Interviews

Steve McManaman: Liverpool need new striker to compete for Premier League title

Former Reds winger and BT Sport pundit tells Chris Flanagan that the club need a frontman –​ and clash with Huddersfield is critical for the season

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Liverpool’s defensive frailties have been well documented, but Steve McManaman thinks they also need something else if they are to challenge for Premier League titles: a prolific centre-forward.

I’d like to see a top-class centre-forward who you know will get 20 or 30 goals a season

- Steve McManaman

The Reds go into tonight’s match at Huddersfield needing a victory to maintain their hold on fourth place, as they bid to recover from back-to-back defeats. Saturday’s home loss to West Brom ended their hopes of FA Cup glory for another year, while defeat at Swansea last week left them 18 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League table.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have conceded significantly more goals than the Premier League’s top three, and problems in defence have blighted them for several seasons. But while McManaman agrees that Liverpool have to improve at the back if they're to get anywhere near Manchester City in future campaigns, the BT Sport pundit also thinks they need an out-and-out centre-forward to become genuine challengers. Roberto Firmino currently occupies Liverpool’s central attacking role but is not always regarded as a traditional striker, and is yet to hit 20 league goals in a season for the Reds.

Kane-like player needed

“Personally I’d like them to bring in another defender, probably another goalkeeper, and I’d like them to buy a centre-forward,” the former Liverpool star tells FourFourTwo. “I’d like to see a top-class centre-forward who you know will get 20 or 30 goals a season, like a Harry Kane or someone like that.

“Liverpool don’t really have a centre-forward - Daniel Sturridge [now loaned to West Brom] and Dominic Solanke are probably the ones who are out-and-out centre-forwards. Dominic’s going to be a good player, but he’s only young.

“I’d also like them to bring in some widemen just to change the play a little bit because I don’t think they have that; a player who can beat people and get crosses in from different angles, just to change things up.”

Dominic Solanke

Solanke: highly rated by McManaman, but they also need someone for the now

Catching up

The Reds have already agreed a deal to sign midfielder Naby Keita from RB Leipzig this summer but McManaman knows that even with extensive recruitment, it’s still going to be a big ask to close the gap to Manchester City in the seasons to come.

“At the moment everyone is a long way from Manchester City,” he says. “Of course Liverpool are going to bring in players in the summer – Naby Keita will come in who’ll be a really good addition and they’ll probably buy more people – but you can't see Manchester City keeping still. There’s a chance they might bring in Aymeric Laporte from Athletic Bilbao, so that will probably strengthen Manchester City’s squad. You’re always playing catch-up, that’s the problem.

“Liverpool will have to do some really good business, keep on improving and more importantly be consistent to catch Manchester City. The most important thing is to bring in players who are better than what they’ve got – they’ve just done that with Virgil van Dijk, and as long as they do that, you would presume they would get better. It looks like Emre Can will leave so you just hope that Keita is going to be a big success - when they bring in players, they have to perform.”

Steve McManaman

McManaman was man of the match in FA Cup final and League Cup final wins for Liverpool in the 1990s

Liverpool’s trip to Huddersfield comes before Sunday’s key fixture at home to Tottenham, their closest rivals for a top-four spot. The Reds have reached the last 16 of the Champions League and McManaman still rates this season as a success at this stage, but says that assessment could change if the next two matches were to go awry.

Everybody pines for the top four and a good cup run and if you don’t do that, opinions quickly change

- Steve McManaman

“At the moment it’s still a success because of their position in the league and the way they’ve been playing,” he says. “Two games ago we’d all been crowing about them saying how great everything has been, but a week in football is a long time.

“Because they’re in a Champions League spot in the league, and they’re still in the Champions League, it’s still considered fine at the moment – they’re still bordering on being a success. But that can easily change. Everybody pines for the top four and a good cup run and if you don’t do that, opinions quickly change.

“It’s very critical to win at Huddersfield. If they lose again, they’ve got Tottenham at the weekend and it ramps up again even further, similar to last January when they lost in the league a couple of times, lost in the FA Cup and it was all over and done with. At least Liverpool have got the Champions League to look forward to this year, but people who support Liverpool wanted the FA Cup, so to go out at home was really disappointing. That coupled with the Swansea defeat, it puts loads of pressure on everybody at Huddersfield.”

Watch Huddersfield vs Liverpool on BT Sport 1 on Tuesday 30th January from 7:15pm. BT Sport is where the best in sport go head to head, bringing you live coverage of the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and Emirates FA Cup. For more information, visit www.BT.com/sport

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