David James: 'Even de Gea can't save Liverpool'
Former Reds goalkeeper James believes the club's defensive woes are down to confidence issues
Former Liverpool and England goalkeeper David James believes that the defensive problems at his former club run so deep that even signing a world-class goalkeeper would not fix them.
The 47-year-old, who played 277 games for the Reds from 1992 to 1999, was speaking to The New Paper in an interview at the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport hotel yesterday.
Current shot-stoppers Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have come in for heavy criticism for errors that have contributed to Liverpool's poor defensive record of 16 goals conceded in 10 games - the sixth-worst in the Premier League.
But James said: "Even if we take Manchester United's David de Gea, who is currently the best goalkeeper in the Premier League, and put him in the Liverpool goal, would that make their defence the best in the Premier League? No.
"Because he will still be exposed, like how Simon and Karius have been."
James himself is no stranger to criticism. When he was at Liverpool, he earned the nickname "Calamity James" for his frequent clangers.
But the 1.94m-tall James was also known for his reflexes and shot-stopping ability, which earned him 53 caps for England.
He held the Premier League record for most clean sheets (169), until Arsenal custodian Petr Cech surpassed him in 2015. Cech has since extended the record to 194.
James, who also played for Watford, Portsmouth, Aston Villa, West Ham and Manchester City, believes two issues contribute to Liverpool's defensive woes.
One is a lack of confidence at the back.
Said the affable James: "When people start shooting and scoring (frequently), you've got to be either incredibly strong or incredibly stupid not to start thinking: I'm going to start conceding goals.
"Mistakes happen, that's the reality of things. It's about how you deal with them."
Another issue, said James, is his belief that the "environment" within Liverpool is not conducive to improving goalkeepers.
"Unless you buy someone who is old and experienced, generally you buy a player hoping he will improve, and that in turn will improve the team," he said.
"Simon was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League when Liverpool signed him, and Karius was one of the highest-rated in the German Bundesliga.
"But I don't see such improvements in either of them since they've joined.
"So, possibly, environmentally (at the club), there is an issue there. You solve that, you get better goalkeepers."
James also risked the ire of Liverpool fans by picking arch-rivals Manchester United as the most likely English side to win the Champions League, despite Tottenham Hotspur beating holders Real Madrid and Manchester City downing Serie A leaders Napoli in midweek.
He said: "People are saying at the moment United are only scraping through 1-0 or 2-0, but in reality, they've scraped through three points each time.
"And they are doing it now, when they're not playing particularly well. We all know Manchester United are capable of much more.
"So, for example, you have Paris Saint-Germain as the most exciting team right now, with Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in their attack.
"But you could imagine if they came up against Jose Mourinho's team, that they might struggle and get frustrated."
James and fellow former Liverpool players Jari Litmanen and Phil Babb, as well as ex-Arsenal stalwarts Robert Pires and Nigel Winterburn, were transiting in Singapore.
They left for Indonesia yesterday for tomorrow's Balikpapan Masters Cup, but will be back in Singapore for the Battle of the Masters tournament at the National Stadium next Saturday.
Prices for single tickets start at $20, and family packages (two adults and two children below the age of 12) are available from $88. American Express card members are entitled to a 20 per cent discount.