By Richard Parks
Paul Merson has claimed in a Sky Sports feature that only four of Liverpool’s players are out of the very top bracket as he questioned some of Jurgen Klopp’s signings.
Merson insisted that front three of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, plus January signing Virgil van Dijk, are the only players at Anfield who would make the Champions League calibre clubs.
Asked to rank the managers of the Premier League’s top six as four prepare to showdown on a huge Sunday of football, Merson placed Klopp in fifth position.
The Arsenal legend put Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola in top spot ahead of Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, with Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho in third and Chelsea’s Antonio Conte in fourth.
Only Gunners boss Arsene Wenger was rated as below Klopp in the estimation of Merson even though Liverpool are third in the Premier League and have one foot in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
“I like Klopp,” Merson told the Sky Sports website. “He comes across as a really good guy. However, you look at his team and you take away from his front three and Virgil van Dijk and I don’t know how many of those other players would get in another top-six-side. He’s been there a few seasons now and the majority of his signings have been fairly average.”
Football Insider verdict:
It is hard to argue with Merson’s logic. True, Van Dijk and the brilliant threesome of Salah, Mane and Firmino would walk into any top six side, but it would be difficult to present a strong case for any of their teammates. Of the other defenders, Joe Gomez is much improved and Andrew Robertson is starting to look the part, but are they better than those at the top six clubs. Maybe on a par, but not better. It is the same in midfield, although Adam Lallana might have a shout if he were fully fit and playing regularly. Perhaps Emre Can is the best of the central midfielders, but none are consistently excellent.
In other Liverpool news, Robert Pires has revealed what has blown him away about the Merseyside giants.
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By Richard Parks