Monday 16 September 2013
Ahead of Swansea City's Barclays Premier League encounter with Liverpool on Monday night, premierleague.com caught up with former Reds midfielder and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, who explained why Swans fans have reasons to be cheerful, why Brendan Rodgers will soon be facing a selection dilemma and who he thinks has been the signing of the transfer window.
"It seems he's getting them more organised and he's also getting better players in at Anfield"
Jamie Redknapp on Brendan Rodgers
Premierleague.com: What sort of match are you expecting at the Liberty Stadium?
Jamie Redknapp: Liverpooldrew 0-0 at the Liberty Stadium last year and beat them 5-0??, but that was after Swansea had won the Capital One Cup. After that win Swansea stopped playing at the high level of before, but I'm a huge fan of the way Swansea have played, ever since Paulo Sousa was there, followed by Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. They really play good football, and Brendan is trying to do that at Liverpool, who also have a longstanding footballing tradition. Rodgers isn't doing anything different from before but he's getting them more organised and getting better players at Anfield, which helps.
PL.com: What do you think of Liverpool's new signings?
JR: Well, Brendan's been a bit hit and miss in the transfer market so far. He spent a lot of money on Joe Allen, who has yet to do it so far. Daniel Sturridge and Coutinho have made great starts but when Brendan first arrived he maybe felt that Kenny Dalglish's signings weren't good enough but now he's decided that one or two aren't that bad: Jordan Henderson has had a good start to the season. Brendan inherited Luis Suarez and a good captain in Steven Gerrard but they've made a good start with three 1-0 wins. Had Stoke not missed a penalty in the last two minutes of the opening match it might have made a real difference to Liverpool's start but when you get on a bit of a run it gives you momentum.
PL.com: Has Liverpool's strong start surprised you?
JR: Not really. But I'm thinking, 'What's going to happen when Suarez comes back?' Their record without him has been brilliant, but there's no way a player that good cannot be brought back into the team. How do you make that team function? You can't say to Daniel Sturridge, 'You're going to play on the left now' because he's been pivotal to their good start. He's been their best player this season and he's just won the Barclays Player of the Month award. So I can see Suarez playing almost where Iago Aspas is now, maybe in a slightly deeper role than before, or play him wide as he did at Ajax. So on the one hand, Rodgers will be licking his lips, thinking, 'I can't wait to get this guy going' but also thinking, 'I hope it doesn't upset the balance of what is looking a very good team at the moment.'
"In the back of my mind, though, I'm thinking, 'What's going to happen when Suarez comes back?'"
PL.com: Do you think Liverpool can compete for the title?
JR: No, they are not title contenders and that's not being disrespectful. They're just not ready for that yet and Brendan Rodgers will be the first to admit that. It's step-by-step for Liverpool. If they can get into the top four, that changes everything in terms of them being a fashionable proposition for players to go to. If you get into the UEFA Champions League, players want to play for you. English players know how big Liverpool is, they won everything when I was growing up, but now it's harder for Rodgers to attract the very top players but that will change if they can get into the top four. They're in a mini-league with Arsenal and Spurs and they aren't quite at the level of the other three at the moment.
PL.com: Last season Swansea flew out of the blocks. This season they opened up with back-to-back defeats. Why the slow start?
JR: If you look at their fixtures - Manchester United at home and Spurs away - they are tough games. Against United there wasn't a great deal in it. The difference was Robin van Persie. Apart from that the teams were evenly matched. Swansea passed the ball well but lacked a cutting edge. Wilfried Bony came off the bench and scored and I felt if he'd started maybe it could have been different. But I have got no worries about Swansea. They can challenge for Europe and not just by winning cups. They play good football, I'm a big fan of the way Michael Laudrup's side pass the ball. They've got a good defence and it's important that they managed to keep hold of Ashley Williams and Michu. Jonjo Shelvey was also a great signing and, I have to be honest, Swansea are a very good, dangerous side, and they will get into their stride after that result against West Bromwich Albion.
PL.com: So how do you think Swansea will approach the match on Monday night against a clearly confident Liverpool side?
JR: They don't know any other way to approach it than to pass the ball. They play the same system week-in, week-out: four at the back, one just in front, two midfield players, Michu might play just behind Bony. That's their attacking formation. If Laudrup were to think about being more defensive-minded, he might play Michu as the striker, with Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer or Pablo Hernandez out wide. Hernandez came on as a sub against Manchester United and scored against West Brom last week and I can see him starting. He's got great skill, lovely feet. But it will be interesting to see what team he picks, because against West Brom Shelvey played in defensive midfield.
"I don't think Swansea know any other way to approach it than to pass the ball"
PL.com: Generally speaking, what have you made of the start of the season so far?
JR: It hasn't really got going yet. We've had a break though and now we might get a bit of rhythm going and it might begin to take shape. But the best game so far was Cardiff City v Manchester City, which was full of excitement and might turn out to be the biggest shock of the season. A newly promoted team beating one of the title favourites just shows what the League is all about, really.
PL.com: Who do you think has been the best signing of the transfer window?
JR: That's a good question. Mezut Ozil's going to be a great signing for Arsenal but it comes with a 'but' in that they needed more than Ozil to be title contenders. He'll add so much to the Barclays Premier League and he's a player I've always admired ever since I saw him playing as a Germany Under-21 international. There's a lovely quality to his game. Fernandinho's going to be a good signing for Manchester City in the long term, lots of power. The two signings Spurs made that I'm most excited to see are Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela. From what I've seen of Spurs so far, their two 1-0 wins and not scoring against Arsenal, showed a certain lack of guile and skill, which Spurs fans have always liked with players like Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne. So there's a huge emphasis on Eriksen to be that man.
PL.com: How is your show going? What's it like presenting SNF live?
JR: It's good. It's different because we've got a live audience and it's something we've never done before in this country. They do it a lot in Germany and France. We've had good games so far with Crystal Palace beating Sunderland 3-1 and Manchester United before that winning 4-1 against Swansea and Liverpool winning 1-0. So we've been blessed in that we've had some good games with good stories and that's what you want really. We're just there to set the game up for people to enjoy on a Saturday evening. That's the entertainment really: people like Daniel Sturridge or Robin van Persie putting on great performances.
Only on Sky Sports can you watch 43 live Premier League matches between August and December including every club twice live, nine derbies and the big head to heads. www.sky.com/football