Brad Friedel has urged the Liverpool board to not consider sacking Jurgen Klopp after the Reds’ disastrous start to the 2022/23 season.
Speaking to Fair Betting Sites, Friedel warned Liverpool to keep faith in the under-fire German despite the club losing four times in the league and leaving them 15 points behind league-leaders Arsenal.
In a wide-ranging interview covering many of the seven clubs Friedel played for, the former USA international gave Fair Betting Sites his thoughts on Antonio Conte and urged Spurs to keep the world class manager, in order to win silverware.
He also discusses Tottenham’s Harry Kane, and how the England captain should not be looking at his failed move to Manchester City in summer 2021, and his hopes that he will sign a new contract at White Hart Lane.
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- Nobody should consider Klopp leaving Liverpool
- Shearer, Henry & Co would score same goals at City as Haaland
- Spurs must keep Conte for the long term, even without silverware/top four
- Kane will not regret not joining Man City after Haaland goals
- American owners and money good for the Premier League
- Matt Turner too good to be on Arsenal’s bench
Q: Another bad result for Liverpool the weekend and it’s been a bit of a difficult start to the season by their own standards. What do you think has gone wrong?
Brad Friedel: “Last season definitely took its toll, probably a little bit more than what was anticipated. I think injuries and suspensions have also come into play. In 2020/21 they didn’t have the best of seasons either. It was mainly due to not having that fantastic back four. I see very little problems with the club and the players, I think the squad and the staff are outstanding. They’re just going through a little bit of a slump right now. Jurgen Klopp is the right man for the job, no doubt. The squad is magnificent, and this season will be. Because we have this World Cup break, I think what we’re gonna see is quite a few teams have different form – drastic from before the World Cup to after. I think Liverpool will be one of those sides and for the better.”
Q: Is it massively premature for people to be calling for Klopp to be sacked?
Brad Friedel: “I couldn’t even fathom it, why? I don’t even understand why that is a talking point at this moment in time. Him leaving should not be spoken of, nor do I think there should be any talks at the boardroom level about him leaving.”
Q: Have they missed Sadio Mane this season? And do you think it was possibly a mistake letting him go?
Brad Friedel: “I don’t know the business behind it. I don’t know the relationship between the player and club. Players can come and go into squads. I think it’s maybe taken Nunez a little bit longer than anticipated to find a consistent run of form, but you’re gonna have to deal with players coming and going from time to time. I have a ton of respect for what Jurgen Klopp has done and their decisions at the club are very calculated. I’m fairly certain that everything is going to be very positive in the end. I think it’s way too early to decide if it was a mistake to allow him to go.”
Q: Trent Alexander Arnold has been again below his own standards this season, but a lot of people still rank him as arguably the best right back in the world. But he’s not first choice for England. Do you think that Gareth Southgate should be using him more?
Brad Friedel: “There’s so many good right-backs in the England setup. I played with one at two different clubs who I think probably the best right back in all of Europe – Kyle Walker when he is fit. Just because he might not be on the team sheet with England doesn’t mean that he’s not one of the finest right-backs. He’ll find himself. This is Trent Alexander Arnold in a battle against a lot of very good right-backs. So, I think he’s up there with one of the top right-backs in the world. I think his attacking abilities are very good. His delivery and service into the box are very good. Whether he starts for England or not that’s down to Gareth Southgate. But what a great problem to have for Gareth Southgate, because he does have quite a few good ones to choose from.”
Q: You’ve said it’s very premature to be talking about Jurgen Klopp moving on but when he does decide to go in the future, who would you like to see manage Liverpool next?
Brad Friedel: “I would like to see Jurgen Klopp stay there for a long time. He’s done that good of a job and his teams have been that exciting that I’ve not even given it a thought as a Liverpool supporter and as an ex-player to even think about a replacement. Just because they’ve had a difficult start to the season does not mean that you should start looking for a replacement. I would like to see him there for many, many years to come to be honest with you.”
Q: Tottenham are third in the league but have been a little bit inconsistent this season. Where do you see them finishing?
