The set piece spectre of Stoke can be set aside this week as we focus on the next big one. Liverpool are coming to town. We caught up with Kenny of Anfield Online…
A belter of a Q&A.
1. 4th placed City and 5th placed Liverpool are about to go head to head in what is being billed as a Champions League showdown. City have been in poor, sluggish form of late whilst Liverpool’s results remain erratic. What’s the mood amongst the Anfield faithful in this crucial week of an intriguing Premier League season?
‘The mood amongst most fans has lifted a fair amount lately. Even though we suffered a one nil defeat away to Arsenal which brought an end to our seven game unbeaten run, it’s clear to see that Liverpool have turned a corner, mentally.
‘We’re not quite there yet but there seems to be more confidence going through the team now as opposed to two or three months ago. And this is breeding a more solid and determined approach to our football. So the mood is certainly upbeat. Most reds know that we have the experience to dig in harder when the going gets tough and the season progresses.’
2. Now for the sensitive subject of Liverpool’s ownership. As we understand it, in a similar situation to the rags, if not with as high numbers, the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era debt now stands at around £237 million. A figure worsened by interest with each passing day. Can you explain exactly what the situation is at the club and how you expect what has become something of a saga to develop?
‘The figure you speak of is correct and it’s certain to increase the longer these two joint owners are anything to do with Liverpool FC.
‘They have borrowed money to buy the club without going near their own pockets, then they borrowed again to, basically, buy the club again. They have placed unrealistic debts upon the club and also unrealistic valuations on the club to potential investors. What’s worst of all though is that they have put our manager in a very difficult situation. The debt has to be financed by player sales and other revenue. It’s as simple as that.
‘What people fail to understand is that Rafael Benitez is running a top Premier League club on a budget of zero or less investment for playing staff. That is certainly not right when he pushed for a league title only last season. It’s no secret that our club is looking for investment and this may happen one way or another in the coming months. But there certainly won’t be any development as such, the longer the current owners are here. We will only go backwards.’
3. City drew 2-2 at Anfield back in November, thwarted by Yossi Benayoun’s equaliser. What did you perceive to be City’s strengths and weaknesses?
‘That was a pretty tough day to call on strengths. I remember it being quite restrictive from both sides. We suffered a few early injuries in that game, losing both Agger and Babel before the twenty minute mark. And our confidence was lacking.
‘So our game plan was certainly altered slightly but we adapted. One of Man City’s strengths that day was being tight in and around the box, making it tough for Liverpool to spread the play. And then the addition of Tevez after sixty minutes was always going to strengthen your side. I think that created space for your players on the attack.’
4. Who should City, and in turn Liverpool, be wary of once the sold out game gets under way in East Manchester?
‘City should certainly be wary of Gerrard. The last two or three games he’s really been starting to show his determination to win. When that starts happening, he becomes such a massive influence on the pitch and it’s very hard or basically impossible to control him.
‘Agger is growing in form and when he’s on the top of his game, he can open the match up with one of his driving runs out of defence. And he’s not shy of having a crack from outside the box either.
‘Kuyt will give you a tough game if he plays up front. He grafts his way around the pitch and he’s very awkward to deal with from corners and set pieces.
‘As for City, for me, Ireland is a player to be wary of. I admire his sheer determination to maraud forward and he can inspire and influence other players around him. Great player. Adebayor is a dangerous forward. Very tough player to defend against with his presence. He can get the ball under control and in the back of the net, in a flash too. Vieira is also someone to be wary off (if not banned on Sunday). He has a powerful distinctive presence on the pitch – one that can only help City’s midfield for the remainder of this season.
5. Liverpool return to European action again this week. In light of Liverpool’s inconsistent form throughout this campaign to date, allied to the injuries any squad ships through a season, do you reckon that your European commitments could further impact upon Rafa Benitez’s fight to secure a 4th placed finish?
‘I don’t think being involved in the Europa League will influence or have an impact on our pursuit for a top four place. Like I said earlier, it’s clear to see Liverpool have turned a corner now.
‘In my view, we can only get stronger and better from here and we have the experience to back it up. This Thursday we play a difficult game at Anfield and once that game is over with, the full focus will be the game at Man City. Obviously, Liverpool FC play to win silverware and I’m sure we’ll try our utmost to bring some back to Merseyside this season. But very soon we will have players like Johnson and Torres back available and we will be able to have more choice from the squad for both competitions.’
6. What’s your impression of all things Manchester City Football Club today as we approach the business end of the season? Everyone from state of the art turnstile to penalty area is striving to break into what has previously become an increasingly monotonous ‘Big Four’ procession. Can it be done?
‘Personally, I know quite well Manchester City Football Club are on the up. There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes at the stadium where events are concerned and I think that deserves credit.
‘It’s clear a lot of money has been spent to improve the squad and it speaks volumes of the club’s ambition. A good stadium that is capable of attracting various events other than just football and some very good players, will obviously push the club to the top or thereabouts. Can it be done this season? Maybe not. I think it’ll go to the wire, and experience will be the factor this season.’
7. And so to battle. What’s your prediction for Sunday?
‘My prediction for Sunday is obviously a hard fought, end to end, reckless and at times, confusingly crazy 3-2 to the reds!’
Very many thanks to Kenny and the Anfield Online team for this superb interview.
You can check out more of what the opposition are thinking at:
VMC City Link: ANFIELD ONLINE – The Independent Liverpool FC Website
VMC Seven Deadly Sinners 2009-2010:
Blackburn Rovers: Mikey D
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Akela
Arsenal: Paul Mustchin
Manchester united: Nobby Allcock
West Ham: Rossy
Aston Villa: The Fear
Wigan Athetic: Worbo
Fulham: Andrew Joyce
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
Liverpool: Chubby Alonso
Hull City: Matt Wilson
Bolton Wanderers: Richard McC
Tottenham Hotspur: OxfordSpur
Sunderland: Gaz Johnson
Stoke: Chris Baldwin
Middlesbrough: Steve Goldby
Man united: Eric Whiteside
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
Stoke City: Gareth Ekin
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Blackburn: Mikey D
Everton: Everton Mike
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