Football Insights – Neil Mellor
Defending Premier League champions Liverpool have got their season off the perfect start with victories over Leeds and Chelsea, however on Monday night they should be put to the test by Arsenal, another side that has a perfect record after the first two rounds. Former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor took the time out to chat exclusively about his former team ahead of the Monday night clash.
Neil Mellor On Liverpool
What did you make of Thiago Alcantara's debut for Liverpool against Chelsea and can he help Liverpool with another title challenge?
Thiago is a super signing. It had been spoken about for a while and you wondered whether it would get over the line but where you have to give him and the manager credit is how he settled in so quickly. The manager made the decision that he should come on at half time and he had a big impact on the game. He was always available, he made the record for the most passes in Premier League football in one half - he was always available, whether on the right, left or in the middle of the park, he was always available for the pass.
He gives Liverpool something different to what they have had in midfield previously. Whenever he got the ball, it was one or two touch, everything was done very quickly. He did really well, especially considering that was his first bit of football since the Champions League Final.
In terms of pushing Liverpool on to the next level, I’m not quite sure what the next level for Liverpool would be! However, he is a world-class player who is around other world-class players. So, they will all thrive off each other. It adds competition for places in midfield and it allows Liverpool to freshen things up with the amount of games they will be playing.
Liverpool are one of the best teams in Europe but before Klopp came, Liverpool wouldn’t have been able to bring in players of this quality and that’s credit to the football that is being played but also the standard that Liverpool now have that a player like Thiago wants to come and play for Liverpool and I’m sure he will add quality over the season.
Do you think Liverpool's strong start is the sign of more great things to come for them this season?
Liverpool will be in a battle with Man City for the Premier League title. It’s still early days but there were a lot of questions being asked about Liverpool defensively and by coming through the game at Chelsea, with the front line that they have, would have been a big confidence booster for them. The mentality will be there for them to continue where they left off last year and they’ll certainly be going for the Premier League title again this year.
Liverpool play Arsenal in their next game, where do Arsenal need to perform to beat Liverpool and will Liverpool be worried about facing a resurgent Arsenal?
Arsenal have definitely improved under Mikel Arteta - the last two games between Liverpool and Arsenal have showed that. Liverpool played very well but weren’t clinical in the final third whereas Arsenal were at The Emirates – that was the difference that day. While in the Community Shield, it was almost like a pre-season game so Liverpool will be a lot sharper now, as will Arsenal.
But Mikel Arteta has brought an organisation to the Arsenal defence which we haven’t seen for a while and Arsenal will need to be disciplined and hope Liverpool don’t take their chances if they are to beat them because Liverpool will get chances throughout the game. Arsenal will have the threat with Aubameyang down the left-hand side which Liverpool will need to mindful of but the team will be full of confidence having beaten Chelsea and Leeds and they’ll come in to this game with the front three firing.
Salah performed Game One. Mane performed Game Two. Could the game against Arsenal be Firmino’s time to perform? That’s the problem Arsenal will have – how are they going to control all three? And if Thiago plays, with his vision, it will be a very tough game for Arsenal. But Liverpool will have to be more clinical than the last two games they have been against them.
How can you see Diogo Jota fitting into Klopp's team? Will he start a lot of games or will his role be more on the bench?
Jota is an exciting young talent who has done very well at Wolves. He is exactly what Liverpool’s attack is all about – pressing high, high energy so he will fit in very well. I think he will get game time this season but the front three are very hard to dislodge such is the understanding and the quality that they have.
He has to settle in to a new club, so there is no immediate rush for him to be showing the quality that we know he has but I do think that he is a great addition because of the way he likes to press and because of the way Liverpool like to play as an attacking force.
Do you think there are any more new arrivals to come to Anfield this transfer window?
While the transfer window is open, there will always be players linked to Liverpool. You don’t know what is around the corner, there could be a possible injury where Liverpool then need to strengthen in that area.
There have been conversations about Liverpool defensively, I thought Fabinho did brilliantlyl filling in at centre half but Gomez will be fit for the Arsenal game which will be a boost for Liverpool. So, with it being a short window until the transfer window opens again in January, I’m not too convinced there will be too much more activity but the Jota transfer came from nowhere, so if Liverpool find the right target, they will certainly look to bring them in.
Neil Mellor On The Premier League
What do you make of Manchester United's poor start to the season?
For Manchester United, it will be more of a battle for finishing in the Top Four as opposed to competing for the title. United were disappointing in Game One – I don’t think they were as prepared as other clubs have been.
You think about the Maguire situation, the players that have been away on international duty, Fernandez only had a week’s training before the season started, Pogba had covid and there has been a lot of uncertainty as to who United would bring in.
I think United will get going, there is no doubt about that but it has just been a slow start, perhaps as a result of all these things coming into effect. I think there will be a response this weekend against Brighton.
Will Gareth Bale turn Tottenham's season around?
Gareth Bale is a great signing, Tottenham did a great job at getting that over the line. If Tottenham get the Gareth Bale that we all know then that is an unbelievable signing. Obviously, he needs to get himself fit and up to speed but it is very exciting for Tottenham.
I think Son, Harry Kane and the other attacking players will have more about them because now they’ve got Gareth Bale so the opposition will have more to think about. So, good news for Tottenham.
This puts them as genuine Top Four contenders now. Perhaps another addition defensively may strengthen them as well but by getting a player like Bale, it shows that the Top Four is going to be Tottenham’s aim.