By Phil Roberts 26/4/19
Q – Another 3 points at the weekend and in turn keeping the title challenge on a knife edge. However, Liverpool seem to be doing a lot of things the hard way, late goals, H-T 0-0’s and substitutions effecting games. Is this at all a worry that Liverpool can’t seem to be putting teams to bed early on a regular basis, i.e last season?
No, it’s not a worry for me. Last season we were very gung-ho and blew teams away early but we were very susceptible to the counter attack and thus finished the season way down the league in terms of a points total. This season Liverpool don’t look like a team with no ideas who can’t break teams down, they look like a team with a plan. We have an idea that the most important thing is to build from a defensively solid foundation, but with the awareness that we have the quality and chemistry on the pitch to go through the gears when we need to. Before the Cardiff game I predicted Liverpool would take an hour to break the dead lock but this doesn’t make me a football guru. We had plenty of chances where we should have been more ruthless and scored in the first half. It could easily have been 2-0 or even 3-0 at half time. Cardiff are fighting for their lives and they were going do everything they could on and off the pitch to make it difficult for us.
Q – The positive thing of course, is the 3 points. Cardiff did everything to disrupt the game including refusing to water the pitch pre game. How pleasing was it to see Liverpool reacting to these tactics and coming out on top?
Very pleasing! Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool should absolutely be dealing with this poor Cardiff team, but Warnock was always going to do everything possible to make this game less of a football match and more of a scrap. At times we saw that as well, but eventually the quality came through. I was particularly pleased to hear that Klopp and the club had anticipated this and had ordered the groundsman to replicate those same conditions at Melwood. The grass was left to grow and it was not watered before training sessions. I love that level of meticulous preparation and attention to detail, it shows just how seriously we are taking this title challenge. After the game I saw Klopp talking with Carragher and he mentioned how much he thought training under those conditions had helped on the day. Recently we’ve comfortably beaten the likes of Bayen Munich, Tottenham and Chelsea but against Cardiff Liverpool showed that they don’t have a soft under belly and that we don’t fold to pressure or under uncomfortable conditions either.
Q – Huddersfield on Friday, Liverpool are 1/20 with some bookies and Jamie Carragher said post game after Cardiff that “Liverpool WILL beat Huddersfield, it’s a gimme”. Do you share that optimism or is there a danger to be had in a game against a side playing with the pressure off?
Look, Jamie Carragher, the supporters, the bookies and the neutrals are all entitled to their opinion and yes I do share that opinion, but Jurgen Klopp won’t be thinking like that. We’ve all been watching football long enough to know that these things can easily happen. With the prematurely relegated teams we know it can go both ways, they can either down tools or suddenly start playing with a freedom that sees them become more adventurous. The problem Huddersfield have is that unfortunately they’re one of the poorest sides the Premier League has seen and regardless of their current circumstances it’s difficult to see how they can possibly hurt Liverpool (at Anfield of all places). It seems they neither have the quality to keep us out, or to hurt us offensively. When we speak of the gulf in class we are thinking about Liverpool’s first maybe 15 players compared to Huddersfield’s best 15 players. That gulf starts to diminish somewhat if you compare Huddersfield to Liverpool’s second string. The point I’m making here is that I’d be ok with the odd change at the weekend, maybe Lallana in, Maybe Gomez getting a game etc but I would not want to see whole sale changes or unfamiliar partnerships in key areas of the pitch. I still want us to put a very strong team out, get the job done convincingly and I’m sure we will!
Q – Finally, Liverpool can’t win the league unless Manchester City slip up. Burnley, Leicester and Brighton are their final opponents. Can you see a game that gives you optimism of them dropping points?
Well I don’t think any intelligent football fan can do an individual analysis of any of those fixtures and have anyone but City coming out on top. But like I said earlier, football is a strange game and it doesn’t always work like that. Who would have thought Manchester City would have dropped points to Newcastle, Leicester and Palace earlier on this season. Pressure does strange things to humans and nobody is exempt from its effects. Indeed only a few years ago Liverpool were themselves sitting pretty with three games to go and we blew it against a Chelsea side we were expected to beat and a Crystal Palace side we were expected to steam roll. Leicester have already taken points from City this season and now with the added Brendan Rodgers factor it’s possible to envisage something happening there. Don’t forget, even a point will do for Liverpool. I think Leicester are pretty well set up to play City with their quick counter attacking style and a pacey forward in Vardy who can trouble their back line the way Rashford did in the first half of the Manchester derby. Burnley can be an unpleasant fixture and Brighton might need a win on the last day to ensure survival so there’s absolutely a glimmer of hope, dim though it might be. All Liverpool can do is keep winning and keep turning the screw on City and hopefully they’ll crack. What a season it’s been for everyone, whether invested or neutral. I’m so proud that we’ve been able to push this phenomenal winning machine called Manchester City so close for so long.