Danny Murphy says Liverpool’s defending is the biggest concern and believes keeper Simon Mignolet “spreads nervousness” in the back four.
The Reds were beaten 3-1 by Manchester United at the weekend and but for a brilliant strike from Christian Benteke they offered very little threat to David de Gea’s goal, which boss Brendan Rodgers has been heavily criticised for since. But former Liverpool midfielder Murphy says the return of Philippe Coutinho will help put that problem correct.
Murphy instead points to a lack of defensive concentration to be his biggest concern and has doubted the ability of Mignolet – a £9million signing from Sunderland two years ago.
Murphy told the BBC: “It is actually defensively where I have more concerns about this Liverpool team, because that is where they could come unstuck. It was only down to a loss of concentration that Liverpool went a goal down at Old Trafford, but I would still describe it as a terrible goal to concede.
“It was such an easy thing to spot, I think everyone could see what was going on when the United players charged into the box for the free-kick and left Daley Blind in space, but no-one took responsibility out there on the pitch.
“Ultimately I think it is whether they can defend well enough for long enough to compete that will decide whether they will get into the top four. I am still not convinced by Simon Mignolet in goal, and I think he spreads nervousness around the back four.
“At centre-half, Dejan Lovren started the season reasonably well but has looked shaky again in the last couple of games, which will be a worry for Brendan. And of course in front of them in the midfield area you are looking for someone to help your defenders out a little bit.
“On Saturday, Lucas Leiva played that role but for me he is probably past his best. If Lucas is playing then it is important to have Jordan Henderson in the team for his athleticism and his ability to break up play, but he was injured. I do not know how far Henderson is off returning, but Liverpool will be much stronger when he does.
“Then they could have a midfield three of James Milner, Henderson and Emre Can, who are all very solid and have good legs.”
Murphy does not share the concerns of Jamie Carragher and Graeme Souness, who both criticised Rodgers for their lack of attacking threat at Old Trafford.
“Liverpool’s approach in their defeat by Manchester United on Saturday has been criticised because of their lack of attacking threat.
“Whether you call it a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation, there were question marks over the tactics that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers went with at Old Trafford because they left Christian Benteke so isolated up front.
“It is easy to say in hindsight that they should have tried something different, but I would suggest that being without the suspended Philippe Coutinho was the biggest reason they offered so little going forward.
“You cannot keep making excuses for Liverpool, and some people might respond by saying they just have to be able to adapt when some players are unavailable, no matter who they are. The fans want to see results now, but there are a few reasons why I don’t think it is time to panic – it is extremely early days for a start.
“This is a big season for Liverpool and for Rodgers and you certainly cannot judge this team and their prospects of making the top four after only five games, because they have got plenty of time to improve.
“I actually feel positive about how Liverpool look in terms of going forward and creating chances, something which was a huge problem for them last season. They only scored 52 goals in 38 Premier League games, compared to 101 in 2013-14.
“When I look at all the attacking players that Rodgers has now got, I think that come the end of the season their goals tally will be fine.”
“Creativity was an issue at Old Trafford, but Coutinho’s absence was a big factor because when he is in the side, they always look a threat.
“You could say the fact they missed him so badly means there is a problem with a lack of depth in the squad, but some players are just so good they cannot be easily replaced.”