Jose Enrique – The Column #6: Liking the way Burnley play, Saul Niguez loan a ‘no-brainer’ & Kostas deserving a Chelsea start

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  • Disagreement with Klopp’s post-Burnley comments…
  • No-brainer to get Saul on loan…
  • Kostas deserves to start v Chelsea…
  • One position Liverpool need to strengthen before the window closes…
  • Lukaku a genuine threat but it all depends on how VVD’s feeling…
  • How new contracts are huge for the club…

This is the sixth in a series of columns Jose Enrique, Liverpool’s former left-back, is writing for Empire of the Kop.

In it, Jose writes about his thoughts on Jurgen Klopp complaining about Burnley’s heavy-handed challenges, how getting Saul Niguez on loan with an option to buy makes sense, Kostas deserves to start v Chelsea but it all depends on Robertson and Liverpool have to prioritise a new forward in the window…

Reaction to the wins v Norwich & Burnley

The first game we were fantastic, with plenty of high pressing, and the score was good from both games. The second game was a bit more difficult until [Diogo] Jota scored. Obviously, it’s Burnley’s style and I believe they’re going to make a lot of teams work hard this season because the way they play is different.

It was a more difficult approach but I believe we deserved to win. It’s a very good start for the team.

There were a lot of players like [Kostas] Tsimikas in the starting-XI – last season he played only a few minutes, so he did really well.

The fans being back also gave the players an extra edge and lifted all of them up.

Klopp’s comments about Burnley’s heavy-handed challenges

I understand him because he wants his best players fit.

Burnley have a way of playing and I actually like it, to be honest; it’s very difficult for the opposition and the other day they made it very difficult for us.

Obviously, that’s why we have VAR, to check everything. If there’s a bad tackle, a bad elbow, or bad whatever, they should protect the players then.

The players also control themselves a lot more now. When I used to play, in corners there was spitting, elbows, pulling of shirts, and a referee couldn’t see it. Now, VAR checks everything.

I don’t believe there’s too much to complain about. This is football and it’s what we want to see. Not bad tackles but we want to see football. I like it a little bit hard but always with no intention to damage the player – that’s a different story.

Time to move for Saul Niguez on loan?

If it’s a loan with an option to buy (and not a compulsion to buy) it’s a no-brainer, that’s the reality. If he does well – I believe he’s a world-class player and he’d do well – you can buy him, and if not you can just have him for the season.

In my opinion, I don’t think signing a new midfielder is a priority for [Jurgen] Klopp. We have Curtis [Jones], Harvey Elliott, [James] Milner, [Naby] Keita, [Jordan] Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; so you have six or seven players for three positions, so why would you sign a new No.8, even if he’s a better option than some of the players already available?

I believe he [Klopp] has a lot of trust in Elliott – as we saw when he started against Burnley – Curtis Jones is still there but we don’t see too much of him, Keita is there, Thiago is back and played for a bit the other day, Hendo is back, Fabinho will be back soon as well, so we have plenty of options.

Kostas to start v Chelsea?

He deserves to start. But it depends on how [Andy] Robertson has been training because he was already back on the bench in the last game, so he’s obviously fit. Now he’s going to train the full week to be ready for Chelsea.

If Robbo is fit, I think Klopp will put him back into the starting-XI straight away. Robbo is the kind of player where he doesn’t need one or two games to get fit – he just goes straight in and gives 100%.

I know it’s not fair for Kostas because he’s been performing very well. But if I was Klopp, if Robbo has been training the full week and is 100%, I would play Robbo, because he’s guaranteed to perform at the highest level.

The other day you had Klopp come out and say that Robbo was the complete fullback; going forward he’s amazing, defending he’s amazing. So, if he’s fit: he has to play.

Late transfer window activity & ideal signings

My wishlist would be a No.9 (or someone who can play like Jota) who can play in the front-three positions, a No.8 and a right-back to cover Trent [Alexander-Arnold]. But it’s definitely not going to happen. I hope I’m wrong! But I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Being realistic, and if we could only bring in one player, it would be to strengthen the cover for the front-three. I know we won’t go and spend £100m plus on Haaland or Mbappe but we can spend £40-50m, like we did with Jota, on a very good player who can push the front-three like Jota is doing.

