent in an England shirt, but I don’t think that’ll happen with McClaren in charge.
JT: Not many. While representing your country is a great honour, having him more focused on domestic heroics can surely never be a bad thing, especially with the dour national team always experimenting and fiddling.
Rafa’s goatee: Your thoughts?
JT: He looks swarthier now, like a Bond villain. If it helps to intimidate any and all opposition, keep it growing!
Amanda: Amusing. I thought it was just a summer thing, but it seems to be staying around for a while. I don’t hate it, and it’s definitely better than Mourinho’s calculated stubble, but I like old-school Rafa. Though if they get on a winning streak because of the goatee, he better not shave.
Nate: Love it. A friend of mine has taken to calling him “Evil Rafa” and wondering whether every move he makes has sinister motives behind it. Which I supremely enjoy. The goatee better stay.
Chances Carra will ever wear a short-sleeved kit again?
Amanda: August weather and global warming cannot defeat Jamie Carragher. Besides, doesn’t he need the long sleeves to cover up his Evertonian tattoo? 😉
Nate: When Hell freezes over. Ba dum ching.
JT: Ha. Only if the Premier League starts giving out fines like David Stern. We must respect his right to forearm and bicep/tricep privacy.
At the end of the season, who will be top four in the Premier League?
Nate: Chelsea, Liverpool, United, Spurs (curveball!)
JT: Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham
Amanda: Top four (in this order, I guess): Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal (I know, but if van Persie’s fit and they give the teenage strikers a chance…).
The three relegated?
Nate: Derby, Wigan, Sunderland
JT: Derby County, Wigan, Birmingham. Curse of the yo-yo to strike two of the three that came up.
Amanda: Not in this order: Wigan, Fulham, Derby.
Take a complete shot(s) in the dark… FA Cup Winner? Champions League winner?
Amanda: FA Cup — Liverpool (because I think we’ll get a trophy this season, and I’d prefer this one). Champions League — oh man. I have no idea, but I’ll say Roma for no particular reason.
JT: FA Cup: Bolton Wanderers… that prototypical random, good-luck winner.
Champions League: Bet the farm on Barcelona
Nate: FA Cup: Blackburn (Probably won’t happen, and it’ll end up being one of the ‘big 4’ again, but Rovers are my darkhorse in all competitions this season). Champions League: Barca
Player you’d most like to see come to the Premier League?
JT: I’d love to see the original Ronaldo in the Premier League, just because the culture shock and his struggles to adjust to the more physical, gritty game here would be hilarious. The thought of him travelling on a coach to places like Blackburn and Newcastle makes me laugh every time.
Amanda: Kaka. He won’t, at least not right now, but maybe eventually. Of course, I’d only like this if he came to Liverpool.
Player you’d most like to see leave the Premier League?
JT: I’d love to see the back of Wayne Rooney. His petulance belongs in mainland Europe… ship him off to Spain where he can live on the Costa del Sol with all the other British expats.
Amanda: Cristiano goddamn Ronaldo. Go dive and play irritatingly well in Spain or someplace. Second is probably Drogba, for pretty much the same reasons.
Nate: Gary Neville
Any other thoughts/relevations/declarations you’d like to add on Liverpool, the upcoming season, the Premier League or soccer in general?
Amanda: General notes: calling the Premiership “the EPL,” penalties “PKs” and
MLS “the MLS” drives me up the wall. Especially “PKs.” Just stop.
JT: I feel like I’ve said way too much already. May the best team win, and may the best team be us too.
Nate: This is a really good time to be both a Liverpool and soccer (football!) fan. Seriously.
A special thanks to JT, Amanda and Nate for taking time out of their busy schedules to respond with such thoughtfulness. I highly recommend checking out each of their sites.
Feed me Good Tunes (JT)
You’ll Never Blog Alone (Amanda)
Oh You Beauty… (Nate)