Fair Betting Sites UK sat down with Liverpool and Premier League legend, Robbie Fowler, who shared his thoughts on the Reds’ season so far.
Formerly playing for Manchester City too, Fowler ran out of words to compliment Erling Haaland and wishes he could see the Norwegian playing in the red half of Merseyside.
With his former teammates currently in manager drama, he expressed his optimism on Steven Gerrard and Craig Bellamy’s coaching careers so far.
The ex-striker also shared Cristiano Ronaldo’s pain of being consistently benched like Fowler was at Liverpool early in his career.
Read the full interview below:
Q: Liverpool are now through to the knockouts after a win against Ajax, can they go all the way in the champions league this season? Despite their Premier League form
Fowler: It’s been clearly documented that Liverpool haven’t had a great start in the league. At times they’ve ridden their luck in the Champions League, but you have to in that competition. Liverpool are equipped to go all the way in the Champions League, they can do it, they know what needs to be done. You look at the last four or five years and Liverpool have been absolutely remarkable in Europe. Okay, they haven’t been unbelievable this season in the group stages, a couple of performances have left a little bit to be desired, but they’ve qualified with a game to spare so it’s not all that bad.
Q: Do Liverpool need to get one back over Napoli next week or should Klopp rest players? If they win by four goals or more they could top the group
Fowler: From Liverpool’s point of view, they know the Premier League is massive as well. If it means resting a few players against Napoli for the Premier League, Liverpool have to do that. But it is massively important to go into games strong.
I find it funny when teams finish first in their groups and then talk about playing their B teams or resting players for the next game, it’s the Champions League! You have to play brilliant teams in Europe, for me, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, every game will be tough. Do I want Liverpool to win the group? Of course I do, but we know how important it is to have players ready for the weekend games in the Premier League. I want Liverpool to win the game and top the group, but they’ve qualified and done the job they needed.
Q: Should Leeds be an easy win for Liverpool or do they need to be wary that it could be another Forest result?
Fowler: Regardless of what people think of Leeds, teams raise their game when they come to Anfield. You can ask questions of why some teams can get a result against Liverpool but not against other teams, it’s because it’s their cup final.
Liverpool beat Man City one week, the first loss City have had this season and Liverpool are nowhere near the top of the league. A week later, Liverpool get beaten by Forest. So Leeds can be a potential banana skin, we know they’re fighting for their lives, and the manager is not safe in his job in terms of what safe is deemed as in the Premier League. If Liverpool go play the way they can, then it will be a home win, but football has not been like that this year, especially with Liverpool, so they’ll do everything in their power to try to rectify that.
Q: What’s gone wrong for Liverpool this season? Is it tactics, injuries, the loss of Mane?
Fowler: Sadio Mane has been a big loss to Liverpool, but you could argue that Luis Diaz has been arguably Liverpool’s best player in Mane’s position. The fact is that Liverpool haven’t had the momentum they’ve had in years gone by. Liverpool are a team that can pull out performances when they have a lot of momentum.
I think there could be a lot of anxiety in the team, at times their energy, drive and will have been superb, but other than the Man City game, I can’t remember a time where Liverpool have kept that dominating momentum against teams. Obviously they’ve had a few injuries, but you can’t always use that as an excuse, that’s why teams have and build squads so they can manage both the Premier League and Champions League. It’s a combination of a lot of things for their losses, their energy is gone, that’s not to say it won’t return because Jurgen [Klopp] is a fantastic manager.
The anxiety within the team, knowing they have to go out there and produce those great performances that have lost. We have to remember, Liverpool were two or three games away from being arguably one of the greatest club sides ever. Three or four months later, they’re having a tough time, but clubs have tough times and I think Liverpool will be okay. Man City will cruise to the title and Liverpool will be there and thereabouts near the top. Liverpool will start putting in the performances the fans and the manager wants.
Q: What positions do they need to sign players for and who needs replacing? Do you have anyone in mind?
Fowler: In football, you can go out there and buy the best players, but not all of them work out and every player that comes into a club is a gamble. What you have with Liverpool and many clubs, they can’t really afford to take that gamble like Man City can do because of the money. Of course I want Liverpool to sign players and hit the ground running, but it doesn’t always happen.
