I had a chance to swap some Q&A’s with Zach Marx from a Liverpool fan site, Liverpool Offside today. I’ll post a link to my interview with them, when it posts.
1. How has Moreno adjusted to the EPL? Are Liverpool fans ready to move on from him?
Moreno announced himself with a bang in his third game with the club, capping off a dominating win over Spurs with a 70-yard run and perfect finish to make it 3-0. After that it was up and down for Moreno, with former manager Brendan Rodgers sporadically pulling the young leftback out of the line-up, and then back in, and then in as a substitute winger. At one point, Rodgers actually played 18-year-old centerback Joe Gomez ahead of Moreno at leftback. It was a mess. (One factor that led to the downfall of Rodgers was his insistence on playing players out of position). Then Jürgen Klopp came in and Moreno’s form greatly improved, both in attack and in defense. Klopp can frequently be heard yelling at Moreno from the sidelines. Although Alby is still prone to the occasional lapse in concentration (and the occasional stupid foul), I think most Liverpool fans want to keep him at the club for the foreseeable future. He’s still improving, and he’s miles ahead of our backup options at fullback.
2. Klopp seems like a fun loving guy compared to our serious almost frantic at times manager. How has Klopp changed the team since his arrival? Are they starting to build his statue right beside Paul, George, John and Ringo’s?
If you need a few moments of joy in your life, just watch one of his press conferences. If this whole managing thing doesn’t work out for him, he could have a career as a stand-up comedian. Kloppo is a fascinating character because he is both light-hearted and funny, but also passionate, serious, level-headed, and an excellent leader. Some of these things can seem contradictory, but he pulls it off (not all at once, mind you). Somehow, he manages to rise above the frantic nature of football journalism wherein every result either means the team will win the title, or the manager will be fired.
This last point is important, because I think the team was suffering from this “every game is the end of the world” mentality under Rodgers. The team was playing not to screw up, or not to lose, and produced some very dull, uninspired football for the better part of 18 months. When Klopp came in, it took time to transform this club into his vision (a process that is still on-going). The first few months saw some very volatile results. One week we were smashing Man City 4-1 on the road, the next we were getting hammered 3-0 by Watford. Through the middle of January, the club was on pace to score the fewest goals in the history of Liverpool FC. However, since the start of the new year, Klopp has lifted the shackles off the attacking players, told them it was OK to make mistakes, and that they should be “more cool” (his words) in front of goal. And since then Liverpool have been the most prolific side in England’s top flight. Oh, and did I mention two cup finals?
As for statues, I’d rather he stood right beside Bill Shankly. And yes, I think he’ll have one someday.
3. That Dortmund game. Can you put into words the emotions you felt during that epic comeback?
There are moments when you’re watching football and the normal rules of time and space don’t seem to apply. Liverpool Football Club have more than their fair share of these moments, especially at Anfield. In the back of every Liverpool fan’s head, they remember Istanbul, Olympiacos, and for older generations, St. Etienne.
Personally, I was watching the match while writing TLO’s “First Thoughts” (http://liverpooloffside.sbnation.com/2016/4/14/11433574/liverpool-4-dortmund-3-agg-5-4-first-thoughts) segment that we publish immediately after the game. For once, I didn’t mind rewriting a great deal of it at the final whistle because of a late goal! Down 2-0 I thought “Please let us just make a contest of it.” Down 3-1, I just wanted a respectable result. I didn’t let myself think about the possibility of winning that match until Sakho’s header went in to make it 3-3 with 13 minutes plus stoppage time to go. But as weird as is to say, once we equalized I always felt that last goal was likely to come. Still, that night will likely be forgotten if there’s no silverware at the end of it.
4. Liverpool’s first chance at a European trophy in some time. Why has it taken so long for you to get back to a final? What’s happened since those glory days?
Well, technically it’s been about 30 years since the “glory days” but we had some damned good times in the 2000’s as well. Even as recently as 2010 we were playing in the Europa League semifinal. Liverpool have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to European success, so going nine years without playing in a final feels a lot longer than it actually is. Most clubs, present company excluded, would kill for that kind of record. That said, since then we had financial troubles, a change of ownership, and some poor managerial and transfer decisions. Our current owners seem committed toward building a successful club, and have invested heavily both in players and stadium renovations. And Klopp has made European success a priority, even above our league ambitions, something his predecessor wouldn’t have done.
5. And finally, what is your prediction?
Obviously I have to pick Liverpool, but the Reds never make finals easy for us fans. So I’m going to say 1-1, and win it on pens. Simon Mignolet should get a moment of glory before he’s replaced this summer.