How impressed have you been with Liverpool’s start to the Premier League season? Do you believe they’re Manchester City’s closest rivals?
“They haven’t surprised me. I always thought that they would start the season well and they have done. Like most teams, you just need to remain injury free and I know that Liverpool have had a few injuries but it’s not been too bad and nothing compared to what it was like last year where they were decimated at the start of the season.
“The five forwards in the team have all fitted in well and when you start three and bring the other two off the bench, then you’re getting instant rewards from everybody. All the substitutes are making an impact and I’ve been very impressed with how strongly Liverpool have started the season.
“Newcastle United and Chelsea are going to be difficult away games for anybody, so to come away from those fixtures with four points is impressive. Aston Villa have also started the season relatively well, although they’re not doing so well away from home, and I believe that it was a really good sign from Liverpool to finish so strongly against West Ham on Sunday. They just look as if they’re going to score goals all the time.
“I always said that I believed that Liverpool would be Manchester City’s closest challengers for the Premier League title and I wasn’t one of those people that believed they would struggle to finish in the top four. There were valid reasons for why Liverpool didn’t start last season strongly and it’s very similar to what Manchester United are currently experiencing. When you have five or six injuries to important players, then you’re going to struggle. Liverpool have had a few niggles here and there, but I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen of them so far and I did always believe that they would run Manchester City close this season.”
Jarrod Bowen is being tipped as a potential successor for Mo Salah at Liverpool, if the Egypt international leaves Anfield in the near future. Do you believe Jürgen Klopp will be able to develop Jarrod into one of the Premier League’s best forwards if that move was to come to fruition?
“I don’t see why not. He looked very dangerous against Liverpool on Sunday and he’s shown in the last couple of years what a good player he is. He caused Liverpool many problems but you don’t know whether they’d like to sign a bigger name if they lose Salah and when you consider the money they’d receive for Mo. However, I do believe that Jarrod Bowen could easily fit in at Liverpool because he’s a hard worker, he can play on the right or down the middle and he’s very dangerous. It goes without saying that it will be very difficult for Liverpool to replace Mohamed Salah considering all he’s done for the club, but Jarrod Bowen could easily fit into their side and we will see if Jürgen can work his magic and develop Jarrod even more.”
Al-Ittihad reportedly were prepared to offer £215 million for Mohamed Salah at the end of the summer transfer window. If that offer comes in again in January, do you believe Mo will be off?
“No. I don’t see the point in a move to Saudi Arabia in January. It wouldn’t make any sense, but I won’t be surprised if the rumours resurface before then because it’s a cool and trendy story. Liverpool should be challenging for trophies this season and that’s another reason why I can’t see Mo leaving in January. I believe this is a move that could happen in the summer because it would make sense for all parties to get this deal done then rather than in a few months time.”
Do you believe Liverpool will fail to get the best out of Alexis Mac Allister if they continue to deploy him in a deeper role in their midfield?
“Liverpool have three forwards and the way that they play, Alexis could easily slot in behind the front three in the capacity of a six or an eight. He’s quite mobile with [Dominik] Szoboszlai in the midfield and they interchange really well, so I don’t see it as a problem for Alexis if he’s required to play in a deeper role in Liverpool’s midfield. Liverpool are very fluid in the centre of midfield, they’ve started the season really well and Alexis Mac Allister has started well also. I don’t think there’s any reason to poke holes in what he’s done so far, I just believe in this formation that Liverpool are currently using that Alexis Mac Allister is doing very well within it. There’s no reason to change what he’s doing at this present time unless something drastic happens.”
What are your early impressions of Jarell Quansah? Former Liverpool midfielder Joe Cole and the club’s centre-back Virgil van Dijk have already spoken highly of him.
“I know Jarell very well from working with the academy. I’ve known him for years and he’s progressed through the ranks very impressively. He was with Joey Barton last season at Bristol Rovers, learning his trade and when I was speaking to Joey, he was very positive about how well Jarell was doing for them. Against Wolves, Liverpool’s defence was down to the bare bones and I thought Jarell slotted in excellently alongside [Joël] Matip and I believed he was Liverpool’s best defender in the first-half and that’s really saying something when you consider how young he is.
“The more he trains and plays with the first-team, then the more he’ll grow and the more he’ll fill out. He’ll become a very good player and he’s always been very good on the ball, but I just believe you need that little bit of Premier League experience and you need to play against big centre-forwards to develop even more as a defender. I’d expect him to make a few mistakes along the way but hopefully he will turn into a very good central defender and the fact that they allowed Nat Phillips to go to Celtic shows that Jarell was making all the right noises in training.”
Liverpool, along with Aston Villa and Barcelona, are said to have an interest in Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams. His contract expires in the summer and in your opinion, would he be a success in the Premier League?
