Former Liverpool midfielder Jason McAteer believes that his old side are too “nice” and should show more of a divisive, nasty streak, like Premier League-leaders Chelsea.
Liverpool’s start to 2017 has been, as we all know, appalling. Even though there are 14 league matches remaining, the Reds look to be out of the title race and in a battle to finish in the top four, which was seen as almost a given during the Autumn months when Jurgen Klopp’s side were playing some of the best football in the country.
— Premier League (@premierleague) February 8, 2017
On top of this, the Merseyside club have been eliminated from both cup domestic competitions, with their EFL Cup semi-final loss over two legs to Southampton particularly worrying, given that Klopp was able to field the majority of his big-name players against the Saints.
A lack of ruthlessness has been commonplace in this period and McAteer, speaking exclusively to 888sport, believes that Liverpool need to be more like Chelsea:
“I always feel like Liverpool are a nice bunch of boys. A nice team with players you could take home to your mum. You look at Chelsea and there is a bit of horribleness about them. Costa and Luiz and even Cahill to an extent.
“It’s a battle for them. It’s becomes horrible. Since Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard retired there have been big shoes that haven’t been filled but you can’t make a leader, they’re born. So I’d like Liverpool to go into the market and bring in someone with those leadership qualities.”
Building on this, McAteer also singled out Jordan Henderson’s role as captain, suggesting that he’s not vocal enough on the pitch:
“I’m not taking anything away from Jordan Henderson who has been a terrific captain. Like Moyes and Ferguson it’s always extremely difficult to take over a legend at a football club and replicate what they did. Jordan is his own man and leads in other ways: by his performances and actions.
“He isn’t one for pointing and screaming. Liverpool need someone like that who digs out players. When I played if you gave the ball away three or four would be immediately onto you: John Barnes and Mark Wright and Razor Ruddock. It lifts the team when you’re up against it.”
Liverpool were widely hailed as Chelsea’s main competitors for the title during the latter weeks of 2016, but with no wins since the calendar changed over and losses to relegation-battlers Swansea and Hull, they are now in fifth, just one-point ahead of Manchester United in sixth.
And McAteer believes that Champions League qualification is an aim that’s “slipping away”:
“Top four is definitely slipping away and it’s up to the management to find a solution. At the minute – because of the form in the first half of the season and the points we’ve bagged – we’ve actually had a bit of a cushion to go through a bad patch that we were always going to have, it was just a case of how long. It’s lasting an eternity isn’t it.
“Now we’ve used up our cushion and we don’t have any more jokers to play. We have to find the solution very quick because there is not a lot of margin for error.”
Read the full 888sport interview with Jason McAteer, including his thoughts on why Liverpool will struggle against Tottenham.