Robbie Fowler Exclusive: It's a Make or Break Summer for Jurgen Klopp
Ahead of a huge game in the Premier League between Manchester City and Liverpool, BettingOdds.com have sat down to speak with Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler to give us his thoughts on the current state of Liverpool and his prediction for the game this Saturday.
"Last week David Ornstein reported it was unlikely Liverpool would be going after Jude Bellingham this summer - would this be a mistake?"
I don’t know what to believe anymore, one minute he’s coming, one minute he’s not. Until something happens I won’t get excited. But he is a player that you can get excited about. I’m sure he will have a bundle of choices to pick whatever club he wants to. Would I like to see him at Liverpool? Of course I would. I think anyone would like to see a player of his stature at their club. He is a great player, he is proven, he’s so young and can probably even still learn a bit more as well. A little bit of a clichéd answer but Liverpool is such a unique club that anyone going there with that sort of reputation, the fans will absolutely love him.
With these types of players, you need to be in the Champions League, you need to be aiming for Premier League and FA Cup wins, because players want to win stuff. I know players get paid handsomely and well done to them, but fundamentally it is all about winning stuff and he is a player who could potentially take you into the realms of winning trophies.
"He’s currently in first place with Dortmund at the moment so he might even come with a trophy."
They’re playing really well this year and obviously, there are other players around him, but he’s instrumental in getting them where they currently are. But that’s one thing that I will stress, if Liverpool do get him and throw all their eggs into one basket where they’re bringing him in and not bringing in anyone else, I do think that would be a mistake. Because Liverpool need more than one player, I don’t think they can rely on just Bellingham.
"The midfield has been an issue for a while for Liverpool, you’ve got the aging players such as Milner and Henderson who are still doing a great job, if they can’t get Bellingham, is there anyone else you’d like to see them go for?"
They’ve been linked with a few names, Nunes from Wolves, Caicedo at Brighton. They aren’t new names but they’re good names. These are players that are playing in the Premier League and are doing well. That’s what I like about the business that Liverpool have done over the years.
You look at players like Mane and Van Dijk, players who were great abroad and when they first came into the Premier League, Liverpool realised they were players that could do a job. One of the problems Liverpool had with Naby Keita was that he had never played in the Prem, and at times he has really struggled. Whether that’s the speed of the game in the Premier League taking players by surprise because they’re not used to it. I think Liverpool should go and get a player that has already played in the Premier League. It could be Caicedo from Brighton, it could be Nunes from Wolves, and maybe Declan Rice would be a great addition to Liverpool. But maybe Palhinha from Fulham, I think he’s gone under the radar a little bit, but he has had an excellent season so far.
"Liverpool are rumoured to be making Mason Mount their main transfer target in the summer, do you think that would be a good signing?"
I think it would be an excellent signing for the simple fact that Liverpool need players to come in. I’m a big believer that if you’re not signing players you’re essentially going backward because other teams around you are signing players, so they go one step ahead whilst you go one step backward. I think it’s important that they sign players and Mason Mount is a Premier League proven player. He’s capable of being an outstanding player, we’ve seen him go from a young lad at Derby to being at times Chelsea’s standout player.
So it’s no surprise that he is having contract dilemmas, and of course, Liverpool need midfielders and if he’s available, they should be going for players like that. You talk about the likes of Milner and Henderson who are getting a little bit older, who admittedly are still doing a good job, Oxlade-Chamberlain you never really know what’s happening with him, Naby Keita who is potentially going, so you really need to bring players in and Mason Mount would be a great start.
"How would you rate Darwin Nunez’s first season in the Premier League?"
I think he’s been very good. Has he been the player everyone thought he’d be? Probably not, because of the expectation levels of his price tag and his record at Benfica. I think people always expect a little bit more. I’ve seen enough of him now to know that he will cause defenders problems, he will score goals. I’m not sure he’ll score goals at the rate Erling Haaland is scoring but he will be a handful. For the goals he’s scored and his performances, I really do think he’s been good.
Liverpool at times have struggled this year, he’s scored a handful but I think it gets hidden behind the fact that Haaland has scored a load of goals, so you maybe compare the two of them when I don’t think you should. They’re slightly different players although, I think if you were to give Nunez an end of year school report, you’d say he’s been good, and can he get better? Of course he can.
