Ahead of Sunday’s home game with Liverpool, I took time out to speak to Dave Hendrick, the editor of The Liverpool Word. We talked about Rafa and Rodgers, Carragher and Suarez, and Johnson and Zabaleta.
Luis Suarez is on fire this season. He really is a superb player. Try and sum up his impact at Liverpool since he signed.
It’s really hard to put into words just how good he’s been. When he first arrived, and the team was built around him with Maxi and Dirk either side and Meireles buzzing behind them he was fantastic. Then Dalglish and Comolli tried to change things and build around Carroll with Downing and Adam brought in and Suarez suffered because he had nobody on the same wavelength as him. He still managed to carry the mediocre dross that was put around him and have a decent season despite all that went on with Evra and the FA.
This season though, he’s been out of this world. He’s the best player in England right now and it’s not even close. He’s literally put Liverpool on his back and waged warfare on Premier League defences. Teams can’t stop him and with Sturridge around now to help him, he’s only going to get better and better. If Liverpool can add a couple of top end players in attack this summer to go with Suarez and Sturridge, and sort out the defensive midfield and centre back issues, Suarez could take another step forward and propel himself right into the group of 2 or 3 that sit behind Messi and Ronaldo as the best players in the world.
Does Jamie Carragher have a future at Liverpool after he finishes playing?
He definitely does. Carragher’s been studying for his coaching career for many years and he’ll almost certainly move on to the coaching staff at Liverpool when he’s finished playing. Whether or not he ever becomes Liverpool manager, I have my doubts but I think he will definitely stick around after his playing days are over.
Do you believe in Brendan Rodgers’ “philosophy”?
The Brendan Rodgers “philosophy” gets talked about an awful lot but people tend to ignore the fact that EVERY manager has a philosophy. Liverpool fans should be well used to philosophies. Bill Shankly had a philosophy, he built Liverpool Football Club on the basis of it. Bob Paisley had a philosophy, he turned Liverpool into the best team in the world on the basis of it. Rafa Benitez had a philosophy, but Liverpool fans seem to forget that. It gets talked about too much. A manager who doesn’t have a philosophy of some kind is basically a chancer.
Who’d be the better manager: Brendan Rodgers or David Brent?
Rodgers. Brent’s more akin to Hodgson!
Many people suggest that Liverpool supporters are bitter, and that they think the world is against them. What’s your take on that?
There are definitely a couple of journalists who love to take shots at Liverpool at any given opportunity but it’s nowhere near as bad as some would suggest. Every club has journalists who are against them, with Liverpool being so high profile it just gets highlighted more and because the club is being run pretty poorly those journalists are given plenty of opportunities to take their shots.
Have you missed Dirk Kuyt? My impression of him was that he was very, very useful without ever setting the world alight?
We miss Dirk’s energy and his habit of scoring important goals. Borini will likely prove to be an able replacement over time but we could have done with Dirk this season. And Maxi Rodriguez as well. They left because of how poorly treated they were last season, yet another thing Rodgers had to deal with that was out of his control.
One of my favourite players in world football is Xabi Alonso. There aren’t that many players who do the job he does, and he does it brilliantly. How tough was it losing him when you did?
It was difficult to lose him because he was so important to us but what made it worse was the poor deal we got. £30mil was a fair price but Real offered a number of top class players in part exchange and we said no. We’d have been better off taking Robben or Sneijder and 15mil for him. We also made a mess of replacing him. Aquilani wasn’t injured and was a different type of player. I actually think Mascherano was a bigger loss, and we could certainly do with him now moreso than Alonso. Masch still hasn’t been replaced at all which is just shambolic.
Realistically, how far off challenging for a Champions League place are you?
If we have a good summer, we’ll definitely be in contention for top four next season. There’s been a lot of progress this season, although it hasn’t always been reflected in our results. Rodgers is going about the right way and he’s done a good job at cleaning up the mess he took over but it’s a long road back to where we want to be from where he took over.
As I mentioned above, we need at least 4, possibly 5 very good signings in the summer. We’ll have the funds because Carroll will go and Reina and Skrtel will probably follow. Downing and others will likely be on their way as well.
Is Rafa one of the best managers in the world?
Yes and no. Tactically he’s very good and at times great, but he’s a poor man manager. Rafa falls out with too many people without having enough success to truly excuse it. If he had a CV like Mourinho’s his antics with players, owners and his own staff could be excused but he doesn’t.
Which City player would you most like to sign?
The obvious ones are Kompany, Aguero, Silva and Yaya, all world-class players who’d add to any team but none are realistic for Liverpool even if City did want to sell. I’d love Zabaleta to be honest. The most under-rated player in England and the best right back in the land. This season Glen Johnson has slightly outperformed him but Johnson is, in my opinion, better on the left so I’d take Zabaleta for right back and play Johnson left side permanently.
With Kompany and Yaya missing for City, I think you look a lot more vulnerable than normal. Admittedly we’re also weak in a number of areas, most notably the gaping hole at DM, but I think we can get a draw from this match. I’m going to go for an entertaining 2-2.