EMILE HESKEY Q&A: FORMER LIVERPOOL AND ENGLAND STRIKER GIVES HIS VERDICT ON LIVERPOOL'S DOMESTIC AND EUROPEAN TROPHY HUNT, TRANSFER TARGETS AND RUNS THE RULE OVER JURGEN KLOPP
Emile Heskey, who played 150 times for Liverpool, winning 6 trophies with the club including the famous treble in 2000-01, spoke exclusively to sportingbet about Liverpool's season, transfer priorities and the future of Jurgen Klopp.
What do you think to Liverpool's season so far?
It has been a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Liverpool look amazing going forward and they're so exciting to watch. On the other hand, it's very concerning that they haven't addressed their defensive issues. This season looks like its going to be a case of 'we need to score 5 because we're going to concede 3 or 4'. The club needs to get the balance right as a priority.
Do you think Liverpool's inconsistency will cost them the title?
Inconsistency will be any team's downfall. Liverpool are already 7 points adrift and are at risk of losing further ground because the other top teams are winning games even when they're not playing particularly well. We can't afford to fall further behind even at this stage of the season because the top teams very rarely drop points.
What have you thought of Liverpool's Champions League campaign this season? The fans have waited a few years to get back into the Europe's top tier competition…
I don’t think it has gone as well as we'd have hoped or expected it would. We've started with two draws but it has been missed opportunities more than defensive frailties that have cost us. Liverpool need to beat Maribor home and away to stand a chance of progressing beyond the groups stages.
Some fans will be happy to just be back in the competition and its great to see the club taking part in those famous Champions League nights at Anfield again, but most fans will demand Liverpool to progress out of the group and into the latter stages of the knockout rounds.
Is the pressure on Klopp to win a trophy this season? The club has already been knocked out of the Carabou Cup…
Klopp plays exciting football and it's good to watch, but we're in a results based business and there's only so much you can get away with. Players will want more and its trophies they care about most. Players want to end their careers having won something.
It's difficult because as a player you're desperate to win trophies, but now managers can't even justify picking a strong team for the Carabou Cup. As a player who took part in those finals and lifted the trophy, I would say there is plenty of justification but others see it differently.
What do you think to Klopp? He seems to be a very different type of manager to Gerard Houllier…
Klopp appears different because of the passion he shows on the touchline, but I actually think he and Houllier are a lot more alike than people realise. Both Klopp and Houllier are fantastic man-managers; they will really look after you, guide you in your career and be there for you when you need help.
Equally, neither is afraid to show tough love and let you know why you've been dropped. Players appreciate that honesty and constructive criticism.
How many players do Liverpool need to sign to win the Premier League ?
Liverpool would need to do a lot in the transfer market to win the Premier League. It will take a sustained effort in numerous transfer windows to make the necessary signings; it's not a quick fix.
I think Liverpool would need to sign 4 or 5 players, with the priority being to improve the defence and the goalkeeper. The club would also need to sign a defensive midfielder, I still don’t think they've replaced Dietmar Hamann and he left over a decade ago. Lucas played there for a while and did well, but it has been a struggle and I don't think they've got it right.
Do Liverpool need a striker in the Torres and Suarez mould if the club is to realistically fight for the Premier League title?
Yes, Liverpool need to sign an out and out striker who will play regularly and who we can depend on to score those decisive goals. I thought Daniel Sturridge could have been that, but he struggles with injuries and Klopp doesn't pick him even when he's fit. Firmino can play up front but he's not an out and out striker and we can't expect him to fire us to the title.
Which striker would you like to see Liverpool sign?
Liverpool should sign Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang. That signing would make a real statement to both the fans and the rest of the Premier League that we mean business.
What do you think will happen with Coutinho? Do you think he will resist the urge to join Barcelona?
I don't think Coutinho should leave Liverpool, but I think he will go to Barcelona. Every player in the Premier League would have their head turned by Barcelona or Real Madrid, they're two huge clubs. When those clubs show interest, players have to entertain that move.
Why haven't Liverpool addressed their defensive issues? There was a lot of speculation surrounding van Dijk…
Van Dijk was the one and we took our eye off the ball. Van Dijk has proven what he can do and he would suit Liverpool no doubt about it, but it shouldn't have just been him. Liverpool should have had a shortlist of options but they appear to have put all of their eggs in one basket. When that fell through they felt they had to move on and stick with what they had.
Klopp, as with all managers, clearly felt he had to back the players he has at his disposal and now they need to show they're good enough.
Do you think Oxlade-Chamberlain made the right move by joining Liverpool?
I think perhaps Oxlade-Chamberlain joined Liverpool because he felt his career was stalling at Arsenal and at some stage you've got to move forward. I think he has a lot to offer both Liverpool and England. He will have had his confidence knocked because of the criticism, but we're sure he will prove a great signing.
What do you think to Jordan Henderson in a deeper midfield role?
Jordan Henderson is an all action midfielder and I don't think Liverpool have used him correctly. He has all that energy and should be hunting the ball down and winning it back for the side. He should be causing havoc, playing those passes to Coutinho and getting at the defence, but he hasn't been given that license because he's been told to sit in front of the defence.
Who do you think will win the Premier League this season?
I think Manchester City will the title this season. The quality of their squad is so high and the depth of their squad is so deep, it's hard to look beyond them.
Guardiola is proving you can play attractive football as well as win trophies, and he needs to win something this season considering the money he has spent at the club. There is the expectation to win trophies and it should be win the title or bust. I think Guardiola has learned a lot from last season.
Who do you think will miss out on the top 4 this season?
I think Arsenal will miss out on the Champions League next season. The club needs a massive rebuilding job and the mentality of the players needs to change. I played in an era when Arsenal players had a winner's mentality when they wanted to win every ball, every week and win every trophy. The club doesn't have that anymore and they seem timid instead.