"At the moment he’s not in the golden boot race but do you think next season, do you think he can be right up there in the golden boot race?"
Yes and no. It depends on who Liverpool bring in. If they’re not going to bring any players in, then you may be thinking he’ll be the same as this year. Personally, as a striker myself, I know you’re only as good as the players around you, the players who are giving you the ammunition to score. You want your players who are going to be making chances for you and in the past, I’ve played with the likes of Steve McManaman who would put the ball on a platter for me, and any forward needs that. If you’re playing in a team that’s not making many chances, you as a striker will struggle. And when you’re not scoring goals you tend to drop out of the box because you think you can do a bit more for the team. The simple fact is that he needs more players around him to create chances.
You look at Erling Haaland, look at the team behind him, you have Foden, Rodri, De Bruyne, and Gundogan, all of these are excellent players who will supply at will for him.
Would you argue that Darwin Nunez needs competition in that number nine spot and Liverpool bring someone in for him to fight for his place?
I think from what I’ve seen so far, he’ll fight anyway. I’m not sure whether you need to bring competition in because Liverpool spent a lot of money on Nunez. Liverpool aren’t like a City or Chelsea where they can just go out and spent X amount of money, Liverpool need this to work. I think there’s pressure on players playing in the Premier League anyway, there’s pressure on players playing for Liverpool because of the stature of the club, I don’t think they need to add the pressure of adding someone in that position.
We’ve seen enough of him this year to know that not only has he started in that number nine position but he’s started on the channels of the nine, in the final front three. I just think he needs a little bit of a confidence boost in terms of the players around him as opposed to the players that should be playing where he is.
"Speaking of players around him, Luis Duiz has been missing for quite a while now, how big a miss has he been for Liverpool?"
I think he’s been amazing. When you think of Liverpool this year, Mane was a massive loss for Liverpool but the man who was brought in to replace him has arguably been their best player, before he got injured. He scored goals, he was big on the assists, unfortunately, he got injured but that’s football for you. And when you are building teams, you can’t really depend on one player, that should be the same for Luis Diaz.
As much as he has been brilliant and he has been missed, it’s massively important that other players step up and fill in for him, because there’s no doubt he’s been a huge miss and we’re coming to the final third of the season. Hopefully, he will be back in a red shirt very soon, he’s a very exciting player and the fans love him. Perhaps potentially he can give them that little push to get into the positions that you need to sign all these players in the summer.
"Roberto Firmino is leaving in the summer - is he up there among the greats to wear number nine for Liverpool, like yourself and Ian Rush?"
It’s hard for me to say that. He’s had an unbelievable Liverpool career, and he has been outstanding in terms of performances, he’s scored important goals and he’s won every trophy that is there to offer. Of course, you’d put him up there with the great Liverpool players, because he’s achieved so much, and that’s fundamentally what football is all about. So yes he probably should be mentioned in the same breath as the greats and I won’t put myself in there, I’m talking about the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush, all these great players. Will he be up there with all of them? Probably not, but there’s a bunch of players on the cusp of that greatness.
"People have mentioned Salah hasn’t quite been at his best this season but he has 22 goals and 11 assists this season, do you think that shows just how good a player he really is?"
I think that’s it. It shows you the standard he sets himself and he has scored goals, he’s been instrumental in a lot of assists as well. When you don’t get to the levels that you’ve reached in previous seasons, people question it, but that’s what we do, you always want a little bit more. So at times, he has been a victim of his own success, people expect him to always be good. But his stats this year, albeit they aren’t as good as last year and the year before, he’s still been a standout player at Liverpool.
"Would you put him up there as one of the greats in terms of Premier League wingers?"
When you speak to Salah and you ask him what position he plays, he always says he’s not a forward, he’s a winger. He’s a forward because he’s in that final third and I think anyone that scores goals at the rate he does, he’s a forward. You’d be amazed if any winger in world football scores the amount of goals he scores, it’s impossible. The best compliment you give him, you look at the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, at one point, he was mentioned in that same conversation because of his current goalscoring record and his performances, and that’s a huge compliment.
