Former Red on new era Danny Murphy on Liverpool, Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum's future
Danny Murphy served Liverpool well during his days patrolling their midfield engine room and now he has become one of the game's top pundits.
Speaking in his role as a Football Index Podcast ambassador, Murphy gave us the rundown on all things Liverpool ahead of the return of the Premier League this weekend.
Are Liverpool favourites to win the Premier League this season?
I think Liverpool are still favourites to win the title. Defensively Liverpool have been the best team for two years. Tactically they were all over the place against Aston Villa and a lot is being said about Liverpool now trying to play with a high defensive line, but they still have Henderson, Thiago, Mane and Alisson to come back into the team. Jurgen Klopp does not accept performances like the one against Aston Villa. There will be a consequence to the players if they continue to perform like that and he has the strength to freshen it up if needs be.
Liverpool have had an indifferent start to the season having lost heavily to Aston Villa and been dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Arsenal. Are these early signs of a hangover from winning the Premier League?
I don't think Liverpool are having a hangover from winning the title last season. I think it was inevitable that Liverpool would dip in performance when they have had so much success and consistency over the past two years. I think the players maybe fell into their 'comfort zone'. Mentally they have slipped a bit and they’re not doing the basic things that brought them success like tracking back and winning second balls. Very simple things that add up.
Liverpool have conceded 11 goals in just 4 games. Is this a concern after building their success on being so defensively sound for the last couple of seasons?
It is a concern that Liverpool are suddenly conceding so many goals having been really solid defensively for so long. I think that Liverpool's weaknesses in defence is a mentality issue, nothing more. Players like Van Dijk have not forgotten how to defend. I think it's just about pressing a reset button and you are looking at a Liverpool team who hasn't played their strongest 11 yet this season, which is worrying for the other teams in some respects.
When you are the Champions, you are always going to find that the opponents are more motivated to come at you and get a result. Liverpool are maybe finding that out this season in the same way that Manchester City will have felt in previous years. They always say retaining the title is harder than winning it the first time.
Salah has continued the season in great goalscoring form. Is he favourite to win the golden boot this season?
I think Salah to be the top scorer and win the golden boot this season. Straight away from his first couple of performances I thought he has started the season on fire. He looks hungry, he looks fit, fresh and ready to go. Salah's record at Liverpool is nothing short of remarkable. He has played so well and scored so many goals that we expect it now.
Who would you choose over Salah and Mane?
I would choose Mane over Salah. Salah is more productive in terms of goals, but Mane epitomises what Liverpool teams are all about with his game and his atttiude. I think Mane was Liverpool's best player last season, and if I had to prioritise keeping one over the other, I would keep Mane.
Firmino famously only scored one goal at Anfield last season. Will pressure eventually begin to mount that a Liverpool no.9 should score more goals?
It's a very unique situation to have a centre forward in such a successful side that scores as few goals as Firmino does for Liverpool, but it seems to be working and I think it’s unlikely to change. I think there will be question marks about Firmino’s output if the team starts to perform badly, but while the team is winning, he has rightly earned praise as a team player and it works really well. The evidence over the last couple of years is that Liverpool’s front 3 never let you down.
Thiago was made to serve up viral video clips with his brilliance. James Milner pretending this is normal in the background here 👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/vi3ztZgumM— Kevin Palmer (@RealKevinPalmer) October 14, 2020
How impressed were you with the acquisition of Thiago from Bayern Munich?
I think Thiago is an unbelievable acquisition because he is one of the only players in Europe who could improve Liverpool’s midfield. Even at 29 years old, he will give Liverpool at least three or four years and it was a brilliant bit of business for the fee involved as well.
I first watched Thiago at Barcelona and the game looked effortless for him. Thiago is a midfielder that can dictate the tempo of a match like Scholes used to, and there aren't many of them about. Thiago has the ability to always have time on the ball because of the movement he does to create space. He very rarely loses the ball when he is pressed because of his awareness.
Thiago is an absolute steal at that price. Klopp deserves a medal for convincing him because the Liverpool fans are going to adore him.
Wijnaldum was linked with a move to Barcelona and has entered the last year of his contract. How important is it that he signs a new deal, or do Liverpool have such strong options in midfield that they can afford to let him go?
I like Wijnaldum a lot and I think he's been terrific so it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens with his contract situation and supposed interest from Barcelona. I think he has quietly gone under the radar while making the left side of midfield his own. I am surprised that Wijnaldum is in the last year of his contract, it's not normally the way Liverpool do business so that worries me perhaps he is looking for a new challenge and he has a good relationship with Koeman. It looks like Wijnaldum may go to Barcelona at the end of the season or maybe even in January. I think the only compensation is the fact that Thiago has already come in.