Collymore’s column: Guardiola isn’t a genius, Rice’s move to Arsenal shows no ambition, question marks over De Bruyne and Mac Allister is just what Liverpool need

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In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Liverpool attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including Declan Rice’s potential move to Arsenal, why Pep Guardiola isn’t a genius, the question marks hanging over Kevin De Bruyne, plus much more.

Declan Rice is playing it safe if he moves to Arsenal and needs a bigger test of his character

Declan Rice needs to go somewhere where he’s going to get the opportunity to be tested, put under pressure regularly both mentally and physically. Where he gets the opportunity to grow under a progressive coach. I know that the suggestion has been Arsenal but I think Man United is a better option. Why? Bigger football club, bigger expectations and I think they’ve been crying out for a dominant midfield force for some years now. 

No disrespect whatsoever to Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard or Xhaka who are a very good midfield – and you could imagine that it’ll be Xhaka’s place that he’ll be taking because alongside Odegaard and Partey, Rice would be absolutely fantastic – but I think if he’s looking at the slightly longer term, whether it be Jim Ratcliffe or whomever, Man United are going to have more money to spend and for longer. They’ll have more money to spend on better players to put around him, and although the options are quite poor at the moment with Fred, McTominay and an ageing Christian Eriksen, if he thinks about the next two, three, four years, from my perspective, that’s Declan’s best option for a longer period.

I’m not even convinced that Arsenal will finish in the Champions League positions over the next three, four, five years because Man United, Man City and Newcastle are going nowhere, Liverpool with potential investment are going nowhere and Todd Boely and Chelsea are going nowhere. If all of those clubs get it right, and that’s without Spurs, Villa or Brighton who are progressive clubs underneath them, then I think that Arsenal would do very very well to be able to compete in that kind of rarefied air.

Arsenal are a big football club, but they’ve never won the Champions League and it’s a trophy that they’ve only been in one final of. Maybe he (Rice) genuinely believes Arsenal can win the Premier League and get to a Champions League final. I believe that Arsenal’s chances of winning the Premier League in the next five years are slim to none but Man United’s chances of winning the Premier League in the next five years are 20, 30, 40%. If Man United get the inward investment from Sheikh Jassim, there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t spend huge amounts of money. They’ve won three Champions Leagues and they know that competition well. He was at Chelsea as a youngster, he’s been at West Ham as a pro and now the common consensus is he’s going to join Arsenal, so you do have to ask the question ‘is he a bit of a homeboy?’ If he wanted to go out of his comfort zone, I’d say go and test yourself. The test of Man United and the pressure that it brings being at one of the biggest clubs in the world, maybe the second biggest after Real Madrid, means that from my perspective I think Rice is playing it a little bit safe and he might regret that three or four years down the line.

Pep Guardiola isn’t a genius, just a risk taker and there are huge question marks over Kevin De Bruyne

I don’t think Pep Guardiola needs to revolutionise Man City, he just has to add one or two names to the dressing room to freshen things up and remind everybody that they are a constantly evolving success story. They don’t need any forwards, though that may depend on what Riyad Mahrez decides. Even if he goes, City have Rico Lewis and Cole Palmer that could slot in there on the right. Central midfield… I honestly think there are big question marks over Kevin De Bruyne. I think in the very, very biggest games for Belgium he hasn’t turned up and in the two biggest games for Man City, the Champions League finals, he’s got injured. If you believe what you read he’s City’s highest earner, yes he creates lots of chances, yes he is the main man domestically, but I do wonder if in a year’s time the club will look beyond De Bruyne.

John Stones as a central defender/midfielder has been exceptional. He was my favourite player by far in the Champions League final, I think he made really good runs forward and wanted to always get on the ball. In terms of defenders, they might like to get one more dominant central defender that can add real stability. If we’re being really greedy, perhaps City could have a centre-back, another midfielder if Ilkay Gundogan is going to move on, and then that creative type of midfielder that will set up loads of chances for the likes of Julian Alvarez and Erling Haaland. 

