Liverpool squad strong enough for another title tilt, say former Reds Michael Owen and Steve McManaman

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the Champions League Final against Tottenham, on June 1, 2019.
Liverpool's Jordan Henderson celebrates with the trophy and teammates after winning the Champions League Final against Tottenham, on June 1, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - In Jurgen Klopp they trust, and so former Liverpool stars Michael Owen and Steve McManaman are confident the Reds will beat Arsenal 3-1 in Saturday's (Aug 24) top-of-the-table clash at Anfield.

Owen, however, warned of the quality in the current Gunners side.

Calling Unai Emery's men "probably the best Arsenal team for a number of years", the former England striker told The Straits Times: "I haven't been very complimentary about Arsenal over the years but... now I look at them and I see a big improvement.

"They probably did better business than anybody else in the Premier League over the summer with their transfers.

"They've addressed their defence by signing two defenders in David Luiz (£8 million, S$13.5m, from Chelsea) and Keiran Tierney (£27 million from Celtic), and all of a sudden they look a much stronger team. So they're going to be a big test for Liverpool."

Arsenal also broke their club record to sign Lille forward Nicolas Pepe for £72 million to bolster an attack already comprising last season's Premier League joint top-scorer, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored 22 league goals, and Alexandre Lacazette, who scored 13.

The Londoners also signed Spain playmaker Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid.

McManaman, 47, however, was less impressed: "Arsenal have got goals and are good going forward at the moment... (but) I don't think Arsenal's defence is good enough for them to win the league."

He and Owen, both former Madrid stars, were in Singapore for the partnership signing ceremony between the Spanish La Liga and licensed crypto token exchange brand GCOX on Tuesday (Aug 20).

While Liverpool's main rivals have all strengthened their squads with big-money signings, Klopp only added back-up goalkeepers Adrian and Andy Lonergan on free transfers, and teenagers Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliot at minimal cost.

McManaman said the approach was prudent given the club had spent £160 million the previous season, and £150 million the year before, to address deficiencies in the squad.

But he added: "The big question is whether they can keep (main three forwards) Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane, who all had big, hard, summers in the Copa America and the African Cup of Nations, fit.

"If they can keep them fit, they'll be fine. If two of them get bad injuries, they'll have problems."

The Reds finished runners-up and one point behind champions Manchester City last season.

Owen, 37, also pointed to the return of players like Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - both missed significant parts of last season with injuries - and a stronger push by fringe players like Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri, as proof of depth in Liverpool's squad.

"I think over the summer nobody really expected Klopp would buy anybody to come into the first XI," said Owen.

"He's got Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gomez back... and other players like Keita who will look to improve from his first season and contribute much more."

"So there's certain angles where you can expect a little bit of improvement from Liverpool."