In our latest Opposition Focus, Matt Wiggins spoke to Henry Jackson from This Is Anfield to get a Liverpool perspective ahead of Sunday’s trip to Merseyside…
In the reverse fixture, it finished 1-1 at the Craven Cottage. What is your reflection on the match?
It was a very frustrating one from a Liverpool perspective – one that panned out so similar to so many games against struggling teams this season. We never got going at any point, and in truth, I ended up being relieved that we managed to get a point.
I was really impressed with Fulham, though. You made life difficult for us, proving to be full of energy and quality, and it was a moment that I realised your league position wasn’t necessarily a fair reflection of your ability as a team.
Liverpool currently sit 7th on 43 points. How would you describe your season so far?
It’s been a disaster, quite frankly. Back in September, I had total faith in Liverpool winning the title again, but they have suffered the most freakish season ever in terms of injuries, effectively ending their hopes of glory.
That may sound like a lame excuse for our struggles, but to lose Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for the whole season – now Joel Matip, too – as well as the likes of Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Thiago, James Milner and Diogo Jota for big periods, is beyond belief.
It has made it impossible to get any kind of momentum going and certain individuals have been overplayed, leading to fatigue setting in.
A top-four finish and long Champions League run has to be the aim now, but there is a feeling of being robbed among the fanbase, because we haven’t been given a fair shot at defending the title.
There is still time to salvage things a little, but there is a feeling that August can’t come soon enough.
When we last spoke, you emphasised how important young players have been for Liverpool. Is that still the case now or are the more experienced heads guiding Liverpool through the season?
I think a bit of both. Trent Alexander-Arnold is showing a real return to form, which is so important, considering he is Liverpool’s playmaker from right-back. I have no doubt that he is a future Reds captain.
Meanwhile, Curtis Jones has been one of the few bright points of the season, looking such an accomplished player, despite only just turning 20.
There are no other youngsters really chipping in though, unless you’re counting 23-year-old Nat Phillips at the back, who is very limited but has performed admirably without key centre-backs around.
Liverpool have been pretty inconsistent at Anfield recently. Is now the best time for us to travel to Merseyside?
From going unbeaten in the Premier League at Anfield in almost four years, the walls have caved in, which has come from nowhere.
Not having fans in the stadium has definitely played a part, but the performances there have looked tired and lacking in creativity too, and confidence has looked increasingly shot with each passing defeat. Losing that long unbeaten home record against Everton was particularly grim.
I can certainly think of worse times for Fulham to be heading to Merseyside.
Who has been the standout player for Liverpool so far this season?
I think I will go for Fabinho, even though he has missed some action through injury recently. He has been exceptional in a centre-back position he had never really played in before, holding the defence together at times without Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip around.
He is a wonderful footballer, and while he has been largely immaculate at the back, I can’t wait to see him back in his preferred No.6 role more regularly next season.
Mo Salah also deserves lots of praise, considering he is the top scorer in the league. He hasn’t been perfect, but his performances have comfortably outshone Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino’s, with both struggling overall.
Jones has been good in general, too, and Andy Robertson and Gini Wijnaldum were brilliant earlier in the campaign, but now both look a little jaded. A shout out for Jota as well, who was exceptional before a lengthy layoff.
Who’s one Fulham player you feel can threaten The Reds at Anfield?
I can’t lay claim to watching Fulham regularly, but I’ve liked the look for Ademola Lookman whenever I’ve seen him. He carries unpredictability and a goal threat, and is someone I could see being dangerous on the counter-attack on Sunday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also a physical machine who can be a real handful, although I do feel he doesn’t always get the best out of his ability, flattering to deceive at times.
Previously you gave us your predictions of a top 4 of Liverpool, Man City, Spurs and Chelsea and a bottom 3 of Fulham, Sheffield United & West Brom. Are there any changes you’d make to these predictions as we’re further into the season?
Blimey, the good old days when I thought we’d finish top!
I think the top four will end up being Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea, with Leicester showing signs of falling away in recent weeks. It’s going to be very tight, though, and more injuries for the Reds could see them out of the running by May.
Everton, Tottenham and West Ham shouldn’t be discounted, but I’m not sure any of them will quite have enough.
As for relegation, I’m going to go for Sheffield United, West Brom and Newcastle. And I hope that’s the case. Fulham deserve to stay up more than the Magpies.
Finally, how do you see the game panning out and what is your score prediction for the match?
I think it’s clear that Liverpool will likely dominate possession and Fulham will look to hit us on the break – it will boil down to whether or not we are ruthless in taking our chances. That has been a huge issue all season in these type of games, as has creating numerous opportunities.
I am backing the Reds to be too strong, though. I will go for a 2-0 win.