Here it comes. Our biggest home match of the season, or at least it is for me anyway. Can David and his slingshots wielded by Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell bring down the Goliath that is Liverpool?
A big match deserves a big MFW preview, so we turned to Liverpudlian extraordinaire Tony Evans for his thoughts.
Tony is a columnist for The Independent, is a former Football Editor of The Times, contributes to talkSPORT and Five Live and is heavily involved with the excellent Reds website The Anfield Wrap, more of which later. He was also in an early version of Liverpool-supporting band The Farm of All Together Now fame in which he played trumpet and trombone. So some big questions for a huge character from yours truly.
You’re 22 points clear in early February so what’s the mood like in shall we say two-thirds of the City of Liverpool just now?
I think there’s a bit of bewilderment. Nobody really expected this so there’s an undercurrent of fear. But if we don’t do it from here they’ll all be put on the team coach and driven into the Mersey. But that won’t happen. The situation is stunning.
We’ve simply developed this mentality that we will not be beaten from early doors this season. I can’t stand it when critics say we’re a long ball team with an agricultural style. And many do, believe it or not. Our passing is crisp throughout the side. I really don’t get it how people can say that kind of thing about us.
Our fulcrum is the midfield. It’s shaped and balanced, protects the back four and gets the ball forward very well.
Yeah, I’d agree with that. Jordan Henderson is having the time of his life but so would I if I played alongside somebody as good as Fabinho.
So what’s your take on the “Klopp strop” over teams fielded against Everton and Shrewsbury in the FA Cup? I think he had some degree of reasoning although I felt desperately sorry for Shrewsbury’s bank balance?
I wouldn’t have done it myself. I’d have played a stronger side in all three fixtures although we should have despatched Shrewsbury in the first tie. I’d like to see the cups better-respected and the series of overblown friendlies in the WCC in pre-season didn’t help our preparations. Forget the financial aspect. Some of our players, whatever they cost, are genuinely tired.
Will you be after our Max Aarons in the summer or will you leave him to Tottenham?
He’s on the list and has certainly been looked at. But we’ve got a few right-backs in our academy coming through. There’s already some depth in that position. Aarons is on the radar but nothing’s nailed on. Don’t know!
So what do you think of us? MFW respects honesty!
It’ll be a big ask for you on Saturday. You came up too early. But you play your way and you’re good to watch, although I think you needed more of a plan [for the Premier League]. If you find a way to shut down our backs [Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold] and keep it tight you might have a chance.
Who are your three current favourite players, Tony? Mine are Robertson, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino for what’s it worth.
Agree with Robertson. Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold complete my trio. Trent’s folks live on the bus route every time we have an open-top parade, so he’s really one of our own.
And from the past? I’ll go Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes and Ian Rush, Howzabout you?
I’m with you on King Kenny – the greatest player ever to pull on a Liverpool shirt. And I’m with you on John Barnes too. He was the best in the world for two years. Phenomenal and unstoppable. My third would be Graeme Souness. He was mean, mean, mean.
Souness was never one of my favourites in any incarnation and at this point, we discussed football managers we had met. Tony summed it up perfectly by saying:
All managers are great if you don’t talk to them about football.
I’m with you on that one mate.
So what does Tony reckon is Liverpool’s greatest achievement?
Winning the double the season after Heysel. Especially for the way that Merseyside bounced back at a time when football was in the doldrums. Wembley at that time was a very special experience.
Just before we sign off with a traditional MFW score prediction request, I asked Tony if he would be at the game.
Unfortunately not as I’m at a London fixture that day. I like Carrow Road though, but I haven’t been for a while. And yes, you’ll hear our famous song [we’re not English, we’re Scousers].
Having told Tony we’d doubtless respond with “sign on…” we laughed and he finally delivered his score prediction.
3-1 to us. You’ll score. Maybe we’ll just get the three.
A massive thanks to Tony Evans who is one of the most genuine football people you will ever come across. I’m not being didactic in any way but I thoroughly recommend any football fan to read this from Tony’s The Anfield Wrap site. It truly references all of us, wherever we come from and whoever we support.