For whatever reason, Aston Villa have fared extremely well against Liverpool the past few seasons. It's a bit perplexing really, and chatting with the folks over at the Liverpool Offside gives us a wonderful opportunity to get their insight on possible explanations. Unfortunately, I didn't think to ask them about that. Se la perdió, I suppose. You should still read the Q+A below, and when you're done with that head on over to their site to see the other side of our exchange.
7,500 to Holte: It's been an interesting summer for Liverpool, to say the least. Luis Suárez is gone, as are some other players that aren't nearly as important as Luis Suárez. Mario Balotelli has been brought in, as well as three-quarters of the players that made Southampton the least bit interesting. Oh, and also Emre Can, Lazar Marković, Divock Origi, and Alberto Moreno.
From the outside looking in, that seems like a pretty solid net gain in terms of talent, and a pretty efficient use of the funds gained both from the sale of Suárez and Champions League qualification. Signings spread over multiple positions, a willingness to pay slight premiums for largely proven but still young talents, and an emphasis on recruits that fit the system Brendan Rodgers wants to play over chasing the biggest available names and figuring things out later. But fans of teams with money to spend and aspirations that aren't incredibly depressing tend to find a way to be upset about nearly everything, so tell us how Liverpool fans are feeling about the summer and whether or not their conclusions are in any way anchored to reality.
The Liverpool Offside: For the most part Liverpool fans are feeling really, really good about the summer. As a collective entity we may have entertained ourselves by shouting "Marco Reus" at everybody and anybody over the summer until Marco Reus to Liverpool became an actual thing that some of the more questionable corners of the internet and media started talking about as though it was real and not just Liverpool fans taking the piss, but as nobody ever really thought Liverpool were in for a player of his stature, outside of missing on Alexis Sanchez there's really very little to be upset about.
The club headed into the summer knowing it needed to build out a two-deep after struggling last year with a squad barely capable of competing in just the Premier League. They did exactly that, and all for a net spend of around £35M, which seems like a lot in real person money but is the same net spend Everton managed this summer thanks to the windfall of the new television deal. Plus the club brought in a pair of exceptionally talented young fullbacks, and given Liverpool's struggles at the position, that makes getting Alberto Moreno nearly as exciting as signing Lionel Messi.
There are question marks of course. There always are with new signings. But on the whole Liverpool fans think the summer window has the potential to go down as the club's best in the Premier League era, and that's not an unreasonable stance.
7500: I haven't seen your answer to that last question, but I feel pretty safe in assuming that you talked about Mario Balotelli. You should talk some more about Mario Balotelli - make something up if you need to, for god's sake - because Mario Balotelli is wonderful and I never really get tired of hearing about him.
LO: Mario who? Does he play football somewhere?
7500: What's the expectation for this season? Personally, I don't see a great deal of separation at the top of the table; Chelsea, City, and Liverpool seem to be the real favorites, Arsenal are all alone in a second tier that is very, very close to the first, and Spurs and United aren't are that far behind the Gunners. But because these aren't Villa's rivals, most Villa fans have taken to ignoring what the national pundits say about any team since they've stopped talking about Villa, and we haven't had nearly enough games to make any reasonable inferences. I'd imagine Liverpool fans are far more closely plugged in to the happenings at the top of the table, and I'd also imagine they're a bit more willing to do the research and come to an informed opinion. So, how do you see things shaking out at the top?
LO: Chelsea and Manchester City are the favourites, and I don't think you'd find many Liverpool fans willing to say otherwise. Both have more depth, more cash, and more experience-where Liverpool bought with an eye to value and promise this summer, both have the funds to regularly bring in far more proven depth. They've also been bringing that far more proven depth in for a lot longer than Liverpool, who had been languishing not too far off mid-table for a number of years. That doesn't mean Liverpool can't challenge for the title again, but they aren't the favourites.
The truth is Liverpool are probably closer to Arsenal on talent than to Chelsea and City, but if the squad can stay relatively healthy it's probably fair to call third a reasonable, achievable target for Liverpool. At least if you ignore the ramblings of the pundits who are desperate for Manchester United's hilariously imbalanced squad to rocket back into the Champions League, dislodging either ourselves or the Gunners. It's not a complete impossibility, of course, but they seem fairly clearly to be in that next group along with Tottenham and Everton.
7500: Given the fact that Liverpool's history is unquestionably more prestigious than Villa's by orders of magnitude but they're a club that's fallen on hard times - in a very, very relative sense - more recently than the majority of other clubs that can say the same, I'd love to hear your take on their current standing. Have Villa really sunk to the level of your standard yo-yo clubs such as QPR, West Brom, and the like? Would anyone be sad if they went away, even forever? Is there any real belief that they'll ever work their way back to (relatively) permanent stability?
LO: Villa certainly haven't sunk to QPR or West Brom levels, but I think for a lot of fans they've become fairly well established as a bottom half side. They probably won't be going away any time soon-or at least we assume they'll survive one way or another-but there isn't any real expectation that they'll be anything more than just there. Making up the numbers, pulling the odd upset, and probably not playing the greatest football along the way. A bit like Stoke, then, facing up to a purgatorial slog of uninspiring football and just barely surviving.
The reality is perhaps more tenuous, but then Aston Villa have been a top flight presence so long and consistently that it's easy on the outside to assume they'll always be there-until the day they aren't, as happened to West Ham recently. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that as a Villa supporter, but from the outside it seems a club fairly caught in a holding pattern, and one that has been for some time. As we've seen with Liverpool, though, the right set of circumstances-the right owner and manager-can change things from the new status quo awfully fast.
7500: At the moment, Aston Villa are one point and two places ahead of Liverpool in the table. From your perspective, how likely is it that the weekend comes and goes with the same (or at least similar) arrangement of the two?
LO: I'd imagine that a lot on that front will depend on if Liverpool win, lose, or draw against Aston Villa on Saturday, but if they win I'd imagine there's a decent chance it will lead to the ordering of the two being shuffled around.