Opposition Q & A

This weekend West Ham, under our new coach Manuel Pelligrini, travel to Liverpool on Sunday to open our campaign for the 2018/19 season. Ahead of the game I spoke to Duncan Oldham, the editor of Liverpool FC fanzine koptalk to talk about the coming season and our game in particular.

Before we start talking about our coming game: presumably you were engrossed by the World Cup? What were your highlights and lowlights of the summer festival?
Yes the World Cup was fantastic! Russia did a great job of hosting the tournament and the fact there was no trouble is a real credit to them. Italia 90 was a great tournament but this year’s tournament was even more enjoyable. I was 15 during Italia 90 and with England having failed to bring it home this time, I’m seriously starting to think I’ll never see us as world champions. I hate the international breaks and the friendlies during the domestic season but I always enjoy the Euros and World Cups. Good stuff!

When I spoke to you last it was near the beginning of last season, at the time you were a tad disappointed with how the season was going, you must have been delighted with how it finished?
Absolutely. Nobody expected us to go on that Champions League run and finishing 4th was acceptable. The modern-day fan sadly seems not to care about the domestic cups any more but had we lifted the FA Cup for example, I’d have been delighted. All in all, it was a decent season. Nobody cares about the runners-up though so we have to try and build on that, this term.

Is Jorgen Klopp finally going to bring the title back to Anfield? How is the German maestro rated on Merseyside?
I think many supporters, ourselves and our rivals, know that Manchester City are the team to beat at the moment. If they fail to repeat their amazing form from last season and if our new signings deliver, there has to be a real chance for us. Rival fans are sarcastically saying “Don’t you know, Liverpool have won it already” but I’ve not seen our lot displaying that attitude and I interact with thousands of Reds every week.

When we discussed our previous match you intimated that West Ham might be wasting valuable time holding on to Slaven Bilic, and ultimately he departed: how did you rate our initial appointment of David Moyes, and what do you think Manuel Pelligrini brings to the table?
David Moyes isn’t a manager that excites me. He may be an old skool manager and I guess he brings what you’d expect but if I was a West Ham fan, I’d not have been celebrating his appointment. Manuel Pelligrini on the other hand is a managerial coup. It’s about time West Ham fans had someone who you would expect to do the business. Now we all know that things can go either way and there are no guarantees but I’m hoping Pelligrini can get the best out of your players and churn out some attractive, attacking football. One thing’s for sure, I can’t see him taking any prisoners. I hope it works out for you, after Sunday!

Last season you lost Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, how do you rate your signings over the close season, and who are you most looking forward to seeing play?
Yes, the inevitable exit eventually happened. I’m happy with our signings and for once, our owners didn’t sell a key player to fund our business. Hopefully that will still be the case come the end of January. We managed to hold on to Mo Salah and Sadio Mané which was important. Liverpool fans have endured some poor goalkeeping errors for several years now so for me, the signing of Alisson made my summer. He needs time to adapt though. A new country and way of life, a new club, a new league, new team-mates and so on. The lad needs time to settle.

Although Dejan Lovric might think you have at least half the best central defence, in the world do you think you have finally got this recent weakspot solved?
No. Lovren does a job. He can be awesome one day and terrible the next. I wanted another centre-back bringing in to partner Virgil van Dijk. An injury to VVD and we are back to where we were. We don’t have a deep squad at all.

Which player are you most pleased to see remain at Liverpool, and conversely anyone you wish had been moved on?
Obviously I have to say Mo Salah. I thought there was a chance he would move to Real Madrid over the summer and I still think that’s part of his long term plan. There’s a lot of pressure from his homeland in business and politics for that to happen. I feel for the lad. He just wants to play football. Nobody will hold it against him if he moves on eventually. For now I’m just enjoying his contribution. I would have liked to have seen Daniel Sturridge moved out. There’s a lot of talk in the media that he’s been given another chance at Anfield but the reality is, nobody wanted to invest that much in him and with a year remaining on his very lucrative contract, he’s in no rush to leave. What else can the manager say? If he could stay fit, he would be great for us, he really would. There is nothing more that I’d like to see than Daniel staying fit and contributing but is he really going to overcome the various problems that seem to strike him down? I’m not convinced. I hope I’m wrong.

I expect you will be quaking at the prospect of a rejuvenated Everton on your doorstep?
Totes. But, if I’m completely honest, I want to see other clubs coming into the mix. It gets very boring and predictable in the league. Obviously it’s funny watching them struggle but I think we’d have a better league if the ‘smaller’ clubs could get stuck in a bit more.

Who’s going to win the League this year?
Liverpool, of course!

Early prediction for the relegated trio?
Cardiff City, Huddersfield and West Ham. Only pulling your chain! Brighton would be my third selection. I think there’s a lot of teams that could battle it out. Would you be surprised to see Newcastle down there? I wouldn’t. I hope they survive though. They’re another club with decent fans that deserve a break.

Historically , you must have taken more points from us at Anfield than any other team, are you confident that this will continue? Prediction for the score?
I refuse to do predictions because they always come back to haunt me. If I say Liverpool will batter you, we will get turned over. If I give a score it’ll come off because I didn’t have money on it! There’s no form on the opening day and it’s a whole new campaign so we’ll just have to see what happens.

How will Liverpool line up at the weekend? Formation/Team prediction?
I think we’ll see a 4-3-3 formation. There are doubts about the availability of new signing Fabinho. Jordan Henderson reported back late due to his participation at the World Cup and hasn’t had much time to train for this game although it sounds like he’s declared himself available regardless. Gini Wijnaldum could play in a holding position is an option after playing there in last weekend’s game against Napoli. Mané, Firmino, Salah will lead the attack. There are concerns over the defence due to injuries and fitness concerns.

Which West Ham player is going to cause you the most grief?
Jack Wilshere. I think he may feel that he has a point to prove. It’ll be interesting to see if he steps up.

Finally where do you think Liverpool will end season, and where will West Ham finish?
My heart says Liverpool will win it! My head says we will challenge and finish in the Top 3. We have to hope that our rivals drop points. As for West Ham, hopefully you will have a decent campaign. Surely a top half of the table finish. West Ham could go on to surprise a few clubs this season. Wishing you all the best for the new campaign!

Many thanks to Duncan for his time. I’m going for a 1 – 1 draw, why not be optimistic? It’s the dawning of a new something! COYI

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