An Interview with Paul Tomkins on the Liverpool We've Seen So Far
Paul Tomkins is an English football columnist and author who writes solely about Liverpool FC.
He has so far published seven books on the same, with his latest book ‘Compendium’ reaching the top bestseller lists on many Internet booksellers website most notably on Amazon.
The famous Reds writer also writes weekly columns on liverpoolfc.tv.
His well researched and well observed articles have made him an established writer amongst the Liverpool fans.
Following him ever since he started writing again for Liverpool FC , Paul Tomkins has been a constant source of inspiration and sometimes an eye opener on some myths or alike.
An Interview with the writer himself wouldn't have been a possibility( As I live Thousands of miles away from England ).
However , thanks to the Internet, the writer himself took time out of his busy schedule and provided his views on the questions that I asked him through E-mail correspondence.
I asked the following questions:
Abhimanyu Vinay Rajput (AVR): Liverpool have drawn a lot of matches this season (just like the previous season) but still are in contention for the Premier League title.
What is the difference in the team as compared to the one that finished fourth last season?
Paul Tomkins (PT): I think the team is one year older; as a fairly young side, that can mean 10% improvement just through time alone. They are more experienced and the team is more familiar with one another.
Riera has also added width to the left, although most of the other new signings have yet to work out.
Maybe this has inadvertently helped, in keeping more familiarity.
I think Liverpool got a good start and that built confidence and belief, although the inevitable dip hit harder than usual, as United were on an unbelievable run at the time that put Liverpool's slips into sharper focus.
I also think that although games have been drawn, a few more have been won and fewer lost, and in particular against the top teams.
AVR: There have been a number of additions to the coaching staff like Mauricio Pellegrino and Sammy Lee.
Do you think this has been one of the reasons why Liverpool are playing so well ?
PT: Possibly. It's hard to tell what impact these men have as we don't get to see their work, which mostly takes place at Melwood.
But I think both are the kind of men we want at the club: winners, with good attitudes.
It's important that a manager has the men in place to support his vision, both above him and below him.
AVR: There have been a number of matches when Liverpool have gone a goal or two down and won such games by scoring more goals. We all know about the miracle of Istanbul. But Liverpool have been showing the mentality of not accepting defeat from then on.
What could be the possible reason behind such comebacks?
PT: I think Benítez has bought a lot of strong characters, sometimes at the expense of more skillful alternatives who the fans might have wanted.
Dirk Kuyt might not have the talent of someone like Ricardo Quaresma, but Kuyt will keep going right to the very last minute, whereas Quaresma (and his ilk) seems more wrapped up in himself.
So it's probably no coincidence that Kuyt has scored so many of the late goals.
Players like Mascherano, Torres, Alonso and Skrtel never give up, while Gerrard and Carragher will always give 100%.
AVR: Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are two world class players. But often Liverpool have been labeled as a side that cannot win matches without these two players.
How true are these notions?
PT: I think the Reds have won numerous games without these two this season. But it requires a bigger effort from the other players, and that can't be maintained over a longer period of time.
Eventually you miss your best players, and it's a miracle that Liverpool have been challenging for the title at all considering Torres has missed so many games, and those he has started have often seen him at only 60%.
Gerrard has also missed a few key games, and yet we've got by without him, such as away at Real Madrid; but the longer he's missing, the more it will be noticed.
These are the players you build your team around, so you need them to play 90 percent of the games, not 40 percent.
AVR: It's been quite an uneven playing field for Rafael Benitez. Wenger had 7 years with Arsenal , Ferguson more than two decades at Old Trafford and Chelsea on a spending spree when he arrived to manage Liverpool. Five years on ,
Do you think Rafael Benitez is rightly the best manager in Europe(or even England) as Marca , La Gazzetta Dello Sport and AS claim him to be ?
PT: I don't know, as it's hard to compare them all, given the different situations at different clubs.
I find it interesting that he's so respected on the continent when some Liverpool fans still have doubts.
I personally think he's a top-class manager, and as good as anyone else out there, but in his own unique way.
Ferguson has had more time and money, Wenger more time, and Chelsea have spent far more money.
