Spyin' Kop - Liverpool v Swansea City - 17th February 2013

Posted by royhendo on February 14, 2013, 02:06:42 PM


    Liverpool v Swansea City

    Kick Off: 3:00pm

    Liverpool arrived home from St Petersburg on Thursday night to the prospect of a league opponent truly at its zenith. In a week's time, the club is expected to secure its first major honour in the League Cup Final, with Bradford awaiting them at Wembley.

    Fresh from their mighty thumping of Harry Redknapp's bionically rebuilt QPR, but with the memory of their 1-0 reverse at the Boleyn just as current in their minds, the match at Anfield promises a great deal for the neutral. While Swansea's away record in the league of late has been mixed, we saw in October how effective Laudrup's team can be on the counter, and their display is surely one of the most impressive we've seen at Anfield in recent years.

    Excellent contributors for this one folks - thanks to both for their time and their excellent responses:

    1. First up, good luck ahead of the final next week. It's been great to see you do so well (even the ball boys). Ordinarily you'd think a league away at Anfield would be a high point in most team's season; but does part of you think Sunday's game is a distraction ahead of the big event?

    Chris: I wouldn't say a distraction. You have to remember how long Swansea as a club were in the doldrums to realise and respect that there are - and apologies for the cliche - 38 cup finals for the side and supporters a season. And certainly, the prospect of Liverpool at Anfield will remain a highlight for both fans and players regardless of big games ahead, and even the cup game earlier this year. With that in mind I can't see it being described as a distraction, even if cup fever has been bubbling away since the Chelsea games. If anything the fact that Swansea are all but safe and have less pressure riding on them going into the game may take off some of the edge that may have been there if the trip had been earlier in the season.

    Peter: Thank you. No I don't think it's a distraction, it's very important in itself. Even though we sit on 37pts currently and that means we're all but safe in reality, for a Club like ours the PL is always going to mean that retention of our status is the no1 priority. Having said that, I'm an advocate of protecting some of our players prior to the Final since winning the Cup that you did last year will be a huge honour and will give us a European adventure next year - something we're not as used to as you. It remains for me (and us as a Club) a pleasure to come to Anfield - this is what we fans have always aspired to - so to get a result on Sunday would be huge in several senses.

    2. Anfield's been quite a happy hunting ground for you of late, hasn't it? Rodgers set you up to control the game and pass, pass, pass. Laudrup, on the other hand, seems to have mixed things up this season. How do you expect him to set you up? Will you sit deep and hit on the counter? Or will you go toe-to-toe as you're more than capable of doing? 

    Chris: I think one of the factors of Swansea success is that they are capable of both. Yes, Swansea are slightly more direct this year but it's all relative; Swansea's direct is still pure tiki-taka compared to the majority of the division. There is an awareness that they can soak it up more and can spring a little faster into counters, but that is as much about the maturity of the side in their second year as Laudrup's hand over Rodgers'. It's difficult to predict which way they'll go this weekend, it tends to be a case of Swansea playing the game in front of them than predetermined plans.

    Peter: I suspect we'll be a little more defensive than you've seen us previously. Of late, ML has sat us deep in Away performances and set up to hit on the break. Sometimes it's worked (Chelsea COC away), sometimes it hasn't (WHU away PL). My feeling is he won't deviate from that. He is, though, constantly capable of surprise. He's played Dyer as a support striker, Rangel as a defensive MF'er in front of the full back, Michu (often) as a false 9, Shecter in front of Graham etc etc... so I won't know for sure until I see the team sheet.

    3. How do you feel about Laudrup? How does he differ from Brendan Rodgers? 

    Chris: From a journalistic point of view he's a joy to listen to, very humble given his standing but with a playful wit that can often remind you what a legend in the game is was and still is. Rodgers was a lot more chatty, more willing to talk all things and pass the time of day, a fantastic person to be in the company of in general. Laudrup, as friendly as he is, only tends to speak on football matters and doesn't often go into detail when he doesn't need to. I think that's the same with players where he is more distant compared to Brendan's very hands-on approach to man-management. Neither's better or worse, just different.

    Peter: We've learned to trust him. He is an impressive individual - witness his "confession" last week apres QPR that Ash Williams had indeed "got away" with a handball. He has tweaked BR's style by getting the wingers to play narrower so that they're more in the game, he rotates more effectively (we think) than BR did, our tempo and pace is increased, we shoot more, we pass less at the back and more forward. This is not to knock BR, who was, after all, the Manager who got us up here! Still, after yet another change of Gaffer, we're very happy with him.

    4. How do you feel Rodgers has done at Liverpool so far?

    Chris: As well as can be expected. I think the injury to Lucas hurt him, not just in losing a key player but the knock-on for how he wanted his midfield to shape and get to grips with what he wanted from them. Just take Joey Allen as an example, who had to fill-in and did well but then may have suffered from tiredness of body and mind after a long year - Olympics included - by the time he got the chance to try and push on. The varying issues with the strikers also took time adjusting around but, as pointed out when he first arrived, Rodgers was building on top of things when he went to Swansea and so the impact was very sudden. He is laying foundations at Liverpool - and in the unsympathetic surroundings of the Premier League too - so time had to be given to him. I'm not saying he benefited more from Swansea's existing style than he benefited Swansea - far from it, he was a huge factor in their success - but it is a bigger and longer-term project at Liverpool and that has to be taken into consideration when you see what he's done to date. If given the right time and support there he'll be a hit, of that I have very little doubt.