With Mo Salah and Sadio Mane leaving in January for the AFCON, it’s something we definitely need.

Shaqiri’s exit to Lyon

I think it’s the right move for the club and the player. He’s not a starting player.

Ability wise he was fantastic and he’s a legend in the club for what he’s done over the last three seasons.

I always say this: if we want to improve the squad, you need players available when you need them the most.

Ability wise, he’s a great player but actually, you have someone like Harvey Elliott in the team available now; a really young player who you haven’t paid a penny for. I believe Harvey can fill his spot.

We need to improve the squad, that’s what every single big club is doing. The starting-XI is very difficult to improve but you need better players on the bench to compete – like we’re seeing with Kostas and Robbo; this will improve Robbo.

Make or break for Keita

Keita can be amazing in pre-season but then when he starts the campaign his level drops and he struggles with injury.

This season is make or break for him – he’s going to be a world-class player or we’ll need to sell him. All or nothing with Keita.

Robertson’s new long-term contract

It’s massive! I remember when I was playing for Liverpool, teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid used to come in for Liverpool’s best players, like Luis Suarez, and they used to leave the club because they thought they’d win more elsewhere.

Now we’re closer in stature to the kind of club we used to be in the 80s. We are a winning team. Players are thinking, “where am I going to go that I’m going to be happier or fighting for more trophies than here?”

That’s why they’re renewing their contracts. In Liverpool the fans are amazing, the club is amazing. They renew their contracts because they really believe they can win things with Liverpool like the club did in the past.

Now we need the likes of Henderson and Salah to renew their contracts. I think this will be the main business for the summer. Hopefully, I’m wrong and we sign someone for the front-three but maybe this is our transfer window.

Harvey Elliott’s future

If he keeps performing the way he is performing, I believe he can play anywhere, positionally speaking.

It depends in the transfer window if the club brings anyone else in.

For me, he has the ability to swap in for Salah if he needs a rest. Why couldn’t you play Harvey there?

He’s the player that has surprised me the most. I didn’t expect him to make such a big impact straight away. He’s adapted so well to the team and I think he’ll have a bigger role than what we expected at the start.

Lukaku vs Van Dijk

I believe he’ll be the best signing in the Premier League this year because I believe he’s grown a lot as a player.

Against Arsenal, their centre-backs looked like kids coming up against him. He actually holds the ball very well now, whereas he used to just try and run behind the defenders.

I believe he improved a lot under [Antonio] Conte. For me, as a No.9, he’s probably the best striker in the Premier League.

The problem we have: with our two centre-backs – with Matip I’m not worried – Van Dijk I know what people think (even at 70% he’s still one of the best centre-backs in the world) but I can see he’s still not 100%. You can see in his tackles and recoveries he’s still a world-class centre-back.

At 100% I believe he’s the only centre-back that can actually match [Romelu] Lukaku in terms of his strength and speed. But obviously, he’s not 100% yet. But you have to still put him straight into the team because even at 70% he’s still probably the best centre-back in the league.

With Matip and Van Dijk back I shouldn’t be worried, as you have two of the best centre-backs in the league. But at the same time, it’s Lukaku and he’s always dangerous.

I believe with our starting-XI we can play against anyone, so I’m not worried about Chelsea, Lukaku or anyone. But obviously, Lukaku is a very dangerous player and we have to see how we manage him.

Chelsea prediction and beyond…

For me, with the team we have right now, I believe we can fight for everything this year.

Against Chelsea, I believe it’s 50-50. But being back at Anfield with the fans back probably makes it closer to 60-40. I really believe we’re going to push Chelsea a lot and that we’ll win this game.

The only thing I’m doubting for the future with the team is the front-three when Salah and Mane leave in January for the AFCON. That’s my only doubt about the strength of the squad for the whole season.

For the rest, if we are lucky with injuries, I believe we can fight for everything this year. We have an amazing team.

I’m going to say 2-1 for us. I think Lukaku is going to score. It’s going to be difficult for them not to score.

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