In an exclusive interview with Betting Sites, Liverpool legend Patrik Berger warns his old club not to bring Mason Mount in during the summer transfer window.
If you would like to use the quotes from this interview, please credit Fair Betting Sites and link to https://bettingsites.co.uk/
Highlights from the interview:
Q: Liverpool made a fast start against Newcastle and now have back-to-back wins but are these results just papering over the cracks?
Patrik Berger: “I watched their win over Everton and I thought that’s the best they have played in a very, very long time. That and the win over Newcastle was almost them being back to the old Liverpool. The derby game was very important because it’s always a very tricky game and they basically dominated it from start to finish. To then go and beat Newcastle in what was really a six-pointer, when they have been playing really, really well and having a great season is a fantastic result. To win the way they did, I think it’s harsh to say it’s papering over the cracks. I think they’re getting back to their best slowly but surely.”
Q: Liverpool have 2 games in hand on Tottenham so do you think a top 4 finish is possible?
PB: “I think they can do it [qualify for CL]. Obviously they had a lot of injury problems and nothing was going the way they wanted early in the season before the World Cup. But as the injured players are coming back, perhaps unsurprisingly so is their form. Their bench is looking much stronger than the last two or three months which is important. The last couple of games showed that the confidence is returning and they’re playing much more like they were before this season. Obviously Liverpool still have to win their games in hand but if they do that they’ll be only a point behind Spurs, so there’s no reason why they can’t grab that fourth place.”
Q: Do you foresee Klopp setting his team up cautiously or aggressively vs Real Madrid?
PB: “Historically Liverpool are so strong in Europe, especially at Anfield but they’re going to be facing officially the best team in the world, who beat them in the Champions League final last season. So it’s going to be a huge match but I don’t think it will be decided in the first game, I think there will still be a lot to decide in the second leg. I think Klopp will play the same team he did against Newcastle and Liverpool will always try to go forward and score goals. So I don’t think they will be defensively minded, I think they will go for it.”
Q: Will Liverpool play more openly due the removal of the away goals rule?
PB: “I think that’s one of the better changes that has been made to the Champions League in recent years. Even if you concede two goals at home you can score twice away so yeah I think it’s all set up to be a great tie over the two legs.”
Q: Darwin Núñez and Mo Salah are creating a goalscoring chance for one another every 52 minutes they are on the pitch together in the PL. Does that surprise you?
PB: “It’s a great statistic. I don’t know if it surprises me but it shows that they are developing a great understanding between each other, which bodes well for Liverpool. They link up really well and they’re both great players. Nobody is surprised that Mo Salah is doing these numbers and while Nunes came in for a lot of criticism earlier this season, he’s really working hard and improving. All he needs to do is score more goals to make everyone happy.”
Q: With all their attacking options fit, what is Liverpool’s best front three?
PB: “Gakpo is a great addition to the team. He’s scored two important goals recently which will build his confidence and he is going to be an important player, there’s no doubt. But if everyone is fit I don’t see him starting at the moment. I think Diaz, Nunes and Salah will be the first choice front three for Klopp. There’s still Diogo Jota and Firmino as well, so there is great strength in depth at Liverpool if they can keep everyone fit.”
Q: Liverpool have been linked with Chelsea’s Mason Mount. Would he be a good addition?
PB: “I like him as a player don’t get me wrong but I don’t think Liverpool need him. They already have six central midfielders, so if they buy him is he going to play? Is he going to be a key player? I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s the kind of player they should be targeting.”
Q: Stefan Bajcetic cost Liverpool just £240,000, how much of a bargain could that prove to be?
PB: “I think he is already showing he will be one of the biggest bargains in Premier League history. Injuries gave him the chance initially but since he came up from the youth team he has grasped the opportunity brilliantly. He adapted so well and so quickly and that’s why Klopp likes him so much. Against Everton he was the star player in the team and in a tough game away from home against Newcastle he was outstanding as well. I think he can be one of the main players for Liverpool in the future.”
Q: Will Bajcetic’s form keep Thiago Alcantara out of the side when he returns from injury?
PB: “Thiago is very experienced and he’s a fantastic footballer who can dictate the tempo but he’s lacking goals and assists from his game. Liverpool have some great, hard-working midfield players but if you look at the numbers over the past couple of seasons not many of them create or score goals. It’s all left to the front three players. So if Bajcetic can do that he will make himself invaluable to the team. It’s a long season but I would rather see him playing than Thiago. He’s young, he’s fresh and he’s proved that he can play in the starting XI with no concerns. He would be my choice.”