Brad Friedel: “I get this question a lot. I mean, people say they’re inconsistent, but they keep getting results. Antonio Conte is implementing his style. They’re very much on an outside chance of winning the Premier League. It’s still a big ask to finish in the top four for any of those clubs. With Man United coming up, Chelsea coming up, it’s Liverpool that’s not in the top four at this moment in time. They’re gonna come up. I think realistically they should be looking anywhere between one and four, but if they finish fifth or sixth, it doesn’t mean they’ve had an awful season. There’s a lot of competition in this.”
Q: Erling Haaland is having an incredible season; do you think Harry Kane will be looking at what he’s doing at Manchester City and wondering what might have been for him after he obviously was linked with a move there?
Brad Friedel: “No, that’s not how Harry operates. Daniel Levy is the one that dictates all the transfers. Players don’t have the power to dictate the transfers. It taught them it doesn’t matter who you are. Gareth Bale didn’t do it. Once Harry knew that he was staying, that taught him he’d be all for staying and he’s not gonna look over his shoulder at what other players are doing. That’s not how he works. He’s a great teammate, he’s a great person and one of the best number nines in the world. He’ll try to score as many goals as possible and he’s having a fantastic season so far in that regard and I’m sure he is gonna be looking forward to leading the line for England in the World Cup.”
Q: There is a year and a half left on Kane’s contract. Can you see him recommitting to Spurs or do you think he might still move?
Brad Friedel: “Well, I’m not really sure. I haven’t spoken to him on that. The only real way out if he does want to in fact leave, is to allow his contract to run down. I’m sure behind the scenes, the board and Daniel Levy are trying to solve this as soon as possible. What if they do allow the contract to run down? Then I’m sure they’ll be on the lookout for another number nine. It’d be very difficult to replace someone like Kane. Those would be definitely interesting conversations behind the scenes to be involved in.”
Q: Who would you like to see Tottenham sign in January to potentially improve this side?
Brad Friedel: “January windows aren’t a great time to purchase top players anyways because it’s usually an inflated value. And on top of that, I think it’s also dangerous to sign players after World Cups, just based on a World Cup. Perhaps I would like them to see out the season with the squad that they have. I think they have a really talented squad. Unless there’s some bargain that they really can’t pass up or they have a disastrous run of injuries. I think they could probably carry on with who they have.”
Q: If they don’t win any silverware this season, could Conte potentially leave the club?
Brad Friedel: “I think any manager could potentially leave any club at any time. I don’t know necessarily if it comes down to winning silverware or not. For Antonio Conte at Tottenham, I would like to think it’s more of a longer-term project – like the respect I have for Jurgen Klopp. I have the same respect for Antonio Conte. I don’t know Antonio Conte, but I can just see how the players play for him at every club that he’s gone to. For Tottenham’s sake, I hope that’s a long-term plan. If he doesn’t win a trophy this year, I wouldn’t have thought that that’s necessarily going to bring alarm bells, or I’d hope not anyways.”
Q: Mauricio Pochettino is available, he is a world class manager and clubs will be interested in him. Could he potentially come back to Tottenham in the future? Or if not, do you think maybe he’d be a good fit at another Premier League club?
Brad Friedel: “I think in the future he could. I believe he’s still on very good terms with Tottenham and the board. I think he would be an excellent manager at any club in the world. He would be a top choice, not just a choice, but a top choice for any Premier League club looking for a manager.”
Q: What was your best moment or memory of your time at Tottenham?
Brad Friedel: “There’s quite a lot of them. I was at a different stage in my career. The run that we had in my first year was excellent. We had a tremendous squad and I also have very fond memories of what the likes of John McDermott did for me with regards to coaching licenses and being in and around the academy. After finishing up with my pro license, I worked as an ambassador in the US for Tottenham. There isn’t a pinpointed moment, to be honest with you. I feel like the four years and then plus the ambassadorial work, so the five years felt like 10 to 12 years’ worth of work inside those five years. Again, I use this word respect. I have a great deal of respect for Daniel Levy and the board and how they run things. They welcomed me with open arms at the club and I really enjoyed the ending of my career.”
