To get a Liverpool fan's perspective, we spoke to SB Nation blog Liverpool Offside writer Zachary Marx to get the opposition's perspective on this season, the game on Sunday and why Brendan Rodgers' time at Anfield crumbled beneath him.
For my take, please visit here as Zach presses me for some Saints-centric answers!
St. Mary's Musings: What were your season expectations before it had started and have they changed since?
Zachary Marx: Coming off of a very disappointing 14-15 campaign, but a largely successful summer transfer window, it was difficult to properly calibrate expectations in preseason. My feelings were that Brendan Rodgers would either turn it around by Christmas, or we'd end up with a new manager and another "rebuilding year." Obviously we're now in the latter scenario. That said: how can you not be optimistic with Jurgen Klopp at the helm? Qualifying for Champions League might still be out of reach for this club, but I fully expect us to be playing competent, dare I say exciting, football by the end of the year.
SMM: Brendan Rodgers isn't particularly popular among Southampton fans. What went wrong for him at Liverpool?
ZM: We've discussed Rodgers downfall at great length at TLO, and after all that discussion I believe it's hard to pin down to just one thing. Losing Luis Suarez (to Barcelona) and Daniel Sturridge (to injury) were massive blows. When Rodgers could not adequately (or even partially) replace Suarez and Sturridge, that didn't help his cause either. These issues were largely out of his control.
However, we saw a lot of evidence of preferential treatment, unforgivable personnel decisions, and confusing tactical choices over the last year, and those helped usher in the end of his reign. In just his brief time as Liverpool manager this season, Rodgers picked Dejan Lovren over Mamadou Sakho to anchor the defense, tried to send our only defensive mid (Lucas) away on loan, and did send one of our best young prospects (not to mention one of our few wide players) Lazar Markovic out on loan. These decisions are frankly baffling, and seemed to foster a lot of locker room resentment among the players.
SMM: Of all the Saints players Liverpool bought over the last two seasons, who has showed the most promise?
ZM: Flip a coin between Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne. Lallana has struggled with fitness since his arrival, but I think he'll be a stud under Klopp. And Clyne? Wow, what a great fullback. After years of watching Glen Johnson fail to contribute on either end of the pitch, Nathaniel Clyne is a breath of fresh air.
SMM: And the worst?
ZM: Do I really need to answer that?
SMM: What are your thoughts on Rickie Lambert's spell at LFC?
ZM: I can't speak for everyone, but seeing Lambert score a few goals for Liverpool, his boyhood club, was a joy. Yeah, he didn't really work out for us, but to be fair none of our strikers were finding the back of the net last year. As a fan, you always want to see players who love being at the club, and that was certainly the case for Rickie.
SMM: As an outsider, what do you and other Liverpool fans think of Southampton?
ZM: It's hard not to be impressed with Southampton in recent years. Two consecutive promotions, followed by three very impressive Premier League campaigns, with no sign of slowing down. Bigger clubs (eh-hem) poach our players? No worries, kick on. Change of management? No problem, let's keep it going. Southampton is clearly a club with some excellent behind-the-scenes management and scouting.
SMM: What do Liverpool fans think Jurgen Klopp will bring to Anfield?
ZM: Right now, Klopp could promise us the moon and we'd be inclined to believe him. Realistically, we've probably not been this excited about an incoming manager since Rafa Benitez, and like Rafa, we hope Jürgen will bring us back to domestic and continental relevance. Historically, Liverpool have been about winning trophies, and Klopp gets that.
SMM: If you could sell any Liverpool player from your starting XI, who would it be and why?
ZM: A case could be made for Simon Mignolet if a clear upgrade became available. Otherwise, I'm going with Martin Skrtel. I love Martin, and he's been a good servant in Red for many years. He'll run through a brick wall if asked, and then play the second half with a bandaged head. However, he was frequently a defensive liability under Rodgers, and I fear it could get worse under Klopp's high pressing regime.
SMM: If you could sign any Southampton player, who would it be and why?
ZM: You don't understand. We don't want one Southampton player, we want to collect them all. In all seriousness, Liverpool would be wise to stop raiding your players, and start raiding your scouting team.
SMM: Finally, what do you think the score will be come Sunday?
ZM: I'm going to go 2-1 Liverpool. We've already seen flashes of Klopp's famous gegenpressing and I think the team is still playing with that customary "New Manager Bounce." Of course, there will be some defensive calamity that keeps things interesting, because Klopp isn't a miracle worker.