Friday, 13 April 2018

Rival Lines: This is Anfield - Go with the Dutchman - is that van Dijk or AkΓ©?

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Blogger Interview: This is Anfield
Twitter: @thisisanfield

I spoke to Henry Jackson at This is Anfield who was no doubt celebrating this last week after Liverpool's progress to the Semi-Final of the Champions League - big congratulations! The Reds are having a great season and a top four finish looks glued on, but is Klopp getting the vey best out of his squad and should we talking about anyone else but Mo Salah?

CC: Do you feel that Liverpool are still a long way behind some of the other top four teams in terms of their defensive abilities?

TIA: Absolutely not. While Liverpool conceded some dreadful goals earlier in the season, them being poor at the back has become a myth since Virgil van Dijk’s arrival.

He has been colossal, getting the best out of those around him, particularly Loris Karius, who has really impressed.

The whole defensive unit has improved so much, as it showed over two legs against Man City. The supposed best attack in Europe had just three shots on target in 180 minutes!

Defending will never be Liverpool’s very strongest point - they are sometimes capable of capitulating - but they are far, far better than they were pre-Van Dijk.

CC: What's so impressive about Andrew Robinson?

TIA: He’s a gem, both on and off pitch.

Fans weren’t exactly overjoyed when Liverpool signed him, but he has been so consistent, and is arguably one of the Reds’ top three players this season, behind Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino.

He is fast, fit, a great crosser of the ball, a tenacious tackler and a very intelligent all-round footballer, in terms of decision making and awareness.

The fact that he seems one of the nicest men in football is an added bonus.

CC: Where do you think you would be in the league without Mo Salah's goals?

TIA: We would obviously be lower down in the table, but then you can say the same about all the top teams.

Imagine Man City without Kevin De Bruyne, Man United with David de Gea and Tottenham without Harry Kane. Most teams have a star man.

Salah has been an astonishing signing, though, and has arguably made a better start to his Liverpool career than any player in the history of the club. That’s saying something!

Our fans will tell you that Firmino is almost just as important, however, even though he has a more subtle way of showing it. He’s unbelievable.


CC: Any chance of Liverpool selling Danny Ings back to Bournemouth for next season?
TIA: I like Danny Ings a lot as a person, but I have my doubts about whether he is good enough for Liverpool, especially after such terrible injury problems.

Klopp thinks highly of him as well, but he must be considering moving him on and bringing in a superior back-up to Firmino.

Ings would do a good job for Bournemouth provided he stays fit - he works hard, is better on the ball than some give him credit for and knows where the goal is.

You would love him. [Ed- Well we did have him before Liverpool and Burnley - so we know him well]

CC: Would winning the European Cup with Klopp raise expectations of a Premier League title dangerously high next season?

TIA: Not dangerously high, no.

This is possibly the best Liverpool side I have seen in my lifetime, and they have beaten an imperious Man City team three times in the first four months of 2018.

Regardless of whether we win the Champions League or not - Real Madrid are strong favourites - the Reds will challenge for the Premier League title next season.

The addition of Naby Keita will transform what can sometimes be a one-dimensional midfield, and I expect a few more top players to come in as well.

Would I make us favourites next season? No. But we have a good chance.

CC: Has Oxlade-Chamberlain shown qualities that we just didn't see at Arsenal?

TIA: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s been great, even though a few poor performances have been thrown in here and there.

He looks a far more confident player than the one we saw at Arsenal, and Jurgen Klopp has benefited from playing him in his preferred central midfield role.

He has chipped in with big goals against City, and adds much-needed pace and drive to the midfield.

At 24, he should only improve in the coming years.

CC: There are rumours that Liverpool have been watching Lewis Cook at Bournemouth. Could you see him fitting into Liverpool's midfield or spending time in the reserves?

TIA: I could lie and say I have watched Lewis Cook loads this season, but I haven’t!

From what I’ve seen he does look like a Klopp player though - technically good, plenty of running and a great attitude.

It was nice to see him get on for England recently, and I certainly wouldn’t be unhappy if he came in as a squad player next season.

His potential is clearly big, and it’s always good to keep a nucleus of English players at the club.

CC: Is Loris Karius a keeper that is getting better?

TIA: He has improved so much - who knew a young lad may take time to settle at such a big club?

He has made some bad mistakes, but he has been almost immaculate since coming back into the team, making big saves a looking so much more authoritative.

We have been linked to Alisson, who plays for Roma and Brazil, which would be a fantastic signing, but Loris Karius is making a strong case to be first-choice moving forward.

If he performs like this until the end of the season, Klopp may hold off on bringing in a big name between the sticks.

CC: What are Liverpool going to do for players if Southampton get relegated? - I'm trying not to laugh - really!

TIA: Haha. I saw a Southampton fan blaming us for their potential relegation. Mate, we’ve given you hundreds of millions to go and spend well - you haven’t!

They’ve tried to create some sort of rivalry with Liverpool because we keep buying their best players, but they’re just a bit of an irrelevance, without sounding arrogant.

I wouldn’t be unhappy to see them go down, because they do seem to raise their game against us.

CC: James Milner seems to be eternal, are his legs starting to go?

TIA: He’s another gem who has been a very good signing. His effort levels are astonishing, but he is a MUCH better technical footballer than many give him credit for.

If we got a penalty in the last minute of the Champions League final, he would be my first pick to take it every time.

There’s a reason why he’s been such a popular individual at both Liverpool and Man City - he rarely lets you down and does the right thing time and time again.

He is 32, and his very best days are behind him, so I see him being more of a squad player moving forward.

CC: Any injury worries for this game?

TIA: The two matches against Man City have really taken their toll on the players, so I would expect to see changes made.

We have a number of injuries, though, so Klopp can’t switch things up too much.

Jordan Henderson is back after missing Tuesday’s game through suspension, but Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Emre Can and Adam Lallana are all out.

CC: How will Liverpool line up against Bournemouth?

TIA: I would expect something like: Karius, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino, Ings.

Klopp is really hard to second-guess, so who knows!

CC: We might not get a result in this game, so can you give us a good outside bet for the Grand National?

TIA: I’ll go with The Dutchman at 28/1, mainly because Van Dijk is Dutch, and is a born winner.

Solid logic, right?

CC: Brilliant - at least we can come away from Aintree and can blame a Dutchman if we don't win there and another van Dyke Dutchman at Anfield if we don't win there. Well, AFCB have their own Dutchman in Nathan AkΓ© so maybe This is Anfield is on to something there? AFCB fans love games against Liverpool as we know it will be a goal feast more often than not and while AFCB lost heavily at home it could be a chance for some payback. Jordan Ibe is hopefully raring to go again and I have my fingers crossed that the Champions League match against City has taken a bit out of Liverpool's  fantastic forward three. Thanks to Henry for spending lots of time answering all my questions.

You can relive Liverpool's triumph against Man City on the This is Anfield Blog with a tactical review and you can recall 2.5 Red years under Jurgen Klopp.

T-Shirt competition
Can you win a CherryChimes T-Shirt before the end of the season? Just correct the correct score between Liverpool and AFC Bournemouth by Saturday morning 11am to enter. We will pick a winner if there are more than one correct entries.

In other news, AFCB have released details of their Premier League fans' match day experience survey.

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