Q: Aston Villa have just changed their manager from Steven Gerard to Unai Emery. Do you think that he’s going to be a success at Villa?
Brad Friedel: “I hope so. I mean, look at his track record in cup competitions. I tell this to a lot of people; Aston Villa is a remarkable club. The training facility, the stadium, the fan base. It was a real shame when they were relegated because that put them into some financial disarray for a short while. Any head coach or manager going in there will be really impressed with the setup. I don’t know Emery personally at all, but I really hope for Villa as a club and the fans that he’s really successful. I had hoped Steven Gerard was successful there. I had hoped when they got relegated that they got promoted right away. I had three tremendous years there. I hope Emery can bring his magical touch, not only with the cup runs, but into the league for them.”
Q: What do you think went wrong for Steven Gerard?
Brad Friedel: “I don’t know. It seemed like last season they were getting if not always the results, they got some really good performances. It’s hard to say. Stevie’s got a great football mind. I think he would be a top manager to play for, you know, a player’s manager. I have no idea how strong of a relationship Mings had with the players and whether that was a bit of an issue for him. What I would say is I I hope Stevie keeps his hat in the ring for a lot of other jobs. I think he has the potential to be one of the great managers, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.”
Q: Based on your experiences of being in dressing rooms, do you think the decision to strip Tyrone Mings of the captaincy might have played a bit of a part and impacted the dressing room a little bit?
Brad Friedel: “It could have. Again, I don’t know. I don’t know Tyrone as an individual. I have no idea of his ties to the other players. If he was really close with a lot of the players, yeah, it could be a contributing factor. You never know. I really don’t know if that had a profound negative effect at all. I know they had a little bit of a bump when he was gone in the game right afterwards, but then they really struggled in the second game after. So, there’s problems within the squad itself that would suggest to me that it wasn’t just down to Steven. It seems like the owners are willing to spend some money to improve the squad.”
Q: Where do you think they need to strengthen over the next couple of windows?
Brad Friedel: “Well, I think first and foremost they need to get the confidence of the players that they have. They do have some talented players, that’s first and foremost. Again, I think the January window is a tough time to come in and do a lot of business. I think they should try to get the confidence of the players as high as possible. Try to get in that mid-table finish and then push on. I think they have a top-quality goalkeeper and then after that they have some really talented players but if you can improve at any position, then I’m sure they would be looking at that. Because the Premier League has such a high standard, you’re gonna wanna try to have at least two at every position of the highest quality. So, I’m sure with Emery coming in that he’s gonna have his suggestions on that but I don’t know which positions that he’s going to focus on.”
Q: Blackburn Rovers are right at the top of the championship after 10 years outside the Premier League. Can they get over the line and get promoted this season?
Brad Friedel: “Wow, I hope so. The championship is such a hard league. If you have one bad week, sometimes you have three games, and that’s nine points gone. When I first went to Blackburn, we were in the Championship and that’s probably the mentally toughest league that I’d ever been involved in. The quality in the Premier League is better, yes, but the games come one after another and if you have a cup run, it’s just incredible. I don’t know if they can get promoted. It’s so early, you know, we’re talking the end of October, beginning of November. I hope I see Blackburn at the top of the tree in March and April, and we can really start talking about it. But there’s so many games and so much to happen. They’ve been sort of hovering around the playoff places every now and again in the last few years with Tony Mowbray, but now with a new manager in there maybe that’s just a little spice of life they needed to get up there. But let’s keep our fingers crossed that they can get there.”
Q: You’ve touched on how difficult it is to get out of the Championship, but then it’s also incredibly difficult to stay up when you do. If they do go up this season, can they stay up and who do you think from recent seasons they should be trying to emulate in terms of their strategy?
Brad Friedel: “It’s a hard one. I think they should definitely have some safety nets in the contracts in case they go back down. You have to spend a lot of money to all of a sudden get a Premier League squad and then all of a sudden have them firing. You know, Fulham’s come to mind, Bournemouth’s, Brentford come to mind, but they’re all three clubs with completely different strategies. They’ll have to have their own. But if they do get promoted, they will have to have some investment into the club.”
