x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Liverpool will rue letting Anelka go

My former Liverpool teammate Sammy Lee once told me Nicolas Anelka had everything as a striker and could do anything he wanted

My former Liverpool teammate Sammy Lee once told me Nicolas Anelka had everything as a striker and could do anything he wanted. He worked with him at Bolton and when you see someone in training every day, that's when you really know how good they are. I know not everyone will agree, but I am with Sammy on this one. For me, Anelka is a world-class striker, and it's fair to put him up there with, say, Fernando Torres.

He has proved he can score goals everywhere, in the top leagues and with top teams, with either foot and his head. He is an all-round player, but doesn't always get the plaudits he deserves because maybe he has not achieved as much as he could have since leaving Arsenal, and gained a bad reputation because of his attitude. Anelka can be a bit sulky and seem disinterested when things are not going his way, but maybe he's that way because he cares, he wants to play all the time and he wants to succeed. Should players be happy to be left out or taken off in a game?

I believe he's a special talent. It didn't work out for him at Liverpool after his loan spell in 2002 and that was a shame because I think he would have done well had he signed permanently. He could have been wearing Liverpool red today instead of Chelsea blue. Before Torres came, what Liverpool lacked was someone with pace and a direct approach up front. Anelka has that raw speed and power as well as experience, but just seems to have lacked consistency, and maybe that support and reassurance from his managers. Phil Scolari seems to have pressed the right buttons at Chelsea and got him playing really well again.

He's not just scoring goals, but making them too and being a key asset for the team. Anelka will be desperate to do well against Liverpool, given that it is his former club, and I would stick with him at the moment even if Didier Drogba is fit because you want to keep him at this high level. Chelsea will be favourites today, as they are for the title, and rightly so because they have such a strong and talented squad and doing exactly what they have to.

Scolari has made them entertaining, winning 5-0 at Middlesbrough one week, but they can also play ugly, as in the 1-0 victory against Roma in the Champions League. To be a successful team, you have to be able to do that, to peak against any team, to fight or play with flair when you have to.Half of the team who beat Boro are not even the first choice so it shows how strong their squad are and Liverpool's own fringe players will have to step up too if they are to match them this season.

The Reds will do well to get a point at Stamford Bridge. Despite the results they are still not playing at their best, but if they can stay unbeaten and joint top of the league, it will be great for their confidence. I also think they step up a gear in the big games, like they showed against Manchester United and at City, when they came from behind to win. They can't afford to let Chelsea have that kind of a start and without Torres it will be even harder for them. Dirk Kuyt can lead the line though and he is very much an unsung hero for the Reds.

I think it will be a tight game, but settled by the strikers. Anelka is the one who could well make the difference. @Email:sports@thenational.ae