“I don’t see why Nico wouldn’t do a good job in the Premier League. I know that there were rumours in the summer that he rejected a move to Aston Villa because he wanted to stay in Bilbao because his brother’s there and the lifestyle is desirable in Spain, but a move to the Premier League could appeal to him next summer, especially if he’s available on a free transfer as he could be really well rewarded financially in that case. He’s quick, direct and enjoys taking players on so he could be a success in the Premier League, but I doubt that would be at Liverpool.
“I don’t believe Nico is consistent enough yet to play for a club like Liverpool. However, any player available on a free contract becomes a value for money signing and many teams will be interested in his signature.”
Rumours suggest that Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimarães is set to have a £100 million release clause in his new contract which he is set to sign at St James’ Park. Liverpool are said to be interested in the midfielder and in your eyes, would Bruno be a wonderful addition at Anfield?
“If he’s only available for that kind of money, then I believe it would be difficult to pull this move off. I know Liverpool had funds available during the summer transfer window, especially after Jordan Henderson and Fabinho left, but they’ve also brought a number of new midfielders into the club, so I don’t believe they’d pay £100 million to Newcastle United who’re currently one of their closest rivals in the Premier League. If Newcastle United allowed Bruno to leave, then I imagine they’d only be prepared to sell him to a club that’s abroad. So for those reasons, I would be really surprised if that deal happened to be honest.”
What’s your prediction for Liverpool’s game against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday?
“Liverpool usually tend to play well away at Tottenham. Tottenham want to attack, bomb forward and play expansive football so normally when that happens, there’s a lot of space available for their opposition to exploit and counter attack in. It will be a difficult game and Liverpool are conceding a lot of goals recently, but they’re also scoring a bucket load of goals at the same time. Tottenham were excellent late on against Sheffield United and they were brilliant in the derby on Sunday against Arsenal, so it should be a very tight game on Saturday. From Liverpool’s perspective, if they don’t lose the game then they’ll be fairly happy in my opinion. In these types of games, you can see Liverpool scoring goals so it all depends if they can stop them going in at the other end.”
How impressed have you been with Ange Postecoglou during his start to life as Tottenham manager?
“I’ve been really impressed and I really like him. I really appreciated what he was doing at Celtic and I was glad that he got the job at Tottenham because they had shied away from making these big name appointments that all played different styles of football. Ange wants to play football in the right way, he takes no nonsense from the press and he knows which players he wants. Harry Kane leaving so late on in the window wasn’t ideal preparation for him, but he’s done really, really well since he’s been there and long may it continue.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank has recently admitted that Ivan Toney could be allowed to leave the Gtech Community Stadium in January if their asking price for the England international is met. Ivan has previously spoken about his admiration for Liverpool and in your opinion, should your former club attempt to sign him in a few months’ time?
“I believe Liverpool have enough forwards at the moment and they don’t need to make it six. If Mo Salah leaves in the summer then maybe this move would make sense but once January comes, I believe that Arsenal could be a spiritual home for Ivan Toney. I know that Arsenal and Brentford have a really good relationship, so maybe that would be a much easier route to take for Ivan.
“Chelsea might be interested in him because they’re seemingly interested in everybody else but after already spending £1 billion, it doesn’t make sense for them to sign another forward in January.”
Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde has recently spoken out regarding rumours linking him with a move to the Premier League and a future exit from Madrid. Valverde claimed ‘I have the possibility of playing for Real. The day I don’t feel like that, I will probably look for another solution or Real itself will look for one for me’. Do you believe a player with Valverde’s attributes would be a star in the Premier League? He’s been linked with Liverpool in recent times.
“I’d be very surprised if Federico made the move to the Premier League in the near future. It may be a similar deal to when Casemiro departed Real Madrid in his thirties. The way that Real set-up and play at the moment, they really need Federico Valverde so I’d be very surprised if he left anytime soon. With Luka Modric coming towards the end of his career and Toni Kroos’ contract expiring at the end of the season, if you believe what the Spanish press are saying, then [Eduardo] Camavinga, [Jude] Bellingham, [Aurélien] Tchouaméni and Valverde are seen as the future of Real Madrid, so I’d be very surprised if he was to jump ship now.
“Would he stand out in the Premier League? Absolutely. The way he plays, the way he runs around, his workrate and his attitude means that he would adapt to the Premier League with no problems at all. Real Madrid are currently going through a transition themselves, so I’d be very surprised if they were to allow Federico Valverde to leave. The only way this could happen would be if they received an absolutely ridiculous offer for him, but I very much doubt that will happen.”
According to the Spanish press, both Real Madrid and Liverpool are interested in making a move for AC Milan forward Rafael Leão. What are your thoughts on Leão from what you’ve seen of him in Serie A and the Champions League?
“I believe that La Liga would probably suit him better than the Premier League. I think everybody appreciates what a talented footballer he is because he’s got immense skill and he can go past anybody for fun but at this moment in time, I don’t believe that his workrate is conducive to playing for a big Premier League team. For that reason, La Liga could be the better option for him but if one of the biggest Premier League clubs made a move for him, then he’d be expected to run up and down for the full ninety minutes, so he would have to add that to his game. At the moment, he’s very explosive when he receives the ball and not so explosive when he’s not got the ball, but overall he’s still a wonderful player.”