Q: Erling Haaland is scoring for fun. Do you think goalkeepers will be afraid to face him or will they be looking forward to the challenge?
Brad Friedel: “I think if you’re afraid to face them, you’re probably in the wrong profession. I would like to think that they would try to relish the opportunity to stop him. My mentality would’ve been, I would prefer to play in the bigger games and against the bigger players. It’s obviously difficult to stop him and he finds himself in a lot of positions and gets himself in a lot of positions where it’s very difficult to save the shots. Whether it be the crossing or headers, he has the full repertoire. I would like to think that none of the goalkeepers are afraid to face him.”
Q: If a team that you were coaching came up against him, how would you tell them to potentially stop him?
Brad Friedel: “Service into him is the first thing, but this Man City team moves the ball so quick, and they have so many good players. They have one of the globe’s best players in Kevin De Bruyne. It’s very simple to say stop service to him and is much easier said than actually done. I think you have to go away from your standard defensive traits sometimes, and you have to have to try to get bodies on him so he can’t get runs on you or jump on you. He gets in between gaps between the center-backs and the little holes between the midfielders and the center-backs. Then he is very quick off the mark, so you have to try to body him and more man-mark him in a sense – but then you’re giving away space to so many other good players at Man City. There are some teams, a couple of teams that have stopped him. You have to try to get a body on him as best as you can and try to limit the service. But Guardiola has done such a good job at assembling the team, they move the ball so quickly that those are two difficult tasks.”
Q: Is there a striker from your time playing, whoever you played with or against, that he reminds you of?
Brad Friedel: “There’s a lot, like Alan Shearer. There are some remarkable strikers I played against. Ruud van Nistelrooy was remarkable, Shearer was remarkable, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba and Andy Cole were all remarkable. If you put all these guys into this Man City team, they score. They score all the goals that he’s scoring. He is prospering from being in this remarkable team, and he is very good but doesn’t take away the abilities of a lot of other strikers. There are probably 10 to 15 others, Harry Kane included, that would prosper in that side.”
Q: At the moment there’s 10 points separating ninth in the league and 20th in the league. Who do you think will go down this season?
Brad Friedel: “If I had to call it right now, I think Nottingham Forest will have a lot to do to stay up. After that, I thought Leeds were headed that way but I’m really happy for Jesse Marsh – what a great win against Liverpool it was. His players are fighting for him, and you could see they went straight to Jesse afterwards. I think for me, Forest is the one that’s a little bit more adrift of the others. After that five or six could be there, depending on what we see after the World Cup.”
Q: Eddie Howe is doing a brilliant job at Newcastle. Just how well do you think he’s doing versus the preseason expectations that would’ve been in place?
Brad Friedel: “Eddie Howe has been doing a fantastic job. I think most of us, myself included, thought they were just gonna go on this spending spree after the takeover. I’m not sure that that was the right way to do it. I’m sure this is down to a lot to Eddie Howe and obviously the board that’s there and they have been strategically putting pieces together to build the infrastructure of the club for longevity. And they’ve done a great job. Eddie Howe is a proven top manager and the pieces that he put into place to first take them out of relegation zone. There are magnificent crowds at St. James’ Park. I don’t know how high they can stay there and for how long this season, but they’re gonna be a club to watch over the next three or four years.”
Q: 10 Premier League clubs are now either fully owned or part owned by American owners. Do you think the influx of American money is a good thing for the Premier League?
Brad Friedel: “I think the influx of money is good for the Premier League. I like the fact that it’s American owners because it brings even more notoriety over to the US and we’re still a growing league and a growing country in football. I hope the owners purchase the clubs with the knowledge of how important these clubs are to the fans and how much of a religion football is over there because it is different from American sports. If they don’t know it is going in, they quickly realize that after the first month or so. I think the influx of capital from the American owners is a great thing for both the Premier League and for the United States.”
Q: From your time playing in England, which ground do you think had the fiercest or most intimidating atmosphere that you can remember?
