Interview: Liverpool fan gives us an insight into how things are going at Anfield right now

Craig Hanson 3 weeks ago
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Jurgen Klopp's side look back to their best and will likely be challenging on all fronts again this season

Liverpool struggled for the majority of last season with some devastating injuries which all but decimated their defensive line. They lost arguably the world's best centre back in Virgil Van Dijk, as well as his partners Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, among others. The coaching staff frantically tried to find a solution, on occasion playing one or even two centre midfielders in the backline. The most notable problem came when Fabinho was forced to fill in at the back, where the Brazilian didn't necessarily do a bad job, but was sorely missed in his natural habitat the middle of the park. The club drafted in young Turkey international Ozan Kabak on loan from Schalke and academy graduate Nat Phillips made certainly more appearances than he would have under normal circumstances. The prospects acquitted themselves well in a high pressure environment but such a crisis would be hard for any elite team to endure.

In the midst of all that, Klopp's side managed to finish in third after a late surge in results and made the Champions League quarter finals. When compared to some of their rivals' various off seasons, it certainly wasn't an historic collapse. Nonetheless, after weathering that storm, fans were excited to see if Liverpool could get back to their true best in 2021/22, and despite some less than perfect results recently, they have done just that. Mohamed Salah is regarded by many as the best player walking the earth right now. Van Dijk hasn't quite returned to his peak just yet buy signs are promising. New centre back reinforcement Ibrahima Konate has showed bags of potential in the games he's played, despite being a little raw at times. Diogo Jota has continued his good form from last season. All areas of the pitch look well stocked and there is competition for places almost everywhere you look.

Fans and players alike will be disappointed that their 25 game unbeaten streak was broken in their last game by West Ham but David Moyes' side are playing some fantastic football and are a real threat to anyone they play against right now. Liverpool sit in fourth place, four points adrift of leaders Chelsea in a congested and highly competitive top half. They've scored 31 goals in 11 Premier League games, making them the top scorers in the division. They've already won an extremely tough Champions League group by taking maximum points from their first four games against Atletico Madrid, Porto and Milan. They've already put five past three teams - Porto, Watford and most importantly, Manchester United. Goals are flying in, supporters have been thoroughly entertained and there is rightly a lot of optimism around the camp.

We caught up with Noel Chomyn, Managing editor of The Liverpool Offside, a Liverpool FC fan blog on the SB Nation network. We asked Noel for his take on matters on the pitch right now at Anfield. Here's what he had to say:

Q. How well do you feel Ibrahima Konate has done from what you've seen, and do you feel confident that the defensive depth is back to where it needs to be?

A. Konaté has looked pretty much as advertised when he’s had his chances, which is to say one of Europe’s most talented young centre halves and a player who has no right being as mobile or composed on the ball as he is given his size. There have been a few moments he’s looked like a young defender still getting up to speed with a new club, but then with Joël Matip at the club he was never signed to be a day one starter and everything points to him being a player who can anchor the backline down the road. The only question is whether he takes on that role at some point this year or perhaps starting next season.

Q. Are there any emerging young players that perhaps we aren't aware of who might start to break into the first team this season?

A. I don’t think Curtis Jones or Harvey Elliott—when he’s fit again—are exactly under the radar names for most, and I suspect that any other youth players are a little further off. Kaide Gordon, a wide forward who joined from Derby last winter, is probably closest, but at just 17 years of age he’s likely going to see his chances limited to domestic cup duties. There’s also Tyler Morton who has impressed in the League Cup and made the bench a couple of times, but taking the next step as an undersized holding midfielder will be a tough ask.

Q. Which player is the most underutilised in the squad in your opinion, either in terms of lack of game time or wrongly used?

A. For the most part it’s hard to complain about how Jürgen Klopp has used the players at his disposal. I might have previously argued that despite Diogo Jota’s goals we tend to look better as a team with Roberto Firmino leading the line, but even his relatively limited use early this season was at least in part down to load management - which his recent injury suggests was probably necessary.

Q. As we stand around a quarter of the way into the season, what do you make of the performances so far?

A. Having lost for the first time after a 25 game unbeaten streak means going into the international break with a bit of a sour taste, but we had just gone on a 25 game unbeaten run and qualified in first place from the consensus toughest Champions League group after just four games. We also appear to still be perfecting a new, or at least tweaked, system which is resulting in some midfield transition issues. Assuming we get that sorted out before too much longer, I have high hopes and expectations and think we can be content with the foundation built in the first quarter of the season.

Q. What are broadly your expectations for the club come the end of this season? What would be an acceptable season?

A. A successful season for this group is one of the big trophies, the Champions League or Premier League. Anything else is a bonus, anything less is at least a mild disappointment.

Q. In terms of the big picture, is there any suggestion that Jurgen Klopp could be leaving in the next few years, and if/when he does, who do you think the club should appoint as his successor?

A. Klopp’s under contract until 2024 so we’re expecting two more seasons with him in charge after this one, at which point if you were a betting man there are only two options. One is Pepijn Lijnders, his assistant, who the club have been grooming as his replacement for some time now. The other obvious option is Steven Gerrard. For fans, Gerrard’s name might appeal, but the club are too well run to hand it off to him if there’s a risk that he’s going to be another Frank Lampard or Ole Gunnar Solskjær, and the bootroom approach and handing it to Lijnders next seems likeliest. Another two seasons is an eternity in football, though, so anything could happen.

Fans will have to wait until after the international break now to see their team in action again. Next up for Liverpool is a home game against a resurgent and dangerous Arsenal on Saturday 20 Nov. They will then play Porto in Europe in mid week with the luxury of knowing that they have already sealed top spot in Group B and can afford to rotate their squad heavily. Of course Klopp will want to keep the momentum going and secure another three points but the priority will be keeping his key players fit, especially given the horrors of last season which are surely always in the back of his mind.

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