Fanzone: Liverpool v Stoke City Preview
Here we go again! Liverpool v Stoke City is the first game of the 2013/14 Barclay’s Premier League and we caught up with two die hard fans ahead of the opening day clash for our new Break In Play Fanzone Feature. We’ve all heard what the “experts” think, let’s hear the view from the stands!
Adam Kirchner of @AnfieldAsylum gives us the thoughts from the Kop
Q.1 What have you made of Rodgers’ dealings in the window?
Boy, you start with the tough stuff. Rodgers seems to have done quite well in the transfer market if pre-season play is anything to judge by (which it is not). Aspas has been a real threat, scoring 4 goals in Liverpool’s 7 pre-season friendlies and has put himself in some excellent positions with movement that fits right into the style of Rodgers. I was leery of the Toure signing (even though it was a free), but he has slotted in and provided a very similar role in the team to Carragher, although he has some pace left. Alberto has the movement, but hasn’t had the results of Aspas. Perhaps it is just a matter of time, but he doesn’t look quite as comfortable as Aspas thus far. The real revelation is Jordan Ibe who has lit up the opposition down the wing. While not a new signing, he appears to be leaving off right where he was when he made his debut in Liverpool’s final match last season. He received a standing ovation when subbed last season and based on his play thus far, he will receive many more. Oh and Mingolet has been solid; no one has really missed Reina once emotions are put aside.
Q.2 Who do Liverpool need to really perform to get a result against Stoke this weekend?
Joe Allen, if he starts, could be a key player (if not insert Lucas where you see Allen). Stoke have been a bit of a bogey team for Liverpool over the years and much of that can be accredited to their style of play that was more American football than English football. I expect Allen to start and he has looked rejuvenated in the preseason. However, he has been playing a bit higher than usual which will be interesting. While it is hard to judge how Stoke will play under Hughes, assuming the play like old he could be key. Liverpool’s style of play requires control of the midfield. Given his extremely slight build and shoulder rebuild, it makes me nervous to see him out there against Stoke. He can make or break this. If he gets control and allows Stevie to push forward and focus on attacking it should be a good day to be a Scouser.
Q3. Will Stoke be totally different under Mark Hughes?
This is an excellent question and one to which I have no real answer. I have not really been able to watch anything they’ve done in preseason to see if their style of play is any different. As a former Manc I wish him nothing but failure; however, he has been a bit unfortunate in some of his positions if you’re asking me to be honest. He managed to keep Fulham up year in and year out which was no small feat given the players he had. The City thing was a debacle, but more of a political affair. QPR, well yeah; he spent a lot and got little. It is a mixed bag with him. I’m honestly most curious to see if he ditches the suit and tie for more casual Pulis like attire. To answer your question, it seems they have lost a lot of experience and replaced it with very little. I would be a bit worried if I were Hughes. This will truly be the litmus test for his managerial skills, but I still expect it to be a bruising affair.
Q4. Where are the weaknesses in Stoke that Rodgers will look to exploit?
Well the good news is that the defenders can now put the ball out of play without fear of it effectively becoming a corner due to Rory Delap’s departure. Their goalkeeping is very solid, and Robert Huth is a dirty beast in the air. I would expect Rodgers to play direct through the midfield since he knows first hand that Charlie Adam isn’t up to the task of playing defense (or midfield for that matter) and was happy to see him off last August. The centre midfield overall for Stoke seems average at best. This is where Joe Allen or Lucas will be key. If they can get that foothold and spread the ball, it should be a comfortable day.
Q5. Score Predictions Please.
This is always tough, but I’ll go with 2-0 to the good. Liverpool have only conceded one goal in their 7 preseason games. the pairing of Toure and Agger should be sufficient to stymie most of Stoke’s attacking threats.
Thomas Beech of @PickStoke & @SirTonyPulis Gives us a Potters’ view
Q.1 New season, new manager. What do you make of Mark Hughes?
I was quite happy when he was appointed. A section of Stoke fans were against it but I assume they were basing that on his most recent exploits at QPR, instead of his overall record as a Manager. There’s no getting away from the fact that his time at Loftus Road is a blip on his CV but, that aside, he’s done very well in his career in the 12 years or so prior to his short stint with The Hoops. His time at Wales, Blackburn and even Fulham can arguably be viewed as successes. Some may say his time at Man City was a failure but he wasn’t really given enough time to see the job through. He was responsible for bringing the likes of Kompany, Zabaleta, Tevez and Barry to the club, all of which were instrumental in the title winning side under Mancini. He had his fingers burnt at QPR; he’ll back with a point to prove now and hopefully he can do that at The Britannia Stadium.
Q.2 Will Stoke City be more attractive on the eye this season?
I’m not sure “attractive” is the right word. I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to play football. We played some brilliant, high-octane and most importantly, entertaining stuff under Tony Pulis at times. The 5-0 trouncing of Bolton at Wembley epitomising the pinnacle of one such spell of great form. In fact, last seasons match against Liverpool at The Britannia saw us turn in one such display and they couldn’t live with us that day. Those spells were few and far between unfortunately and ultimately the change was needed. I don’t believe there is an element of football snobbery from Stoke fans. There has to be a balance. I don’t want to see us stringing twenty passes together for the sake of it, with no final product. Ball retention is something we definitely need to improve on but ultimately scoring goals and winning matches are the most important factors in football. There will be a notable change in our style though. No sooner had Hughes been appointed he was making noises about implementing changes. He spoke of employing a more attacking style with a focus on scoring goals. During pre-season we have seen these changes come into effect with a new emphasis on ball retention. Moves have been built from the back and there has been a significant increase in possession in the middle third; although we still need to add a new frontman to the squad to address the goalscoring issues we’ve faced for the past couple of Seasons. There will definitely be changes and some may label it more ‘attractive’; I think Stokies are more concerned that it is ‘effective’ though, and that it returns results.
Q.3 Rodgers has brought in a few for Liverpool, but will they miss Carragher and Reina?
Carragher is one of those very rare commodities in the modern game, a one-club player and one of the very few to display loyalty and commitment. He’s been a fine servant for the club but there comes a time when you have to call it a day, and in Kolo Toure they’ve probably filled that gap as well as they possibly could. He has the ability, and experience, to fill the void and I don’t envisage many problems for them at the back. Similarly with Reina, he is another player who has given many great years to the club and he perhaps feels harshly treated to be moved on over the Summer. They have plugged the gap with a talented Keeper in Simon Mignolet though so I don’t envisage any problems in either area.
Q.4 Where are Stoke’s dangermen for this one?
Often in football ex-players come back to haunt their previous clubs and, in that aspect, we have the likes of Pennant, Adam and Crouch that can hopefully cause problems. Pennant’s delivery is his main strength and if he can pick Crouchie out with a couple of crosses then he definitely has the ability to find the back of the net. As for Adam, he has it in his locker to pick out the long-range wonder strike so, if all else fails, hopefully he can produce a moment of magic to give us a chance at Anfield.
Q.5 Score Predictions Please.
New manager, new ideas, new direction – predictions will be difficult over the opening games as it is a step into the unknown for Stoke City Football Club. As things stand, we haven’t added a new striker to the ranks so we may find goals difficult to come by. Liverpool are without Suarez too so it could be a tight affair. Heart says 1-1 draw, head says 1-0 home win.