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Liverpool Preview: Q & A With Richard Buxton Of Click Liverpool

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This is the third in a series of previews of Fulham's opponents in the English Premier League. Liverpool is a legendary football club in England and around the world. The club resides in Liverpool England. They play their matches at Anfield. The capacity is over 45,000. This club also has an extremely loyal fan base.

They have won the European Cup and UEFA Champions League five times. Before there was an English Premier League, the top league in England was the First Division. Liverpool have won the Football League First Division eighteen times. The history of Liverpool is incredible.

However, Liverpool have never won the English Premier League. The first year of the EPL was the 1992 - 1993 season. They have come very close. Most recently in the 2008 - 2009 season Liverpool were runner ups to Manchester United. Last season was a disappointing one for Liverpool standards. They finished seventh in the Premier League and will be participating in the Europa League.

Changes are now in the air at Anfield this season. Rafa Benitez has been replaced by former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. There is also the financial situation with the current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. They have put the club up for sale.

On the positive, Liverpool still have a good amount of world class players. Players to watch include Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, and Dirk Kuyt. The question is what type of club will Liverpool have this season?

To help me with that question I think I have the right person to help. Richard Buxton has been covering Liverpool for around 3 years now with various fan sites. He has been the Liverpool Football Club Correspondent with Click Liverpool for almost a year. His role consists of reporting news on a daily basis, attending press conferences at Melwood and filing match reports, usually from the Anfield press box. Mr. Buxton was also at the Europa League Final between Fulham and Atletico Madrid.  

I had the pleasure of asking him several questions regarding the upcoming season for Liverpool. I thought he would be the perfect person to shed some light on the current state of Livepool.  Below is my Q & A with Richard Buxton of Click Liverpool


Q: Do you have concerns about the ownership situation going into this season?


Very much so. If Kenny Huang's Chinese investment group take over they will supposedly make Liverpool the richest club on earth, but a lot of fans are turning a blind eye to the possible problems it could also bring - which is alarming given recent history.


These same people were jumping for joy when George Gillett and Tom Hicks arrived, and some even happy to stand outside Anfield proudly clutching the Star-Spangled Banner, but things turned sour both on and off the pitch.


For a lot of fans it's a case of once bitten, twice shy. How can the Liverpool board trust that Huang's backers aren't going to take control of the club with the same motives as the Americans did three years ago or possibly even worse?


There is so much misinformation that no one really knows who is a serious bidder and who isn't. As supporters, Liverpool didn't have to deal with these type of things until a couple of years ago. All they had to worry about was who the manager was playing or not playing from one game to the next and who they were signing in the summer.


Liverpool need owners who can help the club compete but also remain financially sound because we've all seen what happened to Portsmouth last season and it's a very realistic prospect, which is why a lot of fans are treating it with cautious optimism.


Q: What has been your first impression of new manager Roy Hodgson?

In a word, impressed. A lot of fans were sceptical to his appointment but in little over five weeks he has dispelled all the myths that he has come to the club to be a yes man.

His honesty has been refreshing after seeing Liverpool's previous manager spending the past three years fighting a war against the media and the board that he was ultimately never going to win.

Rafael Benitez deserves a lot of credit for what he accomplished at Anfield and being the one who identified three of Liverpool's summer signings before he left the club, but Hodgson has to take a bow for convincing Joe Cole to join, which was a massive coup.


The fact that he also persuaded Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to remain at the club was no mean feat either and shows that he has the full backing of the club's most senior players, which counts for a lot in the eyes of supporters these days.


Since returning to England three years ago he has very much had the ear of the media which means he doesn't give cryptic answers like his predecessor but there was a lot of history between Benitez and the board.

I've heard nothing but good things about his training methods and the players seem to be enjoying it immensely. Before the return leg with FK Rabotnicki, the media got a short glimpse of the team preparing and there's definitely more of an emphasis on perfecting fitness and accuracy.



Q: What are your general feelings on the state of Liverpool as the season is about to begin?


Every season Liverpool fans go on about how the forthcoming one will be 'our year' to end the drought for a league title to the point where it has become something of a fabled mantra as much as the 'missing piece' tag that is wheeled out every time a big signing arrives.


Last year a lot of people at Anfield thought that the drought was set to come to an end following the previous season's exploits but rather than being 1989/90 revisited it was more like 2002/03 but without the stability that Gérard Houllier enjoyed.


The top four is definitely achievable but the current squad could definitely challenge for honours in the form of trophies if they can steer clear of the injuries that plagued them last season.


Vying for the Premier League is probably out of the question this year but given that the current top four haven't bolstered their ranks much in the summer means that it shouldn't be ruled out.


Q: What Liverpool players are the keys to Liverpool's success this season?


The spine of the team is key to success, particularly Cole, Steven Gerrard and Torres but other players who aren't as headline-grabbing as the aforementioned should not be written off either.


Q: What style of play would you say Liverpool have been playing in the pre-season under Roy Hodgson?