Liverpool have signed Darwin Nunez, don’t get me wrong he’s a fantastic player he really is, but he hasn’t hit the ground running, not yet. It might be due to him not getting a good run of games, Nunez has started a few then missed out with little niggles, he’s not had the momentum. You got the young lads like Fabio Carvalho and Harvey Elliott who are great players, we know that, but Liverpool needs those players in certain positions.
At Man City, they’re signing players who then become near-perfect straight away. Liverpool’s recruitment is massively important and they do need to come in and hit the ground running. I’ve always had a theory that in football if you’re not signing players, you’re not standing still you’re going backwards. Because other teams around your position who are signing players and going forwards are leaving you behind. In terms of certain areas, every club should be looking to improve every area because new signings can drive players in those positions to improve and get better. I want Liverpool to develop that squad and win games.
Q: Who would you like Liverpool to sign?
Fowler: The Bellingham link is brilliant because he’s a very good player. Another player who I really like is Declan Rice, he fits into a Liverpool mould. Whether Liverpool are looking at players to come in, they have to have a certain amount of pedigree, those players need to have lots of energy. And I do think Rice fits that bill, he’s a player who sits in the middle of the park but he can get around the pitch with his endeavour as well.
Rice is a player I’d like Liverpool to sign, not to be disrespectful to West Ham, but Rice will be a name on the top of many top teams’ lists whether that’s in the Summer or January. Rice has been class for a few years now and you can see why clubs want him, but for me, he fits the mould of a Liverpool player.
Back in your day, would you have enjoyed going up against players like Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold in their current form?
Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold are good players who are having a tough time. I was confident going up against anybody in all honesty, but if somebody is having a tough time then of course you want to go against them. But with good players, form can change at any moment, it could be down to a tweak in formation, maybe have a bit of patience instead of rushing decisions. I have gone through a little bit of a confidence crisis in my career, I learned to just go back to the basics, don’t be running forwards for no reason, play your way back into the game, get your passes right and then start building up to the player you can be.
There’s no doubt that both Joe and Trent haven’t been great this year, Trent is an absolute world-class player, and Gomez might be feeling the effects of his injuries still. But I have seen performances from Joe that are very good, like against Man City and Ajax, he was one of Liverpool’s better players. They haven’t been all that bad, they’re easy pickings because of the way Liverpool’s results have been recently.
Someone always seems to have to be the scapegoat, and that has been Trent more so than Joe, but they can help each other. Joe should tell Trent when to not run forward, I know Jurgen [Klopp] has a way of playing, but Liverpool need to be tight and compact, get the centre-backs talking to the full-backs and say ‘Don’t be running forward, let’s work our way into the game, then when we have a foothold that’s when you can run forward more’. I don’t think there is a communication problem, but there is a communication reaction needed from the defenders to all help each other. I have no doubt that Liverpool will get through this, Trent Alexander-Arnold especially because he is an absolute world-class player.
Q: Was Gerrard getting sacked the right call? Should it of happened earlier? Where can you see him next?
Fowler: I honestly haven’t got a clue where Steven Gerrard will go next, I think it’s a tough one because I still think it’s still a bit raw. I know Steven as a player and a person and I’ve not really been watching him closely as a manager because I have never been hands-on with him in that way. But Steven’s attitude is quite rightly what he was like as a player. He’ll come back and show people how good he is. He had an unbelievably tough start in management in the Premier League and we are all aware of that. From a biased point of view, I think he should’ve kept his job. I am realistic to know that football is a business and owners and chairmen have a duty to the club and to the fans of that club. If that’s what they want, then there is a need for change. Unfortunately, it happens and I think that it has got nothing to do with Steven.
Sometimes results are bad and they need a bit of a lift and a change. Steven has to take it on the chin but I think he’ll come back stronger. We always talk about clubs and managers leaving and being willy-nilly but whether the CEOs or the owners who run the places like Steven. It doesn’t matter. Once the fans start singing ‘we want you gone’ then there’s only one thing they can do.
