As much fun as we have doing Q&A's in which we get the teams wrong, I really do love doing these for real - talking with other bloggers is a great way to get a sense for what the opposition's all about. Today, I chat with Daniel Bradley of Liverpool Offside and get his thoughts on Monday night's match. I'll be doing the same for them, and will link to their Q&A when it goes live.
EDIT: Hey look! It went live!
To the questions! And answers!
TSF: Obviously it's impossible to compare their output yet, but how would you compare the fans' mood towards the Suarez Replacements and the Sterling Replacements?
LO: I think there's a lot of cautious optimism around Anfield at the moment, but then again, there was the same feeling after last summer's investments. And almost every summer since the Premier League's inception. As to be expected, there's a lot of excitement surrounding Roberto Firmino, who has looked a special talent in his two cameos so far.
Christian Benteke has, so far, at least, put most doubts about him to bed as he's shown signs of ability and willingness to adapt to Liverpool's style of play. If anything, it's the midfield behind him that has failed to accommodate the Belgian, but that will likely come with time.
There are already signs of a blossoming partnership with Philippe Coutinho, which is exactly what Liverpool need. There's still the feeling that players brought in last summer can and will contribute more than they did, Adam Lallana in particular, although he hasn't had the most blistering start to the campaign.
TSF: If Liverpool get off to a slow start, is Brendan Rodgers' seat going to get extremely warm, or will he last the season regardless?
LO: I actually don't think there's any danger of Rodgers being fired before the end of the season (sans a mitigating disaster, of course). It's almost as if Fenway Sports Group have handed him the keys and said "okay, it's time to live or die by your own sword" after spending the last two and a half years at odds with middle men such as the elusive transfer committee.
He's largely brought in his own players, his own coaching staff, and he's actively looking to offload the players that have, for one reason or another, fallen out of his favour. He's already dividing opinion, especially with the treatment of Lucas Leiva, but then there is a portion of the fanbase that want to see him fail for no other reason than to justify their mindless ranting in the Daily Mail's comments section.
I genuinely believe there's a world class manager in there somewhere, but he has an extremely stubborn streak that he must overcome before he can really shine. Whether that's at Liverpool or not remains to be seen.
TSF: The Mario Balotelli Question(s): Will he stay? Would you like to see him stay? What would turn things around for him at Liverpool?
LO: I don't think there's any chance he's still a Liverpool player come September. He's barely even still a Liverpool player as things are, having been cast away to train on his own. It's a real shame, because there isn't a personality in football I'd love to succeed more than Super Mario.
He's had such a tragic life story, still endures the most horrendous racial abuse via social media, and has his every action scrutinized by the overzealous media. He's such a likable character and there's clearly some outstanding natural talent in him. He's still got a lot of growing up to do, though, and at times he can be his own worst enemy, but he was never going to succeed at Liverpool, stylistically.
TSF: What is the main thing you'd like to see Liverpool improve on over last season?
LO: I think there needs to be an obvious vision. What we really lacked last season compared to the title push a year earlier was an identity. You had slow and lumbering target men in front of pacey and intricate midfielders, an immobile Steven Gerrard slowing everything down and a back line with no protection ahead of them. It was almost like two half-teams playing on the same field with no obvious understanding, and the manager failed in his duty to provide a spark.
Even during the unbeaten run, when it looked like we'd edge Manchester United to fourth place, a lot of it was down to dumb luck. This year, everybody on the pitch needs to be working towards the same goal, with the same style of play, and the manager needs to be more flexible. So far, the signs haven't been great, but the quality in the league as a whole has been pretty poor, which I think has been down to the shorter preseason schedule.
TSF: Fill in the blank: If Arsenal want to beat Liverpool on Monday, above all they must...
LO: The trick to beating Liverpool has always been through pressing. We've had so many sides that just fall to pieces if you really get in their faces, and I don't think this one will be any different. This might not go down well, but Arsenal have never been known for being a cohesive pressing unit. The 4-1 Anfield win a couple of seasons ago came from the Gunners' inability to press coherently, but they've probably got enough going forward now to pose Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel some serious questions.
TSF: Prediction for the match?
LO: Draw written all over it, for me. I think neither side will have enough about them to really push for a win, and they'll both be desperate not to lose their first high profile games of the season. 2-2.
Thanks again to Daniel and to Liverpool Offside for taking the time to chat with us.