It because of you beloved readers that we have fraternized with the enemy in order to provide this Q&A ahead of Sunday's clash with Liverpool. Once again, we've teamed up with 'Anfield Asylum' for this exchange. Bromantic, one of their writers, is the man for the job once more. A shout to our own nolefansam for compiling and editing this Q&A and also for answering questions for AA for their Q&A. Without further ado, here's the Q&A exchange:
TBB: How do Liverpool fans rate the performances of their recent managers -- particularly Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers? Is Rodgers the right fit for Liverpool for the foreseeable future?
AA: Well personally Hodgson was my favorite of the group...I almost got through that with a straight face. I think everyone still reveres King Kenny as a legend and the verdict is really a little split on whether he was treated fairly. Rumor right now though is the club are trying to bring Kenny back in an ambassador role. That said, Liverpool fans, myself included, seem very happy with the direction of the club currently and the style of play. Our position in the table isn't due to lack of chances, it is due to a lack of clinical finishing. If only we had an RVP. I do feel as if the club is heading in the right direction and is really a few players from being back. It really is amazing how patient the fans have been considering the results.
TBB: Where do you see Liverpool in three years time? What would be considered acceptable progress? Are Liverpool fans serious about thinking the Champions League is a possibility?
AA: Good questions and you'll get differing opinions obviously. However, most seem content to ride out this season and are happy with the progress made. Brendan Rodgers came in and was quite blunt in making sure that the fans understood this would not be an overnight fix and he looks to be quite right. However, I am personally happy with the current trend. They have played good football even when the results didn't go our way and I think most fans see that. As for the Champions League, I don't see it as a must have this year. But it will be a must have next year. However, with the crazy season in the Premier League this year, it isn't out of the realm of possibilities to finish fourth. It would require a lot of off season transfers to get a decent enough squad to compete though should that miracle happen.
TBB: Fabio Borini, Daniel Sturridge, and Luis Suarez – like Michael Cox discusses, do you think Brendan would line them up in an interchanging trident reminiscent of the famous United team of 08?
AA: It would be quite an interesting line up. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Borini is going to be fully fit anytime soon. I do think it would work and it seems as though our top three this year have been fairly fluid in their changing of positions to suit the current situations during the game.
TBB: How do you feel about Brendan Rodgers’ comments about accommodating the newly signed Daniel Sturridge by agreeing to deploy him at his preferred center-forward role? I ask because, despite Luis Suarez’s versatility, it doesn’t seem to make sense to move your best player from a role he’s been in arguably world-class form in this season. Does Rodgers plan to use Suarez in behind Sturridge in a 4-2-3-1 sort of shape or will the Uruguayan tuck inside from a wide forward position in a 4-3-3?
AA: Rodgers has publicly stated that he will likely move Suarez out wide at times. I am personally ecstatic about this; many Liverpool fans are not. Suarez, for me, seems to be most dangerous when he is coming in from wide areas and taking players on. In terms of just coming through the middle, defenses are usually able to stay compact and make it difficult. However, they are reluctant to send two people out wide which should give him a lot of room to make chances for Sturridge and anyone else. He seems to be better at this than he is at finishing (don't let the goal count fool you, he has missed a large number of opportunities).
TBB: In general, how’s the midfield settling in? After Joe Allen’s strong start at Anfield, he seems to have declined as of late. How’s Lucas Levia’s return going? If Suarez doesn’t drop in behind Sturridge in a 4-2-3-1, who is the first-choice midfielder right now alongside Lucas and Steven Gerrard?
AA: This is a tough one. It is nice to have Lucas back, but he is still very short of match fitness and many of the recent games he has been completely bypassed. So far, it looks like playing Allen and Lucas together gets the best out of neither player. Aside from a cameo when Liverpool were up against Sunderland, Allen has not looked good in the more advanced role which is where he seems to end up when he and Lucas are on the pitch together. Gerrard seems to be still finding his feet as well although I think he has been asked to play further back for much of the season to help cover. His last few performances have been much more Gerrard-esque, but he is still obviously on the decline. He was directly responsible for a number of giveaways in the midfield that were directly turned into goals early on and cost Liverpool points.. However, he is always up for Man U and Everton so who knows what will happen there. As for the first choice pairing it is tough. Henderson has put in a few decent performances as of late and Shelvey is either hot or cold. I would prefer Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson on current form in midfield with Gerrard more advanced.
TBB: What are your thoughts on Nuri Sahin?
AA: Liverpool confirmed today that he has been released and it appears as if he will be returning to Dortmund on loan. He started great in his first couple games and then fell flat on his face. He struggled to get a game as of late so I can only assume he wasn't training very well either. Overall, you could see the potential might be there, but it never seemed to come out on the pitch. It appears best for both sides that this experiment came to an end.