    Peter: I think he's done reasonably well in a difficult situation. Following KD (a genuine icon) was always going to be hard. Whilst he can be "David Brent-ish" with his NLP speak and he can sometimes be stubborn in the extreme, I do think he's begun to move you on. Given the quality of players you attract, I think it's been a learning curve for him, too. I think he's coming to terms with the enormity of his task, but last Monday v WBA and away at Zenit tonight obviously haven't helped. If the owners (and fans) are prepared to sit out the rough times I do think he'll get there.

    5. Michu is obviously getting a lot of attention since his arrival, but the other signings in the summer seem to have taken you up a level. How does the scouting work there? Does Laudrup take all the credit given we took most of your backroom team to Anfield with Rodgers? 

    Chris: On the contrary, Swansea kept their scouting team which the club have always felt key to really ensuring the philosophy and success stayed. They learned the lessons when Martinez left for Wigan taking their chief scout with him and made sure that wouldn't happen again. It is not to say the manager does not have a big hand in who comes in - look at the signings of both at Swansea to see evidence of that - but Swansea still have the same two chief scouts that make sure only 'Swansea players' come in. Players are bought to fit the system and philosophy and not the other way around.  Of course, Laudrup's Spanish contacts have come in handy but - for example - I know Ki was a target before Rodgers left.

    Peter: Prior to BR's removal Huw Jenkins, our Chairman, was cute. David Leadbetter had been recruited as our Chief Scout and he has an excellent reputation from his Middlesbrough days. Similarly, ML recruited one of his men, Erik Larssen, as his Assistant now supplemented by Morten Wieghorst leaving Larssen free to spend time scouting abroad. These moves were key in negating the loss of almost all of Brendan's staff. Continuity was supplied by Alan Curtis, a Swans legend who is nowadays not just a coach but the first team coach. Plus, above all else, ML's personal cachet as a genuinely world class player is hugely influential - we would never have got Michu or Pablo were it not for him.

    6. How do you feel Rodgers' signings have done since joining Liverpool in the summer?

    Chris: I've mentioned Joey already and he will be a class act for LFC I'm sure - the radio phone-in nonsense about his ability was shown up with the performance he gave for Wales against Austria. I was a big fan of Borini from his Swansea days but he has obviously been unfortunate with injuries and Sturridge is someone who looks to have picked up on what's required of him within a style of play very quickly. I've not really seen enough in depth of the others to give fair comment - you can't judge players on 20 minute highlights, certainly not in sides with this kind of style. 

    Peter: I am gutted for Joey Allen in that he seems to have fallen back. Whilst I think you overpaid by about £5m, he is a genuinely cracking player who I still think will go on to do well with. Similarly, when I've heard some of your fans grumble about Fabio Borini I feel for him, too. He had a great spell with us and the one thing I'd point out is that they're both incredibly young still. Patience mon braves. Assaidi and Yesil I haven't seen enough of, but I was disappointed you couldn't accomodate Nuri Sahin, who I'd have had in a heartbeat, were it not for the fact that Borussia Dortmund is perhaps a little more at his level.

    7. Which Liverpool player or players should you be keeping an eye on this Sunday?

    Chris: All of them - as well as Swansea have done, don't be fooled into thinking they don't respect they are underdogs in almost every game they play. Gerrard and Suarez are probably the boring but accurate answers though.

    Peter: Your pricipal threat is Luis Suarez. A real world class player, he was a joy to watch for his ability when you came to us. He was like a big powerful snake - constantly twisting, turning and attacking - and what energy! I swear he played a 1-2 off the excellent Ash Williams' shins and then hit Vorm's side netting with a shot. Amongst the best 5 players I've seen live since we've been in this Division. Danny Sturridge too, if he's fit, I expect to be a threat. And then you've got also the incomparable Steven Gerrard, still one of the best of the PL's elite MF'ers. I rate Pepe Reina too, and I hope to see Joey Allen for old times sake.

    8. And what about Swansea?

    Chris: Laudrup could do with Vorm having the type of game he did last year in the league, Ashley Williams needs to be at the kind of levels he's been at recently and Leon Britton - if fit - could be key. If he had been five years younger, Rodgers would have been after him. Michu is the obvious one but Pablo Hernandez is a lovely, lovely player when he's on form.

    Peter: If he plays Miguel Michu is THE man. I heard him described recently as "long, lean, languid, likeable" and it's on the money. He has been, and is, an absolute gem. Jonathan de Guzman, our Dutch MF'er, is also playing out of his skin. Couple that with the stellar keeper Michel Vorm, and the ticking heartbeat of the team Leon Britton and we should give you a decent game. Check out also the young tyro Ben Davies at LB, and the divine Pablo Hernandez, a Valencia player in a Swansea City shirt.

    9. Prediction for Sunday? 

    Chris: I've gone for 2-2 in our podcast (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/footballnation/football-news/2013/02/14/91466-32809521/?) so I can't change my mind now.

    Peter: I fancy a 1-1 draw. You've had a tough week but BR will wind your boys up for a comeback on Sunday. We've had a lazy week in Dubai so I hope to see us get out of the blocks without stumbling.

    10. Prediction for both teams' final league position?

    Chris: Liverpool 7th, Swansea 9th. But it's still guesswork at this stage.
    Peter: Anywhere around the 10th mark for us would be great but if we could go higher than that it would be huge progress. I wouldn't be surprised to see you go on a run that takes you to about 6th/7th. We'll see.[/list]

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