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Q&A with Liverpool Offside

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We talk to the blog-ponent prior to Sunday’s season opener.

RBS Take Liverpool FC Owners To Court Over Loan Repayment
Arsenal’s first opponent
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Hey guess what? Meaningful games are back! And also back is our Q&A feature, where we talk to the weekend opponent team’s blogger about their team and their season. Today we chat with Emre’s Brylcreem from The Liverpool Offside, and I with him; my answers to his questions are here. He had lots of interesting stuff to say, so let’s just dive right in.

TSF: Jurgen Klopp injected some life into the squad last year after a rough start. Are people still as excited about him as they were last October?

TLO: For me to say excitement would be such an understatement as to border on the absurd. I’d say folks divide into three camps: cautiously optimistic but still salty about American ownership (these are the folks that were adults in the 70’s and 80’s and their spiritual heirs); convinced Jurgen will lead us into the promised land but it may take another year but that’s fine because it’s Jurgen; and those that think why not now, since Jurgen is Bill Shankly reincarnated (I’m in this last camp and we have flares already going off everywhere, FYI)

TSF: Who is the new signing that excites you the most and why?

TLO: Tie between Sadio Mane and Loris Karius. Mane has looked like some kind of marauding revelation: hitting the channels; bursting into the box late in dangerous positions to receive the ball (I cannot tell y’all how much this was missed last season); demonstrating an uncanny ability to find space after receiving the ball before either driving forward to attack defenders directly or popping it off to fellow attackers in dangerous positions; and generally looking like name no. 1 on the team sheet for Klopp.

Karius, besides his golden-god looks, is exciting by virtue of being not Mignolet. Given y’all have had decent men between the sticks for years, you may have forgotten what it was like to experience next-level anxiety each time a ball comes into the box in the air, which happens no less than a thousand times a game (or at least feels that way when Mignolet is in goal). Moreover, his shakiness has the propensity to induce chaos at the back on occasion, and the degree to which you could tell how much Mignolet’s CBs do not trust him was terrifying.

Yes, Migs will be starting on Sunday.

TSF: What roster holes does Liverpool still have to address?

TLO: Left back, left back, left back, and left back. It’s been a problem position for near-decades, and while I’m of the opinion that Moreno will blossom into a devastating force, there’s no denying he can be a defensive liability and sometimes cannot seem to make a decent decision with his final ball (sound familiar?).

James Milner has been deployed there this preseason, which also is fine with me, but it’s difficult to look at the concurrent lack of depth at right back after Jon Flanagan, Scouse Hero’s loan and not worry. Milner can deputize on both flanks, and Ragnar Klavan, who has been insanely impressive - insofar as he has simply not put a foot wrong - this preseason can deputize on the right as needed. But another left back would put the necessary pressure on Moreno to improve, and one that offered defensive solidity, alone, would be a welcome addition given Moreno’s tendency for howlers.

The failure to sign Ben Chilwell or Jonas Hector is proving rather irritating, but I refuse to believe there isn’t another decent left back available at a reasonable price. It would seem prudent to bring in a veteran with only a few years left in his legs, is what I’m saying.

TSF: With only domestic competitions to focus on this season, does Liverpool hope to put together a run at the championship, or is top four more of a realistic aim?

TLO: We’re gonna win the league. In all seriousness, no, a title challenge isn’t likely to materialize, but as someone that grew up on overseas family preaching the indomitability of the Mighty Reds and came-of-age with the the early 90’s Atlanta Braves, it’s hard not to believe in miracles.

So sure, we could win the league, but if we fail to make top four it will make for a very, very disappointing summer. We were so close to Champions League last season. The second 45 minutes against Sevilla may have been some of the most profoundly depressing of my life.

TSF: What's one big thing people should look for from Liverpool this season?

TLO: Why thank you for giving me a chance to link to Part 2 of our Preseason Preview, which asked just this question.

To recap, broadly: more goals; more cohesiveness in the press; more explosiveness on the counterattack; better defense on set-pieces; and more incisiveness against sides / fans that look at Jose Mourinho’s bus-parking and think yeah, I want to win at any cost, even if it means gouging my eyes out every weekend because my manager thinks the most beautiful thing in football is to eke out a one-nil win while making sure the team leaves the half no more than once. Pass and move is the Liverpool groove, and we expect to see direct, yet beautiful play the coming year.

TSF: Predicted lineup for this weekend?

TLO: This is the question I was most afraid of. The fundamental issue here is deciding between: (a) 4-2-3-1; or (b) 4-3-3. The question further hinges on whom Klopp deploys in the midfield from Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, or Georginio Wijnaldum.

The backline is set: Moreno, Lovren, Klavan, Clyne. I would like to see Origi start, and I think Klopp will definitely play Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane in the attacking front, which either will be 3-1 or 3.

I expect a 4-3-3 (L to R). Migs, Moreno, Lovren, Klavan, Clyne; Henderson, Can, Lallana; Mane, Firmino, Coutinho. To be fair, this may end up being a 4-1-4-1, with Can at the base of the midfield, Coutinho dropping in a little bit, Lallana pushing in, Firmino taking point, and Mane and Henderson rounding out the other side. Expect to see Coutinho and Mane interchange a fair amount, as well.

If we play a 4-2-3-1, it will be Henderson and Can in the double-pivot, with Lallana, Coutinho and Mane rounding out the support behind Bobby F. A not-insignificant part of me would rather see Origi in the starting lineup with Firmino missing out, but I imagine Origi will be first off the bench for whichever attacker is least effective.

Wijnaldum starting would surprise me. He looks a player, but not quite sharp or integrated enough to get the nod. Henderson also looked like someone on a mission against Barcelona, which is understandable given the fact he wore the Captain’s band last season.

Good luck to y’all in the season after Sunday. Y’all are a club that do things right, and may we meet again in May, 2018, for the Champions League final.

Thanks to Emre’s Brylcreem and to Liverpool Offside for taking time to chat!