Brad Friedel: “Leeds was up there for my time. Newcastle was up there and your local derby’s whenever you play. Even Burnley, when I was at Blackburn, that was a hatred. Chelsea back in the day, that was a good one. And West Ham at times could be a little bit tasty as well.”
Q: There’s always a debate between Ederson and Alisson for who is the Premier League’s best goalkeeper in recent years. Which of the two would you have on your side?
Brad Friedel: “I wouldn’t wanna be the coach to choose between them. I think they’re both outstanding. I think Alisson is more alike to English standards, probably more than Ederson. With his movements and how he plays, but he still is very good with his feet and takes some risks. Ederson’s just outstanding with his feet, he really is. He takes it to a different level. Both are remarkable goalkeepers. I think what I like most about them is if either of them do make a mistake, it doesn’t faze them. They just carry on playing to their same high standards. If you’re the Brazil coach, you flip a coin probably.”
Q: Jordan Pickford seems to be the established number one for England. Is he the right choice to start at the World Cup, do you think?
Brad Friedel: “Pickford is having a really good season, a top season, but so is Ramsdale. Nick Pope is a very good goalkeeper. All eyes are gonna be on the goalkeepers, so they have to be resilient. If they do make a mistake, they have to be able to come back from it. I think that’s what you want. At a World Cup competition, you want someone who can lead off the field as well as someone the players are confident in. Gareth will know who that is better than I will, but I think they have a very good goalkeeping group to choose from. I don’t see the England goalkeeper being the reason why they wouldn’t progress further. We’ll put it that way. They need to figure out how to get more goals at this moment in time, because they’re struggling in that category.”
Q: Did Matt Turner make the right decision going to Arsenal to be number two?
Brad Friedel: “Time will tell if it’s the right decision. When you’re in the MLS, this is what I’ll say – it’s hard to turn down a club like Arsenal coming in for you, but when you move and you’re as good as Matt Turner, I’d like to think that you would move and you’re being told that you were gonna be the number one which obviously wasn’t the case at Arsenal. Matt’s a heck of a nice guy and a heck of a good goalkeeper. I don’t know what kind of deal they have with Arsenal or what, but I hope if he’s not in the team, or doesn’t look like he’s gonna get near the team, then they would allow him to leave or go on loan. I personally think he’s too good of a goalkeeper to be sitting on the bench.”
Q: Hugo Lloris seems to have made a couple of high-profile errors this season. Do you still rate him as a top goalkeeper, or should Tottenham be looking for a replacement?
Brad Friedel: “I still rate him as a top goalkeeper. Every goalkeeper makes mistakes. This is why it’s hard sometimes for a young goalkeeper to get a consistent run of games and stay with high standards. You have to have this ability to put it in the back of your mind and carry on your high standards. It’s the comment that I just gave about Ederson and Alisson, Hugo’s no different. He’s played incredible games and he’s made mistakes in his career. He knows how to act. He knows how to work. He knows how to work through mistakes, and I don’t see any reason why they should be going out and getting another goalkeeper as of yet.”
Q: Is there a single game that stands out for you as the best performance of your career?
Brad Friedel: “Maybe one or two. One win at Highbury against Arsenal when I was at Blackburn, I think we were only credited with one shot on goal that game because it was an own-goal and then I think Dwight Yorke scored. From what I remember, there was a lot of action in front of me that day.”
Q: How do you rate the USA’s chances in the World Cup?
Brad Friedel: “Given that you’ve got quite a lot of young players coming through, if everyone’s fit and everyone’s in a good frame of mind then we’re gonna be competitive against anybody. If we have little bit of turmoil like an injury or two, especially for Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna or Christian Pulisic, then, that depletes us a lot. If everyone’s fit, we’re we’ll be a match for anyone. I don’t know if we can finish above England in the group, but I think Wales is who we have to really try to focus on being above. The first game is gonna be of paramount importance against Wales.”
Q: Who’s your pick to win the World Cup?
Brad Friedel: “I would love to say England. I just don’t know if they’ll get it together in time. Maybe Brazil. I would love to see England do it if it’s not the US.”