Heskey: Disappointing if Reds finish outside top four
Former Liverpool striker believes qualifying for the Champions League is still in the club's hands
The goalless draw in the Manchester Derby yesterday morning (Singapore time) saw Liverpool cling on to third place in the EPL table, but only just.
Given how Juergen Klopp's men went from challenging for the league title to struggling to hold on to a top-four spot, missing out on a Champions League place will not go down well with the Anfield faithful.
Both Manchester teams will overtake the Reds if they win their games in hand.
Former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey, however, reminded everyone that the Reds are still a work in progress.
"I won't say (finishing outside of the top four is a) failure, but I'll say it will be a disappointment," said Heskey.
"It's still a progression. You're still seeing strides forward, they still have a long way to go."
Heskey was speaking yesterday at a promotional event for the Junior Soccer School and League (JSSL) Singapore International 7s tournament, which kicks off today at the Padang and ends on Monday.
The draw between Man City and United, though, was a good result for Liverpool, the 39-year-old opined.
He said: "After the game last night, yes, it's a possibility (to qualify for the Champions League).
"But, they really have to push forward, it was a disappointing result against Crystal Palace."
He was referring to Liverpool's 2-1 home loss to 12th-placed Crystal Palace last Sunday.
The defeat reinforced a belief that the team lack the mental strength to finish lesser teams off.
On top of that, Klopp is also under fire for failing to address the defensive problems that have plagued the Anfield outfit this season.
The 42 Premiership goals they have conceded is the worst defensive record among the top seven sides, and almost twice the number of goals Tottenham Hotspur (22) have let in this season.
Heskey agreed that quality reinforcements are needed in defence, where he feels right backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Nathaniel Clyne have been the only two stand-out performers.
He said: "Defensively, we weren't as sound as we possibly could have been and I think that's something Klopp will probably be looking to address next season.
"Injuries didn't help. There was also a lack of form sometimes, with some players."
Pinpointing the central defence as the "trouble area", he picked out the left-back position, currently occupied by midfielder James Milner, as the next "area that needs to be addressed".
Said Heskey: "I've played with (Milner) at Aston Villa and in the national team - he has done fantastic, and he's a great professional.
"But, at the end of the day, you definitely need a left back and (Milner) isn't one."
The ex-England striker also does not think that Liverpool should adopt the three-man central defence system that has served Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and more recently, Arsenal, well.
Said Heskey, who made his Premier League debut for Leicester City in 1994 and spent six years there: "When I was at Leicester, we played with three big lads at the back.
"If there are players that understand it and can play there, I don't see why it shouldn't work.
"The important thing with that is to have wingbacks who can cover the ground, because it's a lot of work for them.
"Are (Liverpool) suited for that kind of play? No, not really.
"I think the 4-3-3 works well for them."
But Heskey doesn't think Klopp is to blame for not strengthening the defence.
He said: "It's not as straightforward as saying, 'We want that player - we're going to get him'.
"(It's about) identifying the right player for your squad.
"That's one thing I see with Klopp is that he thinks about squad dynamics."
What they lack in defence, however, they make up for at the other end of the pitch. The Reds are the Premier League's top-scorers with 70 goals.
Heskey believes that Liverpool's top-four chances will rest on the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi.
He said: "I think the current forward line is very equipped to have a real fight.
"They've still got it in them to finish in the top four. It's still in their own hands."