Q: Will injuries prevent Virgil Van Dijk from ever rediscovering the form he showed in 2019?
PB: “Injuries are part of the game. You can’t avoid them for your whole career but for me Van Dijk is still one of the best defenders in the world. If he can get back to that level of fitness and I don’t see why he can’t then he can hit those heights again. He’s still a very important figure for Liverpool. His presence just brings a calmness to the defence and that spreads throughout the team. At Liverpool’s peak they almost knew they would not concede, so one or two goals would be enough to win almost any game for them. That hasn’t been the case in recent times but with him back in the team now I think they’ll rediscover that.”
Q: Do you think Klopp has lost the intense drive and focus that he had when arrived in 2015?
PB: “I don’t think so. I think he’s focused more than ever now. He has achieved everything he set out to which is amazing but the team has been going through a period of upheaval. That’s partly due to injuries and poor form as well as some key members of the squad getting older. It’s at that crucial time where Klopp has to rebuild his team and he’s not been getting the money he would like. But I think the board are going to provide that in the summer and I hope he will be able to sign the players he wants and needs to strengthen the squad. As Jamie Carragher said, he is the last person in the football club that you would be looking to change. He’s the right man for the job 100%.”
Q: Should Bellingham hold off on a move to Liverpool if they don’t get CL football next year?
PB: “I still think that if it comes down to money Liverpool won’t be able to compete with the likes of Man City anyway. So it would probably take Bellingham to say ‘I want to go to Liverpool no matter what.’ He’s such a great player and can command a huge fee, even Chelsea might be in for him because it looks like they can buy anyone these days. So it will be very difficult unless he only has eyes for Liverpool. But will Jurgen Klopp want to go all out and spend £120m on one player? I don’t know because I think he needs more than just one player this summer. I think he needs more than that because I see a few players leaving. James Milner, for example, he’s done an unbelievable job and can play in any position but his time is up and Liverpool should be looking at younger players now.”
Q: What about Jordan Henderson? Is it time to move him on or would you like to see him stay?
PB: “I still think he’s the heart of the team on the pitch, in the dressing room and at the training ground. I think he’s a very important figure in the team and for Jurgen Klopp to have around. I wouldn’t like to let him go yet. I think he has another two or three years left in the tank for Liverpool.”
Q: How close is Graham Potter to the sack at Chelsea after another defeat at the weekend?
PB: “He must be close now. Since he took over they haven’t been getting good results. I didn’t see the game against Southampton but results wise it’s not been at all good this season. They’ve spent such a crazy amount of money in the transfer market and are still struggling. I don’t think Potter is going to survive until the end of the season to be honest.”
Q: This title race looks set to go to the wire, can Arsenal win the league despite their lack of experience?
PB: “It’s like a rollercoaster at the moment. A couple of weeks ago it looked like it was Arsenal’s but then they dropped points and lost against Manchester City and the gap closed right up. They’re both good teams but it seems like even though City have Haaland they don’t have the edge or killer instinct that they had in previous seasons. They’re dropping points more frequently but I still think this year it’s going to go right down to the last game of the season.”
Q: Will Rashford outscore Haaland this season?
PB: “Rashford has had a fantastic season and if he carries on like then perhaps he could outscore Haaland for the rest of the season. But Haaland would far rather win the Premier League than individual honours, I’m sure about that. The Golden Boot would be icing on the cake of course.”
Q: Is Unai Emery more suited to a smaller club of Aston Villa’s size rather than Arsenal?
PB: “I think at Arsenal he had more finances to bring players in compared to now at Aston Villa. He did an unbelievable job in Spain but it didn’t work out at Arsenal. So far at Villa the results have been quite inconsistent, one step forward, two steps back. Villa are a mid table team and for now that’s probably what their fans expect, so unless they spend big money that’s where they’ll stay. I think Emery is at the right place at the moment.”
Q: Do you think players prefer being managed by a younger manager such as Mikel Arteta?
PB: “Not necessarily. Jurgen Klopp is 55 and players love to play for him. Sir Alex Ferguson was in his 70s and he was loved by the players at Man Utd. It’s generally about the chemistry you create as a manager. Just because you’re a young manager it doesn’t mean the players will like you, it can go the opposite way sometimes. You need to be a good psychologist as a manager these days. Different players have different requirements in order to get the best performances out of them. If you have good training sessions, good tactics and are a good man manager then you give yourself the best chance to be successful in that role.”
Q: Graham Potter has a degree in Leadership and Emotional Intelligence but it doesn’t seem to be helping his cause?