Pre-season was pretty much a write-off as most senior players were unavailable for friendlies due to the World Cup and the early Europa League qualifiers. In the return leg against Rabotnicki the team looked good but it wasn't exactly a real test of their abilities in truth.

The formations he has deployed in pre-season and the Europa League qualifiers have been not too dissimilar to the ones Benitez used last season. His preferred one seems to be 4-2-3-1 but in the second leg against Rabotnicki he went for a 4-1-4-1 which was interesting to say the least.

Q: What are the strengths of Liverpool?


There are a lot of strong points to Liverpool's side at present. Cole's arrival will offer more bite an creativity in attack and possibly a better service to the likes of Torres. David Ngog has looked stronger in pre-season than he did during the previous campaign so the expectancy upon him has been raised.

Dani Pacheco has the potential to become a real impact player for the club and I feel Martin Kelly will come good in the new campaign after managing to put last season's injury nightmare behind him.

What are the weaknesses of Liverpool?

Last season Glen Johnson's position at full-back was exposed far too many times as was Emiliano Insua on the left-hand side of defence. The fact that prior to Maxi Rodriguez's arrival there was only one natural winger in the form of Albert Riera also meant that a lot of attackers had to double up on the flanks

The one area that Liverpool are still lacking in is central midfield due to Xabi Alonso's departure last summer but Alberto Aquilani is being expected to finally step up to the plate after being limited by injury last season.

Q: What players were key acquisitions so far for Liverpool?

All eyes have been on Cole as the so-called marquee signing but Milan Jovanovic has the potential to make the same level of contribution to the side as Dirk Kuyt has in recent times.

Re-signing Fabio Aurelio is definitely a key addition if he can remain fit because he was a useful player to have and can plug the gap at left-back better than Insua.

Danny Wilson's capture from Rangers and the arrival of Charlton's Jonjo Shelvey are definitely ones for the future but we will see glimpses of their potential over the coming season.



What players were key losses for Liverpool?

There haven't really been any key losses at Anfield as of yet. Yossi Benayoun left for Chelsea but was replaced by a higher calibre of player in Cole. Albert Riera's departure was always inevitable after his high-profile tantrum back in April so fans shed very few tears about him.

Liverpool's biggest concerns are the potential outgoings before the transfer window closes on September 1 with Pacheco and Maxi both tipped to leave the club whilst Javier Mascherano has yet to complete his move to Inter Milan.

If Mascherano does join the European champions then it will allow Lucas Leiva to make the defensive midfield role his own but Hodgson appears intent on signing Christian Poulsen from Juventus which means that he will be pushed back down the pecking order.



Who are some of the young players of the future for Liverpool?

The four I mentioned earlier - Shelvey, Wilson, Kelly and Pacheco - are definitely the ones to keep a firm eye on but a lot of players have been promoted from the Academy who have intrigued greatly.

Nathan Eccleston and David Amoo have both been talked up immensely but Daniel Ayala and Steven Irwin both have the potential to make their mark in defence if presented with the opportunity.

Ayala already has a few senior appearances to his name from last season and impressed largely in pre-season so he is the more likely of the two to command a regular place in the coming years.

But Irwin was expected to join Manchester United last season, which demonstrated how highly-rated he is even at this stage of his career.

Lauri Dalla Valle is a player I have watched with interest following his move to the club in 2008. Hodgson still has a keen eye on the Finnish game as he had looked at signing him when he was at Fulham.

The biggest buzz this season is around 18-year-old Thomas Ince, whose father Paul was captain of the club in the late 1990s.


Q: What has been your favorite match between Liverpool and Fulham? 

The 5-0 thrashing at Anfield in October 1993 is one that a lot of fans remember for Robbie Fowler's five goals in one game but the one that sticks out in recent times was the game at Craven Cottage in April 2009.

Benayoun's winning goal in the 92nd minute is one that will live long in the memory of supporters as it kept Liverpool in the title race until the final third. The game itself was frustrating due to the amount of times the ball hit the woodwork but the relief and elation fans felt at full time more than made up for it.


Q: Are you looking forward to the Fulham and Liverpool matches this year?

Games against Fulham haven't traditionally been ones Liverpool fans look forward to as they are not one of the club's rivals in the same way Everton and Manchester United are.

But it will be interesting to see how Hodgson fares against his old club as he will be out to prove himself, especially given the war of words Mohamed Al Fayed has attempted to stoke up following his move to Anfield.


Q: What are your predictions for Liverpool in the Europa League?

There is no reason why Liverpool can't go all the way this year especially with Hodgson at the helm. His ability to mastermind famous victories with Fulham last season against some of the traditional European heavyweights means that silverware could be winging its way to Anfield at the end of the season.

Q: What are your predictions for Liverpool in the English Premier League?

It's a trip into the unknown with a new manager in charge so no one can say for sure but Champions League qualification is definitely achievable providing that they are lucky on the injury front.


I want to thank again Richard Buxton of Click Liverpool for his insight into Liverpool.