Despite all this, Liverpool have progressed domestically and are deservedly ranked No. 1 in Europe based on a five-year period. Liverpool's squad costs only around 60 percent of those at United and Chelsea, so he's doing a great job.
AVR: Since Liverpool have drawn against weak teams but literally thumped teams like Real Madrid and Man United.
So are Liverpool big match performers?
PT: Paradoxically, I think it's actually easier in the big games. There's less expectation to rout the opposition, and more space to play in.
At Anfield, the atmosphere is ten times better when the crowd knows it must play its part.
When the Reds beat Sunderland 2-0 it was like a morgue, and at times the lack of noise has hindered the team. Contrast that to even the Villa game, when the crowd was buzzing, partly because it was a better opposition.
Similarly, a draw was no good to Villa, so they left space to attack, making for a better game.
The team clearly feels more pressure when they're expected to beat a lesser side, who often pack the defence; so Stoke might not be anywhere near as good as Villa, but at least Villa made a game of it.
I do think that in time, a player like Daniel Pacheco, when he's old enough, could be helpful for that little bit of magic in the final third.
But of course, had Torres played in more of those draws, it stands to reason that a few more would have been won, as he's someone who can beat any defence with his skill and pace, and someone who puts a lot of his chances away.
AVR: Rafael Benitez is known to have a very calm demeanor and remains emotionally detached from the game when it's being played. From the decisive goal against Olympiakos to Villa's 5-0 thumping, the reactions are same (or none at all).
Does that have any influence over the way Liverpool play in a perfect manner?
PT: I think his personality is an important factor. Manchester United, by contrast, may be more expressive as a football team, in the mould of Ferguson, but also hot-headed and petulant like him.
So you get the good and the bad parts of a manager's mindset.
AVR: There are some Liverpool players who actually don't get the deserved recognition.Dirk Kuyt and Xabi Alonso are such players.
Why do you think is it so ?
PT: Kuyt, obviously.
Although, Alonso has many admirers.
Arbeloa and Aurelio have gained recognition in recent months.
Kuyt can have some horrible games, but I fully understand why he plays every week.
Not only is he fit enough to do so, but he sets the tone and pace in terms of effort, whereas someone like Alonso sets the tone and pace with his passing.
When Kuyt chases a lost cause, he forces defenders to make mistakes; with Torres and Gerrard also working as hard, they pick up the pieces.
AVR: Even if Liverpool wins the title this year by some fortune, would they be able to defend it the coming year?
PT: I doubt it. Not initially, at least. A year after their first success, Valencia finished 5th. But then they came back stronger, and I'd expect Liverpool to do the same.
I think it'll be hard to come down from the high of winning the 19th title, whenever it comes, and other clubs will spend more money to win it back. But hey, let's win it first before worrying about defending it!
AVR: Jay Spearing is one of the youth players who impressed even in a subs role against a club like Real Madrid.
Do you think that Liverpool's youth system could produce another Owen, Gerrard or Carragher ?
PT: I think Spearing and Darby could be more like Carragher: not world-class players at a young age, but with the right attributes to improve as the years pass.
I don't see an Owen or Gerrard from the home-grown lads, but Pacheco, Nemeth and Dalla Valle all seem to have something very special.
Time will tell if they can develop as expected and handle the pressure.
AVR: Lastly, how do you feel about our chances this year for lifting the Premier League title in 19 years ?
PT: Well, it's immediately before the Fulham game as I answer these questions, so this weekend's results will have a big bearing. I still think United are favorites, given their one point advantage, game in hand and extra experience.
But the momentum looks to be with Liverpool right now, and that's how Arsenal won it in 1998.
I also think United will feel more pressure if it's Liverpool breathing down their necks; they know that losing the title to the Reds would be a massive blow.
Ferguson would hate it more than anything, and Rooney has already said as much.
Maybe they'll worry too much about it, although they should be too professional.
Abhimanyu Vinay Rajput would firstly like to thank Paul Tomkins for answering the questions amid his busy schedule.
Secondly, to Wikipedia for helping him out in the Introduction.
Thirdly, to Rafael Benitez, his staff and the Players of Liverpool FC for giving us hope on our latest title charge in 19 years.
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