PB: “At Chelsea we don’t really know who is deciding the transfer policy. It may well be that he doesn’t really have a say in what players the club are signing. For me some of these signings aren’t logical. If you are going to spend big money it should be on players who have more experience and have proved themselves already. The Premier League is such a tough league. I like Enzo Fernandez. He won the World Cup but he only had one good season and you pay £120m for him? I don’t know about that. Maybe he will end up the best player in the league. Maybe not. Time will tell.”
Q: Will Erik Ten Hag be a one-season wonder at Man Utd thanks to Marcus Rashford’s form?
PB: “The manager has been under pressure ever since he signed the contract to take the job. I don’t know what was going on between him and Ronaldo but nothing was going their way at that point. Since Ronaldo left the club things have improved, there’s no doubt about that. The atmosphere has changed for the better. They’re playing better football and they’re scoring goals now and I think Ten Hag deserves a lot of credit for that. If you look at Rashford, he’s flourished since Ronaldo moved on. He’s young and I’m sure he’ll continue this form going forward too. ”
Q: Are you predicting Newcastle or Man Utd to win the Carabao Cup final this weekend?
PB: “It’s a one off game but it will be like the game of a lifetime for Newcastle. The chance to bring a trophy home for their fans would be amazing for them. But Man Utd haven’t won anything for a couple of years too so it’s massive for both teams. If I was going to bet on the outcome I would say Man Utd will be lifting the cup on Sunday.”
Q: What can be done to make the referees less incompetent when it comes to using VAR?
PB: “Right from the start I’ve never been a fan of VAR. I think the game was much better without it to be honest. Referees used to make mistakes and they’re still making them now, even though they can see the incident from six or seven angles! Sometimes it’s ridiculous. I think referees on the pitch are relying too heavily on the referees behind the screens now. Sometimes you can see a clear offside and yet they’re still waiting for ages to clarify the decision. You see players hesitantly celebrating goals now as well because in the back of their mind they worry that it might be disallowed for a handball that happened 40 seconds before the ball went in the net. As Jurgen Klopp said, the only goal you can truly celebrate now is a dead-ball free kick because you know they can’t find a problem with that. I’d get VAR out of the game if I could.“
Q: Who is the best free-kick taker in the Premier League right now?
PB: “There’s not so many these days who score often from direct free kicks. From Liverpool’s point of view I’d say Trent Alexander-Arnold has great ability to score from them, but he doesn’t get that many opportunities. I’d say Ward-Prowse of Southampton is the best at the moment. It’s a great technique that he’s using and it works really well for him.”
Q: Given the huge amounts spent by PL teams should they be winning the EL and UCL?
PB: “Spending money doesn’t guarantee success in football, we’ve learned that over the years, but it certainly helps. You might have a stronger squad and better bench, that’s true. But there’s still great teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona who will have their say in those competitions. So while the Premier League teams may be dominant financially, it doesn’t necessarily equate to them winning the Champions League and the Europa League. I love Messi and I watch PSG quite often and even with Neymar, Mbappe and him are fit I don’t think they are defensively strong enough to go all the way and win it.”
Q: Gerrard and Lampard have both been sacked recently, who will be employed again first and where?
PB: “Obviously Stevie has been out of the game for longer than Frank Lampard but I don’t really know if they plan to go back into management or not, but I hope they will. They’re still young and it’s a learning process for them. Just because they were great players doesn’t mean they will be great coaches straightaway. But Stevie did a fantastic job at Rangers then moving to Aston Villa the learning curve became that much steeper. The Premier League is a different animal to the Scottish Premiership. If he gets a good opportunity I’m sure he’ll jump straight back in. Lampard struggled at Chelsea and then at Everton too and once he took over there nothing seemed to change. Since Dyche has come in they’ve won two out of three games which shows a change was needed.”
Q: Have the Premier League charges levelled at Man City motivated the club even more?
PB: “Firstly I was just so surprised to read about that. Surely Man City have employees checking that they are complying with the regulations. Why would they risk doing something illegal if they will pay for it in the future? I just don’t get it. They have the richest owners in the world. If they are found guilty I will be very surprised. I read that the process might take three to four years which is obviously such a long time. But if they are found guilty they should be stripped of everything they won over that period. You have to follow the rules. If everyone else is abiding by them and you don’t, then you have to face the consequences.”
Q: Who have been the best young players in the Premier League this season?
PB: “I would say Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard have been outstanding for Arsenal this season. They’re both carrying their team, scoring goals and playing great football. They’re a joy to watch.”