Paul Merson insists Liverpool have no chance of winning the Premier League title if James Milner and Nat Phillips continue to start games.
The duo were given the nod in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. And, while Phillips did not feature in the opening 2-2 draw against Fulham, Milner played the final 30 minutes at Craven Cottage. The former Manchester City midfielder has started the majority of top-flight games on the bench in the past three seasons.
And Phillips spent the second half of last season on loan with Bournemouth in the Championship. However, Jurgen Klopp has a depleted squad to select from due to injuries.
Diogo Jota, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Thiago Alcantara, Ibrahima Konate, Curtis Jones, Calvin Ramsay and Caoimhin Kelleher are all sidelined. Darwin Nunez’s red card against the Eagles means the Uruguay international is also unavailable.
Klopp has had to tap into his fringe players, with the English pair enjoying a rare start last time out.
The Reds needed a second-half equaliser from Luis Diaz to rescue a point against Palace. And former Arsenal and England forward Merson feels the Anfield giants will continue to struggle if things do not change.
“At the moment, Liverpool have a lot of problems and they don’t seem to be good enough, I’m sorry,” he wrote on Sportskeeda. “You aren’t going to win the Premier League with Nat Phillips and James Milner starting games.
“I have loads of respect for Milner. But at this stage of his career, he should only play when Liverpool want to see off games.
“There’s no way he should be starting games week in and week out.”
Milner ticks all boxes for Klopp
Milner will be 37 in January and has already reached an age when many top footballers have called time on their careers.
But he inked a one-year extension to his Liverpool deal in June this year. Despite playing a limited role in recent times, Klopp has continually praised the former England star.
Much has been made of the former Leeds star’s attitude and leadership qualities away from the action. However, the former Borussia Dortmund boss believes his skills as a player are just as important as his dressing room contribution.
Whether he is offered another 12 months in the summer of 2023 is open to debate but he remains an integral part of the Liverpool machine.
Next up for the FA Cup and EFL Cup champions is a trip to Old Trafford to face old rivals Manchester United on Monday night.
The Red Devils’ problems have been well highlighted and Erik ten Hag’s men are likely to begin the contest rooted to the foot of the table.
It may well be a good time to face United but the Merseysiders will be without several key players. However, Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino should be back to boost their hopes.
Whether Milner and Phillips get a run-out only time will tell. But Merson clearly feels it will only serve to hurt their chances of overhauling City.