Another international break has come to an end and the first match to greet Manchester United is the North West derby with Liverpool FC. Ahead of Saturday's clash at Anfield, we did a 'Q&A' exchange with Anfield Asylum -- SBN's Liverpool fansite. As is typical, you the readers provided the majority of questions and SamFels from their site was kind enough to provide answers. If you happen to be curious, here is the Q&A that I did for them.
TBB: How do you feel about the start to the season? What were your expectations in August and now that we're a couple of months in, have you exceeded them so far or underperformed?
AA: I would have to say Liverpool have slightly exceeded my expectations as far as results, but only just. I thought forming a cohesive unit with so many new shiny (though paceless) parts would take time, and it has. But there's only been one inexcusable performance (even the loss to Stoke was a pretty credible outing, just unlucky) against Spurs, and fifth at this point is just about where I thought Pool would be without Gerrard. I expected they would challenge heavily for fourth and eventually grab it, and I see no reason why that won't still be the case.
TBB: As a big fan of Roy Hodgson (from reader sweet science), I would have liked to have seen you give him a chance with the money Kenny had then to spend in his place. Do you think his sacking was premature last season, or do you think Dalglish had to come in at that time to galvanise the squad? John W. Henry even hinted to the Guardian recently over his hesitation to sack 'Woy and bring on Kenny -- who had a 11-year absence from managing.
AA: Yes, because we needed more Paul Konchesky's. I don't think the trigger was pulled on Roy too soon, if anything it was too late. You could see that the players had completely given up on him, and when that happens there's no recovery. And what point is there in having Luis Suarez simply closing down players in his own half? As far as Dalglish coming in, I don't think there was any one leaping at the chance to take this job. The new owners were still unknown, the league position was a farce, and the spirit around the club would have made baby jesus cry (though I get the impression he cried a lot). Kenny wanted the job, it would immediately win the fans over, so there you go. Is he a long term answer? Almost certainly not. But to get us out of the swamp we were in? Yeah, probably.
TBB: Do you feel Andy Carroll is worth the £35m? What were your feelings at the time and how good do you believe he will be in the years to come?
AA: Of course he isn't. But thanks to Fernando "Recently Agoraphobic but only afraid of that open space between the posts" Torres giving us about 46 minutes to come up with replacement and the fact that Carroll is English, there was always going to be a high tax to pay. That said, it's not that I think Carroll won't eventually be an effective player. He's had health issues, and while he had those the team learned to play without him. He's had trouble fitting in. I don't know that he'll ever be a 20+ Act of God (very biblical today), but a 15-goal useful striker is well within range. And he's still only 22, he could be anything I suppose. Except for sober.
TBB: With the speculation that Steven Gerrard will return to the starting XI on Saturday, who do you anticipate getting the drop? Where will he fit in? Do you think Liverpool with Gerrard is more built to play with Lucas as the holding-mid and Charlie Adam off the bench in a 4-1-3-2? Or might Gerrard play in a withdrawn role off a single striker? Perhaps both depending on the match?
AA: I'm praying it's Charlie Adam who gets dropped but I know it won't be. Lucas is automatic these days, so my guess is Gerrard ahead of both Adam and Lucas and behind Suarez with Kuyt and Downing manning the flanks in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Which is unfair a bit, because Carroll's game has picked up the last couple matches, but I doubt Dalglish will only go with two central midfielders against United. If he does start Suarez and Carroll together, then it will be just Gerrard and Lucas in the middle.
TBB: Where does the width come from on the right side? If Kuyt starts there on Saturday, will he likely play more centrally? Do do you anticipate Glen Johnson or Martin Kelly at right-back versus United?
AA: Kelly. Johnson's only just gotten back to full fitness, if he even has. And Kelly's doesn't inspire brain bubbles when heading back to his own net as Johnson does. Width on the right? What's that?
TBB: Luis Suarez appears to provide the creative spark in the current squad and has been able to take over games at Liverpool going back to last season. Any concern with Liverpool's dependency on Suarez and the amount of games he has tallied for both club and country?
AA: A lot of concern, though Everton were seen off with a relatively tame match from Suarez (though he still scored off a gift from Distin). But when Suarez is in your team, things just tend to go through him. We'll see how things look with Gerrard back in the team, as he's the only other player even close to that class. I guess this is the only benefit of not having European football. Even though Suarez has had a lot of football the past two years, Liverpool just aren't going to play that many matches this year. Some well picked matches to have him rest and he should be good.
TBB: Is there a major tactical issue with bringing Andy Carroll into the side? His movement is rather poor and Liverpool move to more direct wingplay when he is up top. Is this something that will change as Carroll matures or is that the tactics Dalglish would prefer to employ moving forward?
AA:That's more Benitez than it is Dalglish. This is an issue to be fixed, because I think Liverpool would like to be the flowing, passing, death from everywhere side they used to be. Carroll is just going to have to adjust if he can. He just hasn't gotten the understanding with Suarez that Kuyt has built and shockingly Bellamy had the minute he walked through the door. And because of Downing's lack of pace and no one on the right, even the more direct wing play doesn't help that much because by the time a cross comes in the defenders have gotten back.
TBB: Do you feel the £20m for Jordan Henderson is decent value? What were your best summer signings so far in your opinion?
AA: God no. That's not fair, Henderson's career can't be judged for a few years as he's awfully young. It's that young British tax again. But Henderson hasn't staked out a position, and his probably best one has the captain in it. So we'll just have to see. Best summer signing? Jose Enrique by some distance, with Downing in second.
TBB: How do you feel about the possible renovation of Anfield or the possibility of moving to a new site? Would sharing a stadium with Everton, who also have revenue concerns with Goodison, be totally out of the question? If Liverpool forced residents near Anfield to move in order to acquire more space for expansion on Anfield, would this alienate the fanbase?
AA: I feel a little weird answering this as a Yank, but have you seen the area around Anfield? I don't think there's much to lose. Liverpool need a bigger capacity wherever that falls. They can't compete with United and City and Chelsea right now. From this distance, a ground share makes the most sense to me, but I understand why it will never ever happen. There needs to be a resolution though, and soon.
TBB: What are your injury concerns for Saturday? Can you provide a projected starting XI for Liverpool?
AA: Apparently everyone's healthy, even Agger who might be just as important as Suarez. So I'm guessing it's Reina-Kelly, Agger, Carragher, Enrique-Adam,Lucas, Gerrard-Kuyt,Suarez, Downing.
AA: I'll probably pass out in the 30th minute, and 1-1 seems about right.