That’s the way football is, we always know fans are massively important in getting behind a team. But we also know that fans can absolutely sway the minds of the owners, chairman etc. That’s what happened at Villa. I think Steve would have had every confidence to maybe change the fortunes. It’s all hypothetically, in times to come he could say yes I could’ve done that but his bosses have made the decision to change him. Steven I think will come back and I think he’ll be even more driven even though he was driven. He’ll want to prove to people that he is an excellent manager and no doubt that’ll hell be that man.
Q: Your ex-teammate Craig Bellamy has been linked with the Cardiff job lately. Did he strike you as someone destined for management?
Fowler: People think because of how you were as a player, that you can’t be the head coach clubs will want. Craig Bellamy, and me, have gone down the route of having every coaching badge under the sun, and that’s because we want to do the job. Bellamy has gone out there, done all the right things, been ambitious. When you are behind the scenes of said players like Bellamy, you see how professional and how good their attitude is.
I know there are stories and incidents that may change people’s opinions on Bellamy, but if you’re going out there, doing all the right things, have the dedication and the right attitude to be a manager, it should not matter. Bellamy will be happy with the job he’s doing with Kompany at the moment at Burnley, they are doing very well. Eventually, Bellamy will get the chance and it will be up to him to get that chance again depending on how he does.
Q: There are rumours of a Haaland injury, should Man City be worried of playing an in-form Leicester City side?
Fowler: If I was a Man City fan, I wouldn’t be worried about going into any game. Certainly with or without Haaland. I don’t think there is any doubt that he was brought in to win the Champions League so if they can wheel him out for those games, I think he will be alright. If you look at City in the league and their performances over the last couple of years, they are averaging about 90 points and around 100 goals every year. So, albeit his goals are incredible and the start he’s had.
Haaland is not going to be the defining reason why City win the league because they’ve got other players scoring goals and winning matches. Ironically, Leicester has had a bit of an upturn recently and they do look a little bit better. But City are a different class, Erling Haaland scores goals for fun, we know that, and he will always be that player who scores goals for fun, certainly when you’re playing in a team as dynamic as City. For me, there’s no doubt he has been brought in to win that champions league trophy.
Q: How good is Erling Haaland? Have you seen anything like him? Where does he rank in all-time Premier League goal-scorers?
Fowler: Haaland is an incredible player but I think it is tough to put him into a bracket. He has played 10/11 games in the Premier League, but if he keeps going the way he’s going, which is incredible, then of course he’ll be the best. It is fairly early but I love the simplicity of him as a striker. When we think about football and strikers, I don’t know if it’s the modern game but as a striker, you want to get the ball and get more involved in the game. Not many have the desire to get in the box like Haaland has. If you look at him, he’ll want to link a little bit outside the box but his main bread and butter is that he wants to get on the end of a cross into the box. So, to see him sprinting and using every sign to get into the areas for a tap-in, I really love that as a striker.
We haven’t seen a player like Haaland for a number of years. I know formations are different but he’ll get the ball, and play outside but he’ll want to get into the box. He’s not bothered about assists, he wants to score goals. He’s big, he’s powerful, and he’s got every attribute that you would say the perfect number nine is. He’ll score goals, he’ll win headers, he’s hard to knock off the ball, he’s got pace and he’s got power. The biggest accolade I could give him is I would have loved to have seen him at Liverpool. There are certain areas of the game where players always stand out, we could be looking at Haaland as the main man who stands out over everyone else and he has certainly started off the right way.
Q: Does Phil Foden remind you of any other English player you played with?
Fowler: I look at Phil Foden with the same attitude as Haaland. I think Foden is brilliant. If he isn’t playing in the England squad then it’ll be an absolute travesty because he’s certainly one of our better players. I love watching him, he makes the game look easy, he works hard, and he has got a little bit of everything in him. Whenever anyone good or brilliant comes on the scene, we always try and compare them to players from years ago.