TBB: How goes it for the youngsters coming through the first-team? Raheem Sterling has obviously been very good and this is further evident by his new contract. How goes it for the likes of Suso, Andre Wisdom, and Jonjo Shelvey? What do you expect from Sterling in terms of growth, and what is his best position now, and in 3 years time? Is he exceeding or just meeting expectations?
AA: For Sterling, he has had a bit of a dip recently in my eyes. He hasn't been awful, but he looks like a young lad who has been played a bit too much. His confidence appears a bit shaken for some reason. Perhaps he was just too young to know any better early on. He is still a fantastic talent and has a good head on his shoulders and Liverpool would be hurting if we didn't have him out there even just occupying defenders on his bad days.
Suso had a few really good games early in the season, but hasn't been able to assert himself in the games as of late. I can't quite figure out why, but he always seems on the verge of doing something great when he has the ball and it never quite seems to come off. I am just waiting for him to have a breakout game.
Wisdom has been a better find that Sterling in my opinion. He has already shown keen defensive awareness well beyond his years and has been able to get up the flanks to support the attacks as well. I can only think of one game (and I can't remember who it was against) where he was bad. Otherwise, he has been absolutely solid.
Finally Jonjo, where to start. If you watched Being Liverpool, you'll know the Rodgers is in love with Shelvey. I think Rodgers has a large portrait of Jonjo in his bedroom (perhaps on the ceiling) much like the one of himself in his living room, the cameras just never showed it. As I just said, he is hot and cold, but you can see him developing this year. Last year I had written him off and said a number of times I saw nothing in his play to show me that he would have anything to offer in the future. I guess I was wrong, but he has to cut out the rash part of his game. He is good for a couple dumb challenges every game, but I still love him for taking on Fergie.
TBB: Can you discuss, in general, how Rodgers has adjusted tactically? Liverpool seem, as of late, to be more willing to play longer passes. There seems to be some more vertical passes for the forwards to run onto and Gerrard is not shy about spraying long diagonal balls to the flanks in order to quickly switch the point of attack.
AA: I don't think he has adjusted much from the typical 4-3-3 in each game. However, what I do like is on a number of occasions he hasn't been afraid to take off a player early, even in the first half if it just isn't working. Usually it seems a like for like type sub though without too much change in the formation. The kind of thing similar to when he deployed Enrique in a left mid role where he absolutely excelled. Liverpool have been playing more long balls as of late. I think that is a product of how defenses have just become so compact and hard to break down against the "tiki-taka" (I hate that term) style football. It became necessary to stretch the opposition a little to allow Liverpool the chance to attack to make up for their horrible chance conversion rate. It has seemed to work to create, but has left Liverpool vulnerable as well. The defense has been much shakier than last year, even though it is the same core group of players. The odd thing about Liverpool this season is the only game where I feel they were out played was against Arsenal early in the season. Otherwise, they should be winning most of their games based on play so there really isn't a lot for Rodgers to adjust. If only he could teach them how to finish.
TBB: Transfer market: What do you feel Liverpool needs to do in this current transfer window and/or in the upcoming summer in order to be more viable contenders for a Champions League qualification spot next season? How do you feel about the recent signings and do you think Liverpool have struggled to attract top talent?
AA: So far, given the funds BR has done well. Obviously he was put in a tough position when we failed to land Dempsey (although I'm glad because I don't rate Dempsey at all) and got rid of Carroll (which I was ecstatic about). He has given the youth a chance which is the cheapest option and one many fans were begging Kenny to do last year. It is always a struggle to convince top talent to come to a team that is struggling to make the Europa League, but it seems as if Rodgers has been able to convince decent players to give him a chance and believe in the system. Liverpool do need a more clinical finisher and really just someone to clean up Suarez's scraps. Perhaps Sturridge is that guy, that remains to be seen, but Borini certainly has not been great so far. I would like to see one more solid CB. When Agger or Skrtel are rested, I get nervous because Carragher and Coates are not up for it. Coates needs more playing time (and is rumored to be loaned out), but Carra is long over the hill. I also wouldn't mind one more decent attacking midfielder since I don't think Shelvey is quite ready to be the every game guy. However, I just don't know if the money will be there after they blew it all on Carroll, Henderson and Downing. I would love to have seen what BR would have done with the 110m pounds that Kenny and Roy spent.
TBB: Prediction for the game?
AA: 2-1 with RVP for the late winner in a come from behind victory. Given the style of Man U this year, I would be a fool to predict anything else. That will surely make me vomit too.