Southampton squares off with Liverpool Saturday at 3 p.m. as the Premier League returns from the November international break.
We took the time to chat with Zachary Marx of Liverpool Offside about what to expect when we take on a plethora of former Saints players.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work with Liverpool Offside, and any projects the blog might be working on.
Well, my name is Zach, I'm a Sagittarius and I enjoy long walks on the beach. We don't really have projects as such, other than a systematic fight against Barcelona propaganda. And we try to uphold the principles of ETW (Everything's The Worst).
It was another year where pundits and the like were talking about this potentially being the season that Liverpool win the league, but they are 11 points adrift from Manchester City -- is that dream over?
Um. 12 points. Yeah. We're 12 points back. To be honest, most of us at TLO Towers thought a league challenge wasn't in the cards. As for Manchester City, they have 31 points out of a possible 33. That's blistering form, and it's hard to imagine anyone catching them after this hot start to the season.
If so, what are expectations for Liverpool this season and how has your participation in Champions League impacted those expectations?
The preseason expectations among most (sane) Liverpool supporters were to 1) consolidate and finish Top 4 again, 2) get out of the Champions League group stage, and 3) maybe win something silvery if 1 and 2 have been accomplished. We're 3 points back of 4th and 4 points back of 2nd, so point one should be manageable (albeit difficult). We're currently leading our group in the Champions League, but have a bit more work to do. And for the third point? I guess we'll see how the FA Cup shakes out. Though, admittedly, the FA Cup will probably be put on the backburner, especially if the race for fourth remains tight. Playing in Europe doesn't help, necessarily, but Jurgen Klopp has managed to build a surprisingly deep squad, and I don't think it has been the most significant of our problems so far.
Liverpool failed to bring in a defender -- namely Virgil van Dijk -- which could've given the club a real boost at the back. Was it down to being too costly after van Dijk was nixed or down to the board not being proactive enough with other options?
The failure to bring in a defender was an obvious and predictable problem from day 1. We don't really know what happened after the Van Dijk thing broke down, but it is a major frustration among supporters. My guess (and this is pure speculation) was that the owners said "We can go back for Virgil for ~£75 million in January, or we can buy another defender for ~£35 million now. But you can't have both." At least, that's my hope. Otherwise it is even more baffling.
Do you see a future where van Dijk ends up at Liverpool or has the debacle with the public apology been too much to overcome in getting his signature?
Yeah. See above. I think the tapping up stuff prevented us from going back in hard this summer. But this January should be fine. Assuming we still want him.
Sadio Mane is back from injury. We know what he is capable of, but what does his return mean for Liverpool and how you set up your attack?
Mane has been a fantastic signing for us, and when he was gone last season (due to AFCON and injuries), the team's form suffered. However, this year we brought in Mohamed Salah, so when Mane is out we're not missing that pace. When both Mane and Salah have been healthy, Klopp generally deploys both on the wings in a 4-3-3, each acting as an inverted winger, cutting in and shooting on their strongest feet, respectively. However, against West Ham we saw Salah deployed as a second striker, and Mane as a true winger in a 4-4-2. Having both players with such blinding pace has allowed Liverpool to defend a little deeper, and hit on the counter with devastating effectiveness.
Emre Can has become a tidy little player in the midfield for Liverpool. What has changed for him under Jurgen Klopp to allow him to have the success he's had recently?
It's easy to forget with Emre just how young he is. He's just 23, so we've really enjoyed watching him come into his prime with the club. Of course, Klopp has been instrumental in that training. However, it looks like he's due to depart on a free next summer. It would be a shame to lose such a promising young talent (especially on a free), but it seems the two sides have reached an impasse over the inclusion of a release clause.
Liverpool hasn't scored against Southampton in over 360 minutes - what has to happen for them to find a breakthrough?
You mean besides not missing penalties? Was it just 360 minutes? It felt much longer.
Who should Saints fans be worried about on Liverpool?
As has been suggested in this meme, Liverpool's attack should terrify opposition defenses. We have goals all across the front three, and we've had multiple games where Mane, Salah, and Firmino have all scored. That said, Salah is nearly unmarkable at the moment. He is fast enough to get in behind on balls over the top, and quick enough to easily beat an offside trap. He's constantly making runs into dangerous areas, and is one of those natural poachers that pops up for dangerous rebounds and the like. And he's playing like a guy who has something to prove after getting bombed out of the Premier League by Chelsea a few seasons ago. In all competitions he has 12 goals in 17, and 7 in the league. So yeah, let's go with Mo Salah.
What Southampton player gives Liverpool fans a cause for concern?
Finally, a prediction for Saturday?
3-1 to Liverpool (AKA a Liverpool clean sheet).
We’d like to thank Zach for taking the time to chat with us. Be sure to check out Liverpool Offside.