Wayne Rooney and Gazza [Paul Gascoigne] are phenomenal players but Foden is his own man. He has every confidence in what he can do, he’ll be that player that people want to link with in the future. Every year he gets better and better, he has grown into his position and role. There are not many players that can walk into that City team, but he is certainly doing that at the minute. I do really like watching him, he’s one of my favourite English players in the Premier League.
Q: What do you make of Leeds’ season so far? Fans are becoming frustrated with Jesse Marsch
Fowler: If you asked me at the start of the season I would’ve said that Leeds United would have been safe and fine but obviously they are in a difficult position. They can’t buy wins and are going through a tough time. You’ll find with football that if these results keep going against them then there is going to be a change in manager. There is absolutely no doubt about that because you wouldn’t mess with the fans. At the minute, it is looking incredibly tough and they have Liverpool at the weekend so you never know, but they are in free fall at the minute.
Again we talk about owners and whomever to change anything but they’ve not been as good as I thought they would’ve been. When you look at the drive they had last season, they don’t really have that this season. People can say what they want about the manager and his tactics but it is still up to the players to go out there to perform. They have an element of duty and have to go out there with the right intention, but it might be a confidence thing at the moment, and Leeds do look confidence-stricken at the minute.
Q: How do you feel about the Ronaldo situation? If you knew you were the best striker at the club and you were being left on the bench, would you be as frustrated as he is?
I have been in this situation where I believed, without being egotistical, I was the best striker but for whatever reason, managers pick a team without you in it. As a player it is hard to get your head around that you aren’t the first player being picked for the team. But what do you do? You go out there and perform at training and do everything you need to do, but it doesn’t really matter, managers still might have certain players that they want to play and it’s hard to accept that.
That’s why I left Liverpool for Leeds. I felt for me and my game, as much as I love Liverpool, I needed to play football. I felt I was forced out of the club by not playing but I needed to go and play for my own sanity. The question remains with Ronaldo, I think he could pick any club in the world to go and play at. We need to remember he isn’t the player he used to be, he is still a good player we all know that. He is still a handful and the way he looks after himself is up there with the better players who have ever lived. The money situation is massive and any club in the world would take him. If he wants to continue to play at a good level then unfortunately for him he will have to take a huge pay cut. He should be aware of that.
Manchester United knew the type of player they were bringing in. We know it’s a different manager and this is obviously one of the problems he had with Man United last year. He was getting a bit of stick because he wasn’t pressing but he wasn’t brought in to do that. Not everyone can play the perfect way. He was brought in to score goals and he has scored goals. Now a different manager has come in who has new goals and a different ambition of wanting to play. It is quite clear that Ronaldo doesn’t fit into that plan, so the best concern for all parties is if he goes. The simple answer I can give you. He is a great player but if he wants to play close to 90 minutes then he has got to go.
Q: What is your preferred England XI?
Fowler: It’s tough. If you are talking now then I have always been a big believer as to those players who are playing great at that moment in time. Obviously in the World Cup, there has to be a few little changes. Gareth Southgate is probably going to pick Trippier at right back, Harry Maguire hasn’t been unbelievable this year but will probably make it to the England team. At left-back, England have Shaw and Chilwell, I think Shaw will play. If England were playing tomorrow, I’d want James Tarkowski in defence, especially with the way he’s playing at the moment.
In terms of midfield, you have got Kalvin Phillips who has been on the bench at the moment due to injury. I think Phillips is a million miles away from being at his best to be honest. England have Declan Rice, and Jordan Henderson who is a must for me as a leader. England have got Jude Bellingham with a three across the middle, a little bit of drive and energy.
Front three I would play Harry Kane, Phil Foden on the left and Bukayo Saka on the right. You have Jadon Sancho who hasn’t been great for Man United for a year or two, Mason Mount you can slot into the middle, and Jack Grealish too. Ivan Toney should’ve got a game last time, he was that Premier League player who was scoring goals and he was unfortunate to not get a chance. Certainly, for me midfield three of Henderson, Rice and Bellingham. Foden, Kane and Saka front three. The back four would be Trippier, Tarkowski and Shaw. Pickford is probably number one. Does that team win a World Cup? Who knows.