With Sammy Lee as the new man at the helm at the Reebok, and Reds midfielder Danny Guthrie joining them on loan for the season, Liverpool fans will be watching to see if Sammy swaps former manager Sam Allardyce’s long ball tactics for the pass and move he learnt at Anfield… We got views of the Bolton regulars ahead of the new campaign;
Q. Last season – what were your expectations before the season started and did you meet them by qualifying for the Uefa Cup?
gtbrame: Expectations were probably to maintain our position as a top-8 side, challenging for Europe as we have for the past few years. This was further re-enforced by Anelka joining the club. In qualifying for the UEFA, it’s fair to say that we achieved our goals, although there was disappointment that we didn’t make a strong bid for Champions League football as we had the opportunity.
dchase: I thought we would qualify for the UEFA Cup, and, if everything fell right, at least have the team in 4th looking over their shoulder. Despite atrocious form in the second half of the season, this is pretty much what happened.
Q. Where you disappointed to lose Big Sam as manager?
gtbrame: Yes and no – yes as Allardyce has been instrumental in our relative success during his time in charge. But no, as it was obvious that he wanted to leave, his heart wasn’t in it from about January onwards until his eventual departure.
dchase: I was disappointed in the way it happened, being leaked to the papers and him resigning after the Chelsea match, but I thought it was time for him to go. His tactics had become a bit stale and some of the older players seemed to have stopped listening to him.
Q. And are you happy with Sammy Lee’s appointment?
gtbrame: Yes. I’m worried about his lack of expierience obviously, but also think that many managers may fall into the trap of underestimating him and the club in general now, which could play in our favour.
dchase: I am. It is good to keep some level of continuity, but he has not been at the club long, so he certainly has some new ideas. I have also spoken to several Liverpool fans, and your lot seem to hold him in very high regard.
forevertrotter: I have been hugely impressed with him till now, he has got new plans and I think he is putting them to right effects. Plus the players he brought in are better than the players we chucked out so YES!
Q. Are you happy with your summer signings? Who do you expect to make an impact this season? Any of the new boys or a youngster?
gtbrame: On the whole, yes – we’ve certainly added to the squad, and at the time of writing we haven’t sold any of our star players, despite almost daily rumours to the contrary. The main concern which hasn’t yet been addressed is the lack of strength at the back, and the failure to tie Jaaskelainen down on a long-term contract. I’ll wait until the transfer window closes before passing judgement over whom I’d expect to make an impact.
dchase: I am happy with the signings, but I still believe a couple more are coming. Word is slowly leaking in that we have signed a Swedish winger who looked brilliant for Anderlecht before a so-so season at Nantes and Roma. I can also see Mikel Alonso taking the league by storm, similar to his brother two seasons ago. He is not a new boy, but I expect Ricardo Vaz Te (still only 20) to finally get a proper chance under Sammy Lee and have a break out season.
forevertrotter: Yes, definitely a step up from our previous season. Gerald Cid has impressed in the pre-seasons friendlies and he is only 23! Dzemaili, 21 will miss out the start of the season… but I’m fairly excited about him, we beat AC Milan and Juventus to his signature (FC Zurich captain since he was 17)
Q. What do you consider to be your teams biggest strengths?
gtbrame: We have one of the best keepers in the country in Jaaskelainen. Our attacking threat may not look the most fiercest on paper, but each forward brings a different dimension to the attack, which could ultimately result in many defences struggling…
dchase: Probably our attackers. Anelka and Diouf are class, Davies brings a different dimension with strength and aerial prowess, Vaz Te and Youngster Johann Smith have pace to burn. Also, if reports are to be believed, the lad on loan from Anfield (Guthrie) is meant to be a brilliant winger.
Q. And weaknesses?
gtbrame: Look no further than our right back, Nicky Hunt. Had we made no summer signings this year and sold him, I’d say we’d still be a stronger side!
dchase: This would have to be our defense. Some of our central defenders are untested in this league, while the ones that have been tested have not done well. Our fullbacks are either injury prone or reclamation projects, and it looks like any sort of injury or suspension will force us to play people out of position.
Q. One thing you could change at your club?
gtbrame: Agreeing a new deal with Jaaskelainen, knowing that his long-term future would be with us.
dchase: The negative attitudes of some of our supporters. We are in the best run in our club’s history, and still there are several thousand empty seats for every match and people are moaning that the Chairman should resign.
Q. Hopes for the coming season?
gtbrame: With it being Sammy Lee’s first season in charge of the club, I’m not expecting miracles, especially as he has a European campaign to lead us upon. If he can keep us clear of a relegation scrap, I’ll be happy.
dchase: I would like to say a Champions League spot, but given the money Liverpool and Tottenham have spent, and that the uber-talented Arsenal youngsters have had another year to mature, 4th place seems farther out of reach than ever, so I would have to say a UEFA Cup spot.
forevertrotter: Another top-8 finish.
Q. What about us, how do you think we will fare this coming season?
gtbrame: I think Liverpool will do well this year, certainly pushing Chelsea and United in the title race. Unfortunately, I think they’ll fall short though. You can’t afford to have another start like you did last year.
dchase: To be honest, I think Liverpool, despite the money spent, will perform in a similar way as they have every season under Benitez. Great European success, at least one domestic cup final, but indifferent performances in the league, and a relatively distant 3rd place finish.
Q. Impressed with our summer spending?
gtbrame: Yes. Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel are well known as two of the brighter prospects in European football. Liverpool have done well to sign those two, and if Benitez can get the mix right in the squad overall, there’s no reason why Liverpool won’t have a successful season in one competition or another.
dchase: I am impressed with the sheer numbers, I don’t know about the players though. Torres is very good, and will only get better, but I think you paid through the nose for him, and Garcia was a hell of a player to have to give up.
As for Babel and Voronin, Benitez seems to have a 50/50 record when it comes to strikers, and never has enough playing time for all of them, so I would not be surprised to see one of them move again next summer after an indifferent season.
Q. Tips for this coming season:
Title: Chelsea, providing they steer clear of defensive troubles like they had last season.
Top Scorer: Too hard to tell. Most likely, someone who has a blistering start to the season will end up as top scorer.
Relegated: Difficult to tell, there are a number of teams who could be dragged into the scrap. I think Derby’s promotion could have come too quickly for them, and I’m not convinced about Steve Bruce as a manager. Fulham could struggle also?
Player to come from no-where: As in make a big impact? I tip Dean Ashton to remind the Premiership just how much West Ham missed him last season.
Liverpool will finish in: 2nd or 3rd.
Bolton will finish in: Somewhere between 8th and 14th.
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