at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Liverpool will not be able to re-enter the Champions League next season and even a top six finish will be difficult to accomplish, Reds legend Stephane Henchoz said Thursday.
Henchoz – who was at a press conference in Singapore announcing a tournament featuring Premier League greats of yesteryear – described Liverpool's performance this season as “disappointing”.
“I think if you look at the league, (two) points out of five games is really disappointing,” he told AFP, adding that their fixture schedule thus far featuring teams such as Manchester United and Arsenal had been “difficult”.
“I think for me, don't speak about top four finish ... I don't know which order but the top four will remain... (Manchester) United, (Manchester) City, Arsenal, Chelsea,” Henchoz – a former Swiss international – said.
“And then you've got teams, maybe Everton, Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool... it's another four teams competing for fifth to eighth. So top six is realistic, but I don't think it will be easy.”
Liverpool are currently third from bottom with two points out of five games played.
Henchoz, who was part of Liverpool's historic treble-winning team in 2001, said the players were experiencing a “transition season” where they were still getting used to new manager Brendan Rodgers' style of play.
Despite growing criticisms of Rodgers following Liverpool's slow start to the season, Henchoz said the manager – who joined in June this year – was “the man for the job”, adding that it was the players who needed to buck up.
“I would say, who is performing at his best at the moment? I don't think many players are performing at their best at the moment. I'm sure they can all improve,” Henchoz said, singling out Pepe Reina, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger as examples.
Liverpool's recent acquisitions also came under fire from Henchoz.
“Big mistakes had been made last season with the summer signings. You take Liverpool, spent over £100 million, which is a lot of money, out of the six of seven players they brought in, I think there is only (Luis) Suarez who is doing okay,” he lamented.
“The rest, you know for me, they are simply not good enough. (Jordan) Henderson, (Stewart) Downing, they don't have the Liverpool standard and it is as simple as that.
“So I think Brendan Rodgers won't be able to do miracles over a fortnight with the squad he's got.”
On the possibility of Asian defenders following in the footsteps of South Korean midfielder Park Ji Sung and Japan's Shinji Kagawa and making their debut in the league in the near future, Henchoz expressed doubt.
“I think Asian people, like I see it, very gifted, very mobile, very quick, but maybe not the strongest physically, not the tallest,” he said.
“The English Premier League, especially as a defender, requires people who are quite tall and quite strong so I don't think its the easiest league to adapt for an Asian player,” Henchoz added.
“I would think maybe (Asian players) would prefer maybe Italy, Spain where the game is more played on floor, not in the air as much, when the game is a little bit slower and less (of a) challenge, that would be, I would think, easier to adapt.” – AFP