Fan Focus: Kop Comment From Anfield Asylum

Clint Hughes

For this week's Fan Focus we turn to Anfield Asylum and speak to Adam Kirchner who writes for them on a regular basis. Here's what he had to say ahead of this weekend's game.

Liverpool were unbeaten in the league up until last weekend's surprising defeat at home to Southampton. How impressed have you been with the start to the season and is it meeting expectations?

Adam Kirchner: There are really two different lines of thinking. I happen to be more pessimistic.

Liverpool's wins were all 1-0. While they were more convincing than all of Spurs' penalty induced 1-0 victories their inability to finish off chances is going to cost them dearly. We saw it last night in the Capital One Cup when, on the whole, Liverpool were probably the better side, but were undone by a momentary lapse on a corner.

The points were obviously vital, but the start hasn't been as convincing as I would have hoped. It's not just the scores either, they have been put on the backfoot in a number of those games by teams they should be throttling such as going to extra time against Notts County and being pinned back by Stoke for much of the second half.

The good news is they are actually winning these types of matches that they were not winning last season. So to answer your question after my mindless babbling, the expectations on return of points is definitely met.

The actual play though is still needs a little more fine tuning.

Since that defeat, Manchester United have also put Liverpool out of the League Cup after another 1-0 reverse, with Rodgers playing 3 central defenders and using wing backs. Were you convinced by the system and do you think it will be used against Sunderland this weekend?

AK: After his ill advised attempt at playing 4 CBs against Southampton I was begging for Rodgers to try the sort of 3-5-2 (which was more of a 3-4-1-2). Luckily I didn't have to eat my words.

The biggest issue with it was the player playing in the hole, Victor Moses, for much of the match. It just isn't the right role for him. It is however the perfect role for Coutinho who is unfortunately injured until the end of October. I do think with the injuries we have in the back line currently it is the best option.

Enrique was very good against United as a wing back (even though he lost that little rat looking thing named Chicharito for the goal) and with the return of Kelly we should have enough people to play a right wing back.

I'm of the mentality anyways that the wing back doesn't have to be the best defender anyways, he just has to be willing to track back so I would even use Sterling or Ibe. In fact, Henderson's best game last season came when he was forced to play RB so he is a definite option.

I do think Rodgers will give it another go as Liverpool did create plenty of chances and controlled much of the match, they just couldn't hit the broad side of the barn.

One of the wing backs used was a Sunderland old boy, Jordan Henderson, who seems to have grown as a player in his time on Merseyside. How highly do you rate him?

AK: The improvement has been massive since last season.

He still is liable for the occasional giveaway, but his vision has improved significantly and more importantly his workrate is top notch now. Some of the best things he has been doing for Liverpool have been in tracking back and breaking up play which has allowed Liverpool the midfield domination they need to play Rodgers' style.

That said, I'm still waiting to see him really hit top form. You can see there is just so much more he is capable of if Rodgers can get it out of him. I definitely would not want to sell him at this point. I will say he has definitely outplayed Stevie G so far.

One of our writers Dan wrote an article about Henderson's contributions recently.

The match was also remarkable for the return of Luis Suarez. Do you expect him to feature again at the Stadium of Light and is he the man you expect to cause the most damage to Sunderland?

AK: With all the games he has missed, his fresh legs will definitely be used at Sunderland on Sunday.

He was back to his usual self (with his play, not behavior) against United. He and Sturridge just weren't clicking quite right and Sturridge's touch was at the bar having a few too many drinks for that match which contributed to the breakdown of a lot of promising attacks.

With Coutinho out, Suarez's creativity is very important to Liverpool's front line in terms of making space to unlock defenses. I would say he is definitely the most likely to hurt Sunderland, especially the Sunderland players' meaty upper arms.

Although there are individuals with obvious quality at Anfield, there appears to be an emphasis on team ethos under Rodgers. Is that fair to say and which are of the team do you think is strongest at present?

AK: That is definitely true. This constant pass and move style of football requires the whole team to be on the same wavelength at all times. The team does seem more united and cohesive.

The strongest XI we have is debatable. The front three are pretty easy, Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho.

The back is a little bit more difficult, but probably Johnson, Toure, Agger and Enrique.

The middle is a bit muddied, but Lucas and Stevie are generally a must so there is really only one spot up for grabs most matches.

Since Sunderland last played in the league, Paolo Di Canio has left as manager and the club eased past Peterborough United in the cup under Kevin Ball's stewardship. What do you make of the Di Canio experiment and how does his removal impact on your expectations for this weekend's game?

AK: He was great for those who love narrative and writing about football. However, he seemed to be a bit of a nut job as evidenced by his most recent antics/sign language that appeared to be his undoing.

It seems quite clear from what I've read that he had lost the dressing room. Based on that, I would actually expect a better performance from your lot this weekend. Players don't like to play or take advice from people they don't respect. This might be a rejuvenated side that could just put one over on us if Liverpool come out complacent.

On the Di Canio note, if you haven't seen it, a GFOP (fan) of the Men in Blazers (it's a fantastic podcast) nation wrote a great Broadway style song called "Springtime for Di Canio" to the tune of "Springtime for Hitler".

Aside from the managerial change, there was a raft of player transfers on Wearside this summer. Any opinion on the new players and is there anyone you fear in our squad?

AK: Jozy Altidore is a bit of an unknown scare. I was expecting more from him after his fantastic goal scoring record in the Dutch league and his new found form for the US Men's National Team.

While it would be quite naïve to think he would repeat that in England, I did think he would be much more impactful and still think he can be. He is so physical when he plays for the USMNT I am very surprised it hasn't translated over to better form for Sunderland.

Lee Cattermole is a proper hard scary footballer. I wouldn't want to be going into any challenges with him.

The one person I don't fear is Wes Brown. I don't think he has ever had a good game against Liverpool. The Mancs would even back that up.

Do you think Liverpool will maintain their generally good form and push for the top 4 and do you have any opinions on where Sunderland will finish?

AK: I do think there is more to come from Liverpool.

Eventually all these missed opportunities will start becoming actual goals and Liverpool should start winning more of their games more comfortably. However, with the injuries piling up it is getting harder to say for sure. The mediocrity of the Premier League thus far coupled with Moyes' rough start to life at United has me thinking the top 4 will be an absolute crap shoot.

Arsenal seem to lack depth and even Spurs haven't been overly convincing to start. Because of that, Liverpool have a very decent chance at the top 4 this year. Once they start firing on all cylinders in the finishing department they should have a much more comfortable time. However, showing that they can also grind out wins is very refreshing and is what makes me think their chances are pretty decent.

Finally, what do you think the result will be on Sunday?

AK: I'm going with 2-1 to Liverpool. The defense has looked a bit shaky and prone to giving the one off goal recently, but with Suarez shaking off the rust last Wednesday he should be ready to get back to terrorizing defenses. I just hope those anger management classes paid off or this headache of a summer will have been all for nothing.

Read more from Anfield Asylum in the build up to Sunday's game, especially for some great insight on how the likes of Jordan Henderson and Simon Mignolet are doing, HERE!

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