The Assist

Jason McAteer: The former Liverpool star discusses the big Premier League issues

Jurgen Klopp personifies the Scouse soul of Anfield

Jurgen Klopp speaks to his Liverpool team
Jurgen Klopp speaks to his Liverpool teamCredit: Paul Childs

It has been a great couple of weeks to reflect on Liverpool's Premier League win and the role Jurgen Klopp has played in the first title since 1990.

The manager has talked about wanting the team to have a 'Scouse soul' and I think he has already achieved that. It's been key to the club's success.

The local element has been there for years. I was from across the Mersey but there were players such as Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler and then you go on to Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.

It was a school of excellence rather than an academy in those days but now the policy of developing young players from about ten years of age is bearing fruit.

In these difficult times that's essential. Take Neco Williams for example.

He came in to play at Brighton this week and the next thing for him is to push for more regular appearances. But his development into a valuable back-up for Andy Robertson at left-back could save the club £30m.

Klopp has brilliantly embraced the culture at the club. Look at the FA Cup games against Everton and Shrewsbury when thousands of fans turned out to see the young players.

In the city, it is almost as if people live their dreams through the young players who get to represent the club. They invest emotionally in them and that is a legacy that stretches right back to the 1950s and 60s.

And that adulation is present if you are three years old or 65. It's the way things are and Klopp embraces that superbly.

He has pictures of Bill Shankly in his office but they are not just there for show. What the manager does sets the tone for everything and every player who comes into the club has to embrace it.

That shouldn't be difficult. You would have to be brought up on the moon if you don't know what Liverpool are all about and it seems that everyone is on board with that.

It is a delicate balance because the world around football has changed so much. The club is such a global commodity now and followed all over the world, but I think that helps when it comes to foreign players walking through the gates.

But a player's character is just as important to the club when it comes to the recruitment process so no stone is left unturned before they sign their contract.

And that means there don't tend to be any problems, which has bred the success we are now seeing.

You don't have to come from Liverpool to be a Liverpool fan and the foreign lads know they have to embrace it if they are going to be a success.

I think they all have and that's why things have been going so well. Also, Klopp's apparent policy of not signing superstars and concentrating on players he can improve fits into this.

Liverpool have been linked with a move for Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly, along with plenty of others, and with Dejan Lovren leaving people have obviously put two and two together.

But that might be a bit harsh on Joe Gomez, who I think has worked well with Virgil van Dijk and has done nothing wrong, so we will have to see.

Liverpool will always be linked with big-name players but it is not just about what you do on the pitch.

There are other considerations to make and how you fit in with the club and the way things are done at Anfield. And Klopp has embraced this completely.

It's about the team, not the individual.

Roberto Firmino is a good example. People may be concerned that he hasn't scored a league goal at Anfield for more than a year, but I'm not worried.

You need all the ingredients to make a great cake and his movement is incredible. He creates so much for Mo Salah and Sadio Mane and sacrifices his own scoring output.

He's not really a centre forward. He links everything and is a massive piece of the jigsaw. You can really appreciate what he does if you just concentrate on what he is doing.

It's about all the ingredients working together. That's why Liverpool have been so successful over the last couple of years.

Bruno Fernandes has made all the difference

Manchester United were in disarray not long ago.

There seemed to be a lack of characters in the dressing room but the lockdown now looks to have provided them with a welcome break and they have benefited from some work on the training ground.

They have started back well and Bruno Fernandes has been brilliant.

I saw him play against Liverpool for Sporting Lisbon in the summer in America and he was brilliant. I was hoping Liverpool would sign him and he's been a huge influence.

He has made Paul Pogba look a better player and you can tell the younger members of the team have been given more confidence. They know that they have a player who is capable of finding them when they are in good positions.

Their defence is still a concern and I think they are prone to sulking if they go a goal behind but they are lying in wait for Leicester to continue slipping up and they look ready to pounce.

And much of their rejuvenation is down to their Portuguese midfielder.

Move to Man City would suit Jack Grealish

Aston Villa are in big trouble and it is inevitable that there will be plenty of talk about where Jack Grealish will be playing next season.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United are giving young players an opportunity these days but while he might fit into that approach, it is difficult to see where he would feature within the team.

I can't see him going to Liverpool, but the perfect club for him would be Manchester City.

David Silva is leaving in the next few weeks and we could be about to see a rebuilding job at the Etihad. It would seem the perfect time for Grealish to make a move there.

It would be a great environment for Jack and I'm sure Pep Guardiola would bring out the best in him.

A move to the blue half of Manchester ticks all the boxes and would suit both parties.

Water breaks are a waste of time

I can see the idea of five substitutes staying, particularly if it gives younger players the opportunity to be involved, but the drinks breaks have got to go.

The only thing that should dictate whether you have a water break is the weather and it just hasn't been necessary in the recent conditions.

They have turned into tactics meetings and it affects the tempo of the game too much.

I remember we had the World Cup game against Mexico in America in 1994 when Jack Charlton demanded we had breaks but it was over 100 degrees.

It got really dangerous. Tommy Coyne was required for a drugs test and had to drink loads of water to complete it.

Then he was really ill on the plane shortly afterwards. His brain swelled and we had to decrease altitude or it could have been really bad.

But the weather has been nothing like that, and how long is it going to be before these become advert breaks?

It's all too Americanised for me, and we have to get back to normal as quickly as we can.

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Jason McAteer
Published on 9 July 2020Last updated 15:32, 9 July 2020