Opposition Q & A
West Ham sit in the bottom three, and to rub salt into a suppurating wound we travel to Anfield this Monday evening to try to put the blocks on a runaway Liverpool team in a fixture that in my 57 years we have won precisely twice! Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong Liverpool fan John Watson who has married into the same family of Evertonians as I have to discuss the fixture and the season.
Hi John, Liverpool seem to be having another memorable season, whilst West Ham fans will be hoping that this will not end up being a disaster. Last year’s points total would have won the title during most seasons, are you really that much better this season? What do you put the improvement down to?
The main area of improvement has just been the mentality of the squad. Even with 5,10,15 minutes to go at 0-0 you still feel like the goal is coming whereas last season that didn’t feel like the case.
You had a difficult game, and loss against Athletico last week: would you prioritise staying in the Champions League over having an unbeaten record over the Premier League season?
Yeah it was a tough game. Only thing I would say is last season we might have let the atmosphere get to us after the 1st goal went in and conceded 2 or 3 (ie. Barcelona away) We kept ourselves in the tie and I would fancy us to go through. I’d sooner stay in the CL to be honest. I understand the whole invincibles thing but I’d rather have a 7th european cup.
I expect you will assume that you have the title sewn up? Who will join you in the Champion’s League spots next year?
Not sewn up yet! Learnt that the hard way as a Liverpool fan but yes I’d expect us to win in. Got to be Man City and Leicester in 2nd and 3rd. Chelsea seem to be coming good at the right time and I’d expect them to get 4th. If 5th gets in the CL, I hate to say it but with Spurs injuries and Sheff Utd’s lack of goals I think Man Utd will sneak 5th.
You must be worried for next year that Everton finally seem to have a manager that can once again restore them to their former status?
I’m not sure worried is the word I’d use! Seriously though he’s the best manager they’ve had in years. Still think they’ve got a way to go before being able to challenge the top 4 though.
Is Everton’s former boss David Moyes going to keep West Ham in the Premier League next year? What if anything did you think about his appointment as our manager?
It seemed a strange appointment to me. Your board didn’t renew his contract because you didn’t think he was the right person to take you forward but 18 months later they decide he is! Very short term appointment in my eyes. He might have the skills to guide you out of trouble like last time but I’d be surprised if he lasted past this season either way
Following on from that, who are your favourites for the drop?
Norwich seem a certainty. Then any two from Watford, West Ham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth. If I had to guess I’d say Watford and Aston Villa
Which of this current squad would you put up there with Anfield greats of the past?
I wasn’t born when we had domination in the late 70’s and 80’s so it’s hard to say but Van Dijk is the best centre half I’ve ever seen. The thing that sets him apart is he never seems rushed; no panic whatsoever. I’d say in time Trent could be up there as well. Great to have a local lad doing so well. Whilst he doesn’t get the plaudits others do Jordan Henderson has gone from nearly being sold to Fulham a few years ago to captaining us to European Cup and a (likely) Premier League trophy. Made up for him because he’s had so many people saying he wasn’t good enough since he signed.
Where if anywhere will Jürgen Klopp look to strengthen your team for next season?
I think we could do with another top attacking option. Whether that means someone like Timo Werner and dropping Firmino into a deeper role possibly.
How will Liverpool line up against us on Monday evening? Team/formation?
We will have had 6 days since Madrid so I hope full strength but he might rotate the midfield a bit. Alisson, Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Keita, Milner, Mane, Salah, Firmino
As West Ham have had success at Anfield twice in the past 50 odd years, you will probably not be too worried that we will sneak a win against you this week. Prediction for score?
Well many thanks to John for his time and thoughts. I’m sure many West Ham fans will agree with his thoughts about David Moyes appointment whilst we languish in the bottom three. It’s hard to argue against his prediction of a win, though I hope it won’t be a thrashing. I’m hoping for at least one shot on goal. COYI