I morgon är det dags för sista matchen innan landslagsuppehållet. Det är bortamatch mot Aston Villa är Liverpools uppgift, birminghamlaget står just nu på full pott, dock en match mindre spelad än de flesta andra. Guy Poxon(@GuyPoxon) skriver om laget på Under a gaslit lamp berättar här om hur han ser på Villa och säsongen de har framför sig.
1. Its been a few months since the last season finished, how do you remember Villas first season back in the Premier League?
Heart racing. Frustrating. A complete rollercoaster and something I don’t want to repeat. Villa secured Premier League safety on the final day after a late resurgence in form after Project Restart. We were one of the most unfortunate teams with injuries and that nearly cost us dearly because, while we looked like we would avoid a relegation scrap at the beginning of the season, a huge bout of long term injuries to the spine of our team made December through to February very difficult.
2. You trusted your manager through last season, while teams like Watford sacked their manager twice, how would you describe Dean Smith as a manager?
Dean Smith is not just a Villa fan himself, he is an excellent tactician and coach. He must have been close to losing his job before lockdown last season, but he adapted his entire approach to the way Aston Villa played. He managed to get the best out of a newly assembled squad that was riddled with injuries and, in the end, we stayed up. Dean Smith is very grounded, very measured, and much better at his job than most people give him credit for. He also lives and breathes Aston Villa. Did you know, Dean Smith’s late father used to work as a steward at Villa Park? Dean is now managing the team his whole family supports, which is something we can all only dream of.
3. There were many rumours around Jack Grealish before the transfer window opened, now he has signed a new contract with Villa. Are you surprised to ser him stay? How important is he to Villa?
Make no mistake, Jack Grealish’s new contract is the best bit of business Villa have done. When we stayed up, I was quietly confident he would stay. The reason I thought this was because our owners had made a statement of intent to say they wanted Villa to eventually restore a position in the top half of the Premier League table, competing for European football again. If they let Jack leave, even for £80m, Villa would never be able to replace him this year. We would struggle again this season and it would put the club behind in their plans. Once we got to mid-August and no bid had come in, I was sure the owners wouldn’t let him go. Since then, Grealish has come out and said he was impressed with our owners transfer plans and it convinced him to stay.
4. You have started this season with two wins, have you changed anything in the way you play from last season?
It was after Project Restart that I saw a change. We started off 2019/20 playing expansive football, and while this meant we were okay at scoring goals, we conceded far too many. Since Project Restart, Villa play a completely different game. The defence comes first and we look organised. Since the beginning of the new season we have kept that solid defensive base, but added more quality to help the attack. I think this has helped us to score more goals while remaining defensively resolute.
5. What do you think of the clubs transfers during this transfer window? (Besvarades innan Barkley blev klar för klubben)
It sounds like I am only singing Aston Villa’s praises this season, but I’ve genuinely been really impressed with our transfer business. Realistically, we had to rely on picking players from other leagues and then getting Premier League experience where we could. New signings Emi Martinez (Arsenal), Matty Cash (Nottingham Forest) and Ollie Watkins (Brentford) have already come in and been star performers – they are from English leagues so they have immediately gelled. Watkins has been unlucky not to score in his two Premier League games, but he looks the real deal and has scored 2 goals in 4 competitive appearances. We have also signed Bertrand Traore from Lyon and his short cameo against Fulham was promising – not to mention his wonder goal in the cup! I think we will sign a midfielder – probably Roos Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea on loan – and then I would like to see us bring in a left back who is more defensively capable than Matt Targett.
6. What do you expect from Villa this season?
Hopefully mid-table. I would just like us not to leave it till the last game of the season this time…
7. What kind of game do expect against Liverpool?
Liverpool are the best team in the world (alongside Bayern Munich) for me. I don’t expect Villa to get anything from this and I think Liverpool will show everyone their class yet again. I think Liverpool will look to break down Aston Villa and Klopp will hope for an early goal to make his life easier. Sadio Mane looks unplayable in current form so it will be a real test for our new right back, Matty Cash. I also think that Mohammed Salah will cause Matt Targett lots of problems down our left. But, for me, I think this is a game where Thiago can stamp his authority for Liverpool and provide that world class pass to open up the game. Villa will no doubt look to absorb pressure and then counter, so I wouldn’t expect a Premier League classic! Best of luck to the Reds this season, you have been a joy to watch for years, now. Klopp is also my favourite manager!