I had the privilege of picking the brain of our friend SamFels over at Anfield Asylum, SBNation's resident Liverpool blog, ahead of this weekend's fixture. For some lovely insight strait from the belly of the beast, follow the jump; you can also find my answers to their questions here.
Keep Your Enemies Closer: A Q+A With Anfield Asylum
1. We'll start with the positive. How do you feel about the Carling Cup victory? Obviously, the automatic bid to Europe must be nice, but how significant do you think the trophy is in the context of Liverpool's season? What are you expectations for Europa 2012-13? (provided the world doesn't end, of course).
To be honest, the Carling Cup victory feels like it was so long ago I feel like I watched it in the womb. The automatic bid to Europa League gets nicer by the day as it looks more and more like Liverpool wouldn't have qualified for it through the league. As for how significant? We all hoped it would be a springboard to a furious closing kick to the league, instead Liverpool have emulated Arsenal's collapse after last year's final AND THEY FUCKING WON THE THING! If they don't manage to win the other Cup, and perhaps even if they do, the Carling Cup probably won't be much more than a footnote. As for the Europa League next year, I really have no idea. It depends on who the manager is and what the squad looks like and what the aims really are. Most likely, it'll get sacrificed for a chase at a Champions League place. I think.
2. Speaking of the season, how has it measured up to your expectations? How far away do you see yourself from competing for titles and Champions League again? Any thoughts as to what has brought about the current points drought? Finally, between the League and the F.A. Cup, which competition do you feel is more important?
Disappointing like Metallica's last four albums level. I honestly expected Liverpool to seriously be in the hunt for 4th if not better, and in all honesty if they could hit a bull in the ass with a snow shovel they would be. Where they are now and how they are playing is quite simply unacceptable. How far away? I don't think it's as far as it looks at the moment. The defense, when not completely exhausted as it is now, is Champions League class with Johnson-Agger-Skrtel-Enrique, with Kelly and Coates being very able deputies, or will be. There are some pieces ahead of that, and the absence of Lucas has been massive. He just does so much and keeps everything controlled. What they'll need in the summer in another attacking midfielder who can finish and maybe another striker to combine with Suarez, if they can't turn Andy Carroll into that (and I'm not ready to give up on that yet). The F.A. Cup is always a treasure, and provides a good feeling to cap off the season if you win it, but the league was the priority this year and Liverpool have unequivocally biffed that.
3. What are your thoughts on the reign of King Kenny? Obviously, his significance at Tyneside is pretty well-known, though we definitely have mixed feelings about the impact he made on The Entertainers. How do you think Liverpool will fare under Dalglish in the future, and how secure do feel his position is?
This is the major debate among Liverpool fans right now, and as an opinionated tool as I am, I just can't pick a side on this one. Kenny was definitely needed last year, when the club needed someone to get everyone to snap to attention. He did that. And this year, while the results weren't always there the performances were. But lately it's all gone balls-up. The performances are abhorrent, confidence is shot, and some player selections are baffling. All of that falls at his feet, at least partially. Liverpool grab points at twice the rate when Andy Carroll plays vs. when he doesn't. Even though he's clearly not scoring, he occupies defenders and creates space for others. Instead, we get the vacant gape of Dirk Kuyt, who never really could do anything but run around a lot in various patterns and then pop up with a vital goal to make it look like he was doing more than he was. Jordan Henderson has been shunted out to the right all season where he doesn't belong, and he needs to be developed in the center of midfield as that's where his future is. Stewart Downing keeps ending up on the right of midfield as well when he's left-footed and can provide width. Enrique's about to die of exhaustion because Dalglish won't try the kid Flanagan who hasn't disappointed when getting a chance. Charlie Adam had to blow out a knee to get out of the lineup, when he's been awful for months. A couple promising academy grads haven't gotten a look, and that's frustrating too. I doubt FSG has the stones to fire Kenny, but he loves the club so much and is a smart guy, and may just step down. Either way, he's not a long term answer, and if there's one available this summer (I don't care what Chelsea think of him, I'd take Villas-Boas in a heartbeat), they should move on it.
4. If you don't mind, we'd love for you to wax poetic about Luis Suarez. Obviously, his temper, penchant for handballs, and somewhat ardent racism make him a rather unpopular figure around the Premiership, but my goodness can the man play some football. How does it feel having a wrestling heel as your featured player?
Yeah, this is a hard one. First off, his antics on the field, aside from the Evra thing, get overplayed by the media to an almost comical degree. Yeah, he's petulant, yeah he dives, yeah there are some other things. But it's not so much worse than a lot of other strikers in the Prem, but because he's an easy target so much more is made of it. Is he any worse than Ronaldo was or Drogba? Not by as much as he gets labeled with.
As for the racist part, it's hard to get around. But I sort of buy the "cultural difference" story, and while that doesn't make it acceptable it's somewhat explainable. And let's face it, while it doesn't make it ok to make him the target of a racial slur, Patrice Evra is an utter twat. Something in that whole debacle doesn't add up. Let me reiterate before I get pillaged here that Suarez was completely in the wrong and the club as well handled it in horrific fashion.
But you're right, the dude can seriously play, though I don't know where his lethal finishing from Ajax and Uruguay went. In the end, I really don't think Suarez is a bad guy, his teammates seem to love him, and his rep for antics is overblown. And man is he exciting. So yeah, there's a non-answer for you.
5. What pieces do you think you need to add this summer to be competitive next year? How confident are you that Liverpool will indeed make those maneuvers?
I have no idea what's left in the coiffeurs. They spent a pretty penny the past summer with only mixed results, and I don't know what FSG's trigger finger is like. Plus, no one trusts Damien Comolli after the Downing and Adam fiascos. What Liverpool need is someone who can play as the third forward in a 4-3-3 next to Suarez and Carroll, or whoever is Carroll's replacement which they'd need to find. And that guy needs to finish. They probably need another midfielder to rotate with Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, and Spearing, which may be Shelvey or may not be. But they really don't need much. And a backup left-back to keep Enrique from stepping on his tongue. And a rocket launcher to send Charlie Adam to the moon.
6. And finally, a prediction for the match? Another 4-3... just because?
Please, we couldn't score three or four goals if we had a month. 2-0 to Newcastle.