I think Guardiola is an excellent coach but I think he would be the first to admit that the vast majority of his ideas and playing flexibility, playing players out of position, trying them in different positions… it’s just Ajax from the 1970s, the Ajax of Johan Cruyff and Neeskens, when players took up and learned new positions. All that Pep Guardiola has done is use the Ajax philosophy which had a direct imprint on Cruyff’s Barcelona and that’s manifested itself at Man City. So I don’t think he’s a genius. If he was, he would’ve seen John Stones in that hybrid role six years ago when he was defending his player to the hilt after consistent mistakes from him. So, it’s taken six years for Guardiola’s ‘genius’ to come to the fore. It’s come about as a result of players being injured, Pep knowing that he has a central defender who can graft but is also a decent ball player and thinking ‘I’ll give him an opportunity there.’ Pep is prepared to try things. If you’re an 18-year-old disciple of Pep and your footballing paradigm is shaped by the Busquets and Xavi team, and you’ve blaugrana rose tinted glasses on, you’re always going to think that every decision that Pep makes is a genius move. What I would say is if he is the genius people think he is, why didn’t he think of putting John Stones in that hybrid role six years ago? I give Pep credit for taking risks because a lot of the time in sport you have to. Owners like to employ managers who play it safe. There aren’t many innovators in the game but where Pep rightly gets the plaudits is for taking risks. It’s not innovation, there are no Pep innovations. It’s the risk to get the reward, and that’s where the quality of Guardiola is evident.   

Mac Allister is a super player but Liverpool fans must get used to the club doing business this way

I don’t think Liverpool have any option to do their transfer business in any other way than they are at the moment. FSG are a sporting business, it’s not an extremely wealthy individual that can throw money at it like confetti. They’re a sporting business that also have investment elsewhere and they’re in it to make money. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Some unfair criticism has been directed at FSG over why they don’t they just open the purse strings, but as I’ve said, it’s because they are a business. Fans will be looking at Man United and thinking about the money they’ll have with Sheikh Jassim, Boehly at Chelsea and Newcastle with the Saudis, and then saying how on earth can the most successful team in England in terms of trophies won compete in that market. The answer is Liverpool will have to accept a minority stake in the club, let’s say a Jim Ratcliffe type figure or a Sheikh or a sovereign wealth fund. But FSG are not in it to make profits, they’re in it to be able to sell their business. Liverpool fans have to get used to the fact over the next five years, that if FSG don’t sell the club in its entirety the club are going to have to continue to do business in this way.

Liverpool would’ve been very aware of Alexis Mac Allister before the World Cup. They would’ve been aware of his sell on fee, and said ‘he’s on a list of five or six in that position, how will he fare in a World Cup?’ Of course he thrived and was one of Argentina’s best. In terms of players, Liverpool are having to look around the £30m-£50m price mark, of which there are a lot of players there, but they’re looking at £35m players who can become £70m, £80m, £90m players.

So it’s buying a player that’s tailor made for the football club and the football team, that also can make themselves – with the help of the club and a great coach in Jurgen Klopp – a £90m-£100m player, and that’s really difficult. People get really excited that Man City only triggered Haaland’s release clause at £65m, but if you look at underneath and what they’re having to pay in wages, it’s astronomical. There’s a reason why Kevin De Bruyne signed a new deal, but there’s no real details around that deal. No one knows how much he earns but it’s thought to be significant. Rumours are that with all of his bonuses and add-ons taken into account, he’s on about £900k/£1m a week. Liverpool can’t get anywhere near that. They on a par with Brighton (and you look at what they’ve done with Mitoma), Brentford’s recruitment department have always recruited very well, but there’s going to be a cross roads for Liverpool where they have to keep pulling rabbits out of the hat like Mane and Salah and still compete in the top four. I think that’s going to be almost impossible, so enjoy the recruitment that Liverpool have now because it