with Phil Roberts, 7/2/19
With Liverpool drawing their last two games, do you think the pressure is starting to tell on Liverpool?
I think it’s difficult to tell if I’m honest. Since the draw with West Ham, I’ve been considering ways in which pressure could potentially manifest itself on the pitch. The obvious way is when you think of defenders playing with a sense of panic, or when the players totally abandon their game plan and start kicking the ball long etc. I’ve not seen that in either performance, but what I have seen is a lack of courage on the ball. The movement of the players, the tempo of the passing and the lack belief in the body language of the players was striking at The London Stadium on Monday night. Is the fear of dropping points paralysing the players a little? I think it certainly could be one explanation.
With the current injury problems at Liverpool, are you concerned about Liverpool not having the squad depth to challenge until the end of May, given that they’re still competing on two fronts?
In a word, yes! Earlier on in the season the bench looked full of quality and game changers, but all of a sudden you could say that the opposite is now true, especially in comparison to Manchester City’s bench. I’ve said all along that a title challenge this season will depend on who gets injured for Liverpool. The recent absentees in the back four have certainly taken their toll and we’ve gone from looking like the meanest defence in Europe to looking like we might concede in every game. The good news is, that there’s a 10 day break between us playing Bournemouth and Bayern Munich, so hopefully we’ll back back to something resembling full strength sometime soon. Also, despite it seeming like we’re in a bit of an injury crisis at the moment, it could be a lot worse. If Liverpool were to lose Van Dijk, Robertson, Alisson, Salah or Mane for any length of time it could be game over. But look, almost every team who’s ever won anything has had a touch of luck along the way and if we keep our main men fit, I think we have what it takes to challenge all the way, on both fronts.
Are there any positives to be taken from the last two games against Leicester and West Ham?
I think if you‘re Jurgen Klopp you’ve got to find the positives here. The players are only human and they’ve put in a phenomenal effort so far. Fatigue, loss of form, pressure and forced squad rotation are all real things that affect every team. City had their wobble in December and they lost a number of games unexpectedly. Our “wobble” is coming now, but we’re still taking points and avoiding defeats. There aren’t too many positives to take from those two performances other than Mane was a constant threat in both games and the fact we didn’t lose either game. But let’s have it right, there’s not a single Liverpool supporter out there who wouldn’t have snapped your hand off to be level on points with City, with a game in hand, going in to match day 26. The remaining 13 games will be less about ability and more about bottle for me. Liverpool have shown they have the quality, but now they have to show they have the stones to get over the line and I believe that the obvious motivational skills of Jurgen Klopp will be enough for us to hold it together.
Were you holding out any hope that the blue side of the park could have given Liverpool a touch by taking points from City on Wednesday night?
Haha, definitely not! But I was encouraged to see the elation of the travelling support and their chants about Jurgen Klopp starting to crack. For me, you could tell they firmly believe they’re the favourites again (now that they’ve gone top of the league) and I think that’s probably an opinion that will be echoed in the media given the recent form. Firstly, it was by no means a stellar performance from the current champions at Goodison, they created very little really and it’s certainly possible to envisage some of the more resilient teams in the league taking more points from them. Secondly, I feel like it’s put the pressure right back on to them and given that it’s all still in our own hands, I think we’re more than happy to play the role of underdogs at this stage.