The football is back. Ahead of City’s opener at Anfield, Jon Punt spoke to FourFourTwo writer and This is Anfield assistant editor, Jack Lusby. Jon desperately looks for some hope to cling onto….
The football is back. Ahead of City’s opener at Anfield, Jon Punt spoke to 'FourFourTwo' writer and 'This is Anfield' assistant editor, Jack Lusby. Jon desperately looks for some hope to cling onto…
Jon: This perhaps wasn't the re-introduction to the Premier League most Norwich fans were hoping for. Champions of Europe, Sky TV, the world is watching because #footballisback.
So come on, give us some hope. Mane, Salah, Bobby F - none of these lads are going to be match sharp are they, given they only really returned to training a few days ago? Either that or they'll all be too tired after international duty? Come on, throw us a bone....
Jack: There are definitely factors working against Liverpool for this opener: the majority of the squad returned for pre-season late (Sadio Mane only came back on Monday), it's been a long summer with injuries and a lot of travel and we played our first competitive game less than a week before the Premier League begins.
That, plus I personally think Norwich have not only strengthened well, but were already a very impressive unit under an accomplished young manager. That being said, it's Anfield, it's a Friday night, the Kop will be in full voice, and Liverpool were particularly excellent in the second half of the Community Shield. All the fitness work over the summer appears to be paying off (disregard the losses to Dortmund, Sevilla and Napoli - it's pre-season) and both Firmino and Salah don't look to have missed a step despite such a short break following Copa America and the AFCON.
It may be closer than some think, but I'd back Liverpool to take this one.
You and me both, fatigue was the one thing I’d been clinging onto, so thanks for dampening my spirits, but in an altogether nice way.
Interesting that you mention Norwich have strengthened well, a lot of our fans would have been happier with more incomings, despite last season’s squad deserving their crack at the top flight. That’s always a tricky balance. Do you think we have enough to stay up? Most outsiders are happy to write us off already.
I've predicted Sheffield United, Burnley and Newcastle to go down, and I actually think Norwich will do reasonably well - although it may take time to hit that 40-point mark. The squad from last season (especially the likes of Pukki, Aarons, Lewis, Godfrey and Stiepermann) definitely deserve a chance to prove themselves in the top flight.
Fahrmann, Byram, Roberts and Drmic are all good signings, and though you might not have the strongest squad I'm confident you'll do well enough.
Onto your chances, do you think this term can go as spectacularly well as last time out? Expectation can be a killer (I’m guessing you know that more than most), so what constitutes success now?
It's really difficult. We haven't strengthened as perhaps expected and the Community Shield was our first of seven competitions entered this season, so the squad will definitely be stretched - particularly across the winter, when, ridiculously, we head to Qatar for the Club World Championship.
I'm loath to predict anything less than what we achieved last season, as there's no reason to suggest it can't happen again, but it will definitely be tough. The Community Shield proved we should keep up with City in terms of quality, however, and I'm still hopeful of another title challenge. Whether finishing second again is a 'success', though, is questionable...
I’m still trying to read between the lines and find a bit of hope ahead of Friday – is there anywhere a team like Norwich, who generally like to retain possession and intelligently press in key areas when without the ball, can get at the Reds? Just give us something, anything…..
If I'm throwing you a bone here, I'd say that Trent Alexander-Arnold hasn't had the best of pre-seasons and certainly wasn't at his best in the Community Shield. That's not to suggest he's in any danger, but overlapping down the left may be the best option to break down an otherwise very resolute defence...
We love an overlap and our attacking left full-back, Jamal Lewis, has been one of the stand out performers in our pre-season. In fact our full-backs are perhaps our best attacking option in a match where we’re likely to have much less of the ball, so maybe there’s something in that.
Watch now as Alexander-Arnold rips us to shreds.
Controversial opinion here, but on my previous trips to Anfield the atmosphere hasn’t lived up to the hype. Clearly the pre-match YNWA from the Kop, flags and all, is special – but because Liverpool have been playing #LittleOldNorwich, plus the potential for a number of football tourists, it has seemed like the crowd went relatively quiet after that. We might be into different territory here though, given it’s the first time back at Anfield after your European success and the match is under the floodlights. Are you expecting it to be raucous?
You’re actually right to say that, although it’s definitely improved since we last played Norwich.
As with every club, there’s an increasing sense of the corporate at Anfield (the facilities have improved dramatically since Norwich were likely last there, mind) and your experience depends entirely on where you sit. The fans’ tendency to switch off is something Klopp brought up many times in his first years at the club, and there are definitely still times when the atmosphere can lull at Anfield.
But, as you say, it’s the first game back since Madrid, it’s the first night of the Premier League, it’s a Friday night under the lights and there should be a strong atmosphere throughout.
Expect a cauldron of noise then. VERY specific prediction time then to round off, I’m going for City to take a shock lead, courtesy of Emi Buendia completing a successful dribble against Virgil Van Dijk (something which didn’t happen throughout last season) before firing home. The Reds then break our hearts courtesy of two late goals, Salah and Mane at the death. You?
That's a bold call on Virg.
I'm going to be pretty boring and suggest it'll be a controlled win for Liverpool. Norwich may score as you suggest, but I'd go for a 3-1 victory; Salah, Firmino and Divock Origi with the goals.
After Friday, I wish Norwich every success for the season.