"Liverpool are still in a race for the top four, they’re competing with the likes of Newcastle and Spurs, if Liverpool are to miss out on the Champions League spots, do you think that will be detrimental to their summer transfer window?"
Yes I think it could be. Players want to come and win trophies and play in the best competitions, so it could stop you from getting that one player you want, but that’s not to say everyone will do the same. It could put you in a position to miss out on your top targets. I think it’s massively important to get in the Champions League.
"Would you back them to get it at this point?"
Yes I would. If you would have asked me a month ago, I’d have probably said no. If you put a bit of a good run together now, there’s nothing to say you can’t get there, because you know that the teams around you can struggle as well. When you come to the business end of the season, you expect something to happen with Liverpool, they might not be the team they were in the past, but I think they can go on a run of games to get there, these next three games will say everything about Liverpool this year. This year with Liverpool, the big games where you need a result, they’ve nearly always got that result. You’ve got the games like Man Utd where they needed to win and did.
"When it comes to Man City vs Liverpool, a season ago this would have been a very close game between the two sides, now a lot of people are predicting a comfortable City win, what do you think has changed in that time and do you think City will win this one fairly easily?"
Manchester City are brilliant, They have got a great manager and bring in the right players, they’re always going to be there or thereabouts. Players like Erling Haaland I don’t think were brought in to win the Premier League, he was brought in to win the Champions League, I think that’s the standard that they have as a club.
Liverpool are not like the Liverpool we’ve seen in the last couple of years, but people were writing them off against Manchester United and they went on to put in a performance that will be talked about for years. I’m not saying they’re going to go out and do that against City, but Liverpool have proved time and time again when their backs are up against the walls, they put in a performance that the fans and the team can be proud of, and Jurgen Klopp will instill that in to the players, that no one expects you to win, but you go out there and prove everyone wrong.
And I think they can get a result, it’ll be very difficult in all fairness but Liverpool can get results against top teams and they’ve proven that for generations. If you look at the history of Liverpool and their positions in big games, I’m not sure there are many teams that can match what they do. Whether that’s an inconsistency in their game that they raise their level in the big games, I don’t know, but Liverpool can and they will raise their efforts against Man City because they know everyone is writing them off.
"Do you think that’s a testament to a manager like Jurgen Klopp? He’s been rumoured to be leaving but do you back him to start competing for titles again?"
Yes I genuinely would. I liked his press conference recently where he came out and said he isn’t going to walk away. Before he said that I was a little bit worried because he did look a little bit beaten, I think when he came out and said that, he gave every fan a lift. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll get the occasional idiot who wants him gone, but for me, he is up there with some of the best managers I’ve ever seen. He’s created a team and an environment that are something special and I think he can do that again.
"Do you think he’d stick around for another rebuild?"
It depends on how long the rebuild is. If we’re taking four or five years, then probably not in all fairness. This is why this summer is so important, it could be make or break for someone like Jurgen Klopp, he’ll know the players he needs and who he wants, and it’s important that the club backs him.
"If Arsenal go on to win the league instead of Man City, does an Arsenal player deserve the player of the year award instead of Haaland?"
Possibly yes. Individual awards and team awards are completely different aren’t they. What Arsenal have achieved this year is nothing short of miraculous because no one envisioned this. Don’t get me wrong they’ve got great players but what stands out for them is the team ethics. Whereas Man City is a good team with excellent individuals. I can see why people would want a player like Haaland or De Bruyne to win it but it’s hard to look past someone who has won the Premier League and not give them the player of the year to someone in that team.
From a managerial point of view, I always think back to Gerard Houllier, we won five trophies that year and Houllier never got the manager of the year award, they gave it to George Burley because Ipswich had a good season. Houllier was gutted because of what we achieved and he felt that he should have got it. But it’s never about that.
I think when it comes to Arsenal they are more of a team as opposed to individuals. I’m not saying Man City aren’t a team but their individuals stand out more than Arsenal’s.
"Last question, predictions for this weekend between Man City and Liverpool."
I do not see Liverpool losing this. I may be a little biased but I also don’t see them winning, because I know how good Man City are. So I’m going to go for an entertaining 1-1 or 2-2 draw.