In our exclusive interview, the former Liverpool and Chelsea midfielder discusses his former clubs' seasons so far and which positions they should target in the transfer market.
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How impressed have you been with Liverpool so far this season?
I think people were surprised by last season, but it turned out to be a blip. We’d been used to Liverpool at such a high standard. The way Klopp has set his team up is outstanding. We all maybe thought City were going to run away with it, but they’re giving them a hard time. We all know what Liverpool are made of, and that’s winning trophies.
Do you think they can go on and win the title?
I think they could go all the way, but City will always do well with their big squad which is full of quality. I enjoy watching their controlled style of play. Liverpool also have so many options up front and even with people missing they bring energy. But the fact City are not running away with it is a good thing, and a good sign for Liverpool.
Do you think it would be a good thing for the Premier League if Liverpool won the title over Man City?
There’s a danger that if they keep winning titles it will get a bit boring. If they do again this year it’s four in a row. It would be nice if Liverpool stuck with them all the way to the end and go on and win the league.
How do you think this Liverpool team compares to the one that won the Premier League a few years ago?
The main struggle has been the back four, and maybe it hasn’t been as strong as when they won the league. Even the centre-backs have changed. Sometimes what you need is a line-up you can rely on, and that doesn’t make it easy for Liverpool. You need a solid defence to win the league.
Mo Salah is again having a standout season, where do you rank him in terms of Premier League greats?
He’s all the way up there. Why? It’s simple – look at the statistics. The goals he’s scored are just phenomenal. It just suits him at Liverpool, the magic he shows when he gets into the box is a pleasure to watch. He is up there with the best in the Premier League.
Do you think Liverpool can cope without Salah after he suffered a hamstring injury?
I hope he’s not gone too long. To pick up an injury is a totally different story than him going away for AFCON. You need your best players but Liverpool, with their mindset, can cope without him. You wouldn’t want to lose him for long, though.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is having an impressive season, do you think he is the best right back in the world? What’s his best position?
Alexander-Arnold is a massive asset for Liverpool. We spoke highly of him when his stats were so high the year before last, but there was a time when they weren’t. He’s a versatile player and to be versatile you need to be smart. The best thing for him, I think, is to play on that right hand side, to bomb on and get the crosses in, and influence games from there. I think that suits him the best.
Dominik Szoboszlai has settled in really well at Liverpool – do you think he’s been the signing of the season?
I think he’s done OK. Anyone who comes to the Premier League needs to be given time and respect, they need to get settled. He has done so quite quickly. He is a powerful player. He suits the style of play for Liverpool.
Liverpool have been linked with Antonio Rudiger during this transfer window. Do you think he would be a good signing in defence for Liverpool? Are there any other players you think they should target in that area?
I’m not sure they need another player. I heard some say maybe another striker if Salah is badly injured but if he is out for, say, three weeks, what then? Rudiger and Van Dijk in the centre would be solid, and it would be a big asset to Liverpool if they could go and get him in. He’s one of the best centre-backs at the moment. I said maybe the defence worries me the most, so another I think could really help solve that. If you could add some massive quality, you do it.
Another of your former clubs, Chelsea, are finding form after an inconsistent start – where do you predict they will finish in the Premier League?
Chelsea just need to try and find some kind of consistency. That’s the only thing they should aim for. There have been too many games where they haven’t looked solid enough. They will be happy with their win in the EFL Cup but beating Middlesbrough isn’t the same as playing Premier League football.
I’ve seen them play too many games and they weren’t in control. That worries me. If you want to finish well then you need to address that. Pochettino is a good manager and the team has changed, as has the ownership. It’s hard not to get influenced by what’s going on off the pitch and that’s what we’re seeing. They’ve spent so much money and it shows that it doesn’t mean anything. They’re not in a calm position, too many people aren’t satisfied.
Cole Palmer has been Chelsea’s stand out player this season, do you think Pep Guardiola will regret letting him join Chelsea?
I am surprised by Cole Palmer. He is a clever player, starting off on the right, as a false nine then as a striker. I think he could end up with 25 goals. I think Pep will be pleased he’s doing so well, but he made the right decision to leave and the manager won’t be worried as Chelsea aren’t exactly competing with City. I think he will definitely be an option for the England squad at Euro 2024.
Several top clubs have been linked with moves for Karim Benzema. Do you think he would be a good signing for Chelsea given Nicolas Jackson’s struggles?
I believe the one thing that’s missing at Chelsea is a striker that could make a difference. Benzema could be that player. We go way back but look at Hasselbaink, Drogba – they always had strikers to give you the edge. That’s what they’re lacking a little. Benzema’s record is second to none – he would really help the club.
What do you think of Chelsea’s transfer policy? Is it difficult as a player to be part of a big squad and having to compete with so many other players for a spot in the team?
Long ago, you were only allowed to change three, four of five players. Now it’s all changed. As a manager you want to try and grow your team and if you have to start off with a new squad, that doesn’t help. To transform a fully new squad into a winning one in a small matter of time is very difficult. You can also ask the question of if Chelsea have spent too much money on these players.
What do Chelsea need to do to get back to challenging for the title?
Someone up front scoring 25 goals is what they really need. I wouldn’t change too much too quickly, they now need a settled squad. They don’t want to have to rebuild again.
Dutch forward Brian Brobbey has been linked with a move to Manchester United, do you think he is good enough for the Premier League?
He is a very strong player who really uses his pace. He puts himself in a goalscoring position with ease, which is helpful when you’re a striker! He would suit the Premier League, but will he be the main man? I think you can only tell once you’ve experienced it. I can see why Ten Hag is after Brobbey, he could really add to the squad.
Are there any other Ajax stars who you expect to move to the Premier League soon?
Not at the minute. I think there is a lot of turmoil at the club, too many problems. There is a lot going on there, they spent €120m at one point and were still at the bottom of the league. There is one player in the Eredivisie to watch: Johan Bakayoko. He’s a Belgian international at PSV Eindhoven. He’s one to look for and could make a move.