As you no doubt know, we have drawn Steaua Bucharest in our Europa League group. Being honest, I don't know too much about them and hope to swap a bit of information about the two teams so us fans have a little more appreication of the current state of the squad, any key players and what management style to possibly expect.
If anyone could reply in a similar format I'd be really grateful.
Manager: Obviously we have lost Rafael Benitez to Inter Milan. We employed Roy Hodgson, an English manager (who ironically manager Inter years ago). He has a good pedigree but lacks any real top class experience since Inter, and this could be his last shot at the big time. Last season he took Fulham to the Europa League Final in Hamburg, beating Juventus on the way as well in an exciting tie. There are question marks around him at the moment as to whether he has the right ideas and priorities to take us forward. However, in our win against Trabzonspor (3-1 aggregate), he became the first manager to win his first four European games since the lgeendary Bill Shankly. He got a very credible draw against Arsenal at Anfield in his first league game, but then fell to a 3-0 capitulation at Manchester City in his second.
Tactics: We are undergoing a period of transition as Roy attempts to stamp his own brand of football on the team. We have set out with a similar formation as Rafael Benitez employed in most of our games (4-2-3-1), but have tried a 4-4-2 (against City where we were unlucky but still deserved to be beaten). We seem to be playing a bit narrower across the -3- as well. It's too early to get a proper grasp, but whereas Rafas team dominated possession in the final third but struggled to have the creative spark to take us up a level, Roy seems to favour the quick release of the ball, direct. Front to back as fast as possible to catch the other team napping (mostly played on the floor as well - apart from Carragher who has a tendency to hoof the ball up top). A few of the players appear to still be adjusting to this.
Squad: Our financial problems are well documented. We have lost Aquilani to Juventus (I think we would prefer this to become permanent), Insua has been linked with Italy (a very promising left back who was in the top performers of Actim and Castrol last season), Lucas (Young player of the year last season) linked with Palermo although a lot of fans don't rate him. Mascherano is on the brink of joining Barcelona and we have been linked with Raul Meireles from Porto if it goes through as a replacement. We have been playing Daniel Agger as left back for some reason and all three of Citys goals came from that side. We purchased Joe Cole to be our player in the hole in 4-2-3-1. He has got a couple of assists already but question marks remain about him. Because of this we have had to push Gerrard back into central midfield where he has struggled to have the same influence on games. David N'Gog has started well in the absence of Torres (who is gingerly feeling his way back into action). Jovanovic has been all heart but again, we need to see mroe from him in an attacking sense to make a decision or not. Many people would like to see Maxi Rodriguez play more in the first team but his chances have been limited.
Key players: I'd say Gerrard just because he can change the game in a blink of an eye. Torres needs no mentioning. Kuyt is capable of having an influence. Joe Cole has got his chance to play centrally and will be eager to show what he can do.
Summary: We have started well in Europe in ties that have been potential banana skins. We have played weakened teams and managed to come away with 4/4 wins. Our league starts was a couple of minutes away from being excellent until Arsenal equalised against our ten. It was very heartening, but the City game was a bit of a wake up call, especially as they looked so poor at Tottenham the week before. We look to be shaky at set pieces as we change from zonal to man-for-man.
Strongest team: I think if we were to play you with all our strongest personnel available at the moment, Roys team would resemble this (Reina | Johnson, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio | Gerrard, Lucas | Kuyt, Cole, Jovanovic | Torres).
So, hope this gives you a bit of information of what to expect from us, would love it if someone could give us a bit of background on your team too!!