What are your thoughts on Aaron Ramsdale being dropped as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper? Do you believe it’s an unfair decision and do you believe that a lot of top clubs will now be considering a move for the England international as a result of this? Chelsea and Bayern Munich are said to be interested in his signature.
“I don’t necessarily believe it’s an unfair decision because that’s what competition for places is all about. If Mikel Arteta believes that David Raya is a better goalkeeper or a better goalkeeper with his feet, then that’s his prerogative. David Raya’s reputation has always been very,very good but it was still a surprise that Arsenal went for him because Ramsdale was excellent for his club last season.
“If you believe that you can get somebody better than what you have already, then that’s what you do. Many of the biggest clubs have two top players for every position and that’s what Arsenal have done with their goalkeeping department. Mikel Arteta has been saying the right things in his press conferences and claiming that he wants to be able to substitute his goalkeepers in the 60th minute of games, so maybe that could be the start of something new.
“Clubs will certainly be monitoring Aaron’s situation at Arsenal. Mikel Arteta clearly wants quality in reserve, so I will be very surprised if he allows Aaron to leave the club, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal have already been contacted by other clubs that are interested in his signature because Aaron wants to play every single week and he wants to play for England with Euro 2024 on the horizon.
“Could he move to Chelsea? I have no idea what’s going on at Chelsea to be honest. Kepa Arrizabalaga has already gone to Real Madrid, Édouard Mendy has moved to Saudi Arabia and then they brought Robert Sánchez in, so I’d be very surprised if they admitted defeat so suddenly and tried to bring Aaron Ramsdale to Stamford Bridge and play him over Sánchez. I don’t believe that Arsenal would allow him to go to Chelsea unless they offered them an extortionate amount of money, which is something they’ve done with multiple players they’ve signed in recent times. If you’re Aaron, you probably wouldn’t want to go anywhere near Chelsea at this moment in time because you don’t know what you’re going to get. He’s probably best just staying where he is now, letting everything calm down, biding his time and then he can re-evaluate the situation in a month or two once he’s had the chance to talk with Gareth Southgate.”
Do you believe Mauricio Pochettino is under pressure at Chelsea?
“I certainly hope not. I didn’t agree with the Graham Potter and Thomas Tuchel sackings and what’s going on at Chelsea is just madness and the madness isn’t Mauricio Pochettino’s fault. He’s got that many players, that many injuries and that many comings and goings, that I believe that most managers would fail to get a tune out of them at this moment in time.
“When they played Liverpool on the opening day of the season, I thought they looked really good, but then all of a sudden Reece James gets injured and Ben Chilwell misses a couple of games and they’re both really important for Chelsea. Mauricio needs to settle on a team that he wants to choose and nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes at Chelsea, so I certainly wouldn’t be calling for Pochettino’s head because whoever goes in after him is going to have to deal with the same mess.”
And we want to also ask you if you believe Erik ten Hag is under pressure at Manchester United?
“I personally don’t believe he is. I’m not a Manchester United fan, but I looked at their injury problems this season and you can completely understand why they’re struggling. When they get these players back, then they’ll be a lot stronger and they have a good run of fixtures coming up. Liverpool were in a similar situation last season with their volume of injuries, so as an outsider you can appreciate the issues that Manchester United are currently dealing with. I don’t think that Erik ten Hag is under pressure because he’s had to deal with a lot of different issues and up to now, he’s dealt with these issues really well.”
Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho is being linked with a shock move to Barcelona, with it being believed that the winger could be available for a transfer in the January transfer window. Do you believe his skillset could be better suited to La Liga than the Premier League?
“By all accounts, his skillset isn’t the issue is it? It’s his attitude, his will to work and his dedication to being punctual. I don’t believe that Jadon’s skillset has ever been in doubt. His skillset was excellent at Manchester City but they let him go to Borussia Dortmund. Borussia Dortmund were happy to let him go to Manchester United and Gareth Southgate was happy to remove him from the England squad, so there’s something fundamental happening away from the public eye. He just needs to do whatever he can to rebuild bridges with Erik ten Hag and work as hard as he can on the training field. If it is a punctuality or attitude issue, then sort it out and work on it because otherwise he’s going to be wasted. That would be an incredible shame when you consider what a talented boy he is.”
Who do you believe will win the Champions League this season?
“I believe an English team will triumph, so I’m going to have to say that Manchester City will probably win it again. Bayern Munich are obviously stronger with Harry Kane doing the business and I’m thrilled to bits for him because if they can keep him fit, he’ll probably score 40 to 50 goals this season. I don’t believe Real Madrid and PSG are stronger than they were last season so when I look overall at what Manchester City have done this summer, I can’t look past them at this moment in time.”