For our pre-season look at Liverpool we spoke to Tony Evans. Tony is the football editor for The Times and also an author in his own right.
Hi Tony. It’s fair to say that Liverpool exceeded all expectations last year, playing some quite remarkable football and coming very close indeed to winning a first title in decades only to fall at the last. What’s the overriding emotion after having a few months to properly reflect on it?
Deep down anyone with any football knowledge knew they didn’t have enough to win a title. Then they got to the point where they had it in their own hands and you started thinking: ‘Christ, just maybe.’
But football always finds you out. The defence was not good enough and needed strengthening in January and they didn’t manage it, despite Brendan Rodgers asking for a defender. No one could have imagined they would go so close and it’s testament to Suarez’s season that they took the title race into the last weeks. Be more difficult this season.
Like him or not, Suarez is obviously a big loss. His goals to an extent covered for the mixed performances your defence put in last year. What’s the plan this season? Is it all about Sturridge, Sterling, Lambert and Lallana, or will Rodgers be retooling the side?
The entire shape will change. Last season, everything was tailored to Suarez. Next season it will be a much more collegiate approach. They expect an awful lot from Markovic and think Can will develop into a serious player.
Lovren will make a difference at the back and it may work out well. I suspect top four will be the ambition, though.
You’ve been out of Europe for a while now. What would be a satisfactory return for Liverpool this season?
Qualifying for the knockout stage. That would be a big step forward. Although they went into the Champions League a decade ago with a worse squad and a similar ambition and they turned out alright….
I see Chelsea as our main title rivals this year; should I be including Liverpool in that, realistically?
No, not in terms of the title race. But they will be a team that can nick points. Still loads of pace in there and speed threatens even the best sides.
Finally, if you could have one City player for your starting XI, who would you have?
For Liverpool’s needs? Kompany: a fine defender, a talker, an organiser and proper captain. For me? David Silva.
A complete joy to watch. His movement, cleverness, touch and intuition put him up with the best in the world. He’s be a good replacement for Suarez…
No one is allowed to take David Silva away I’m afraid! Thanks, Tony, good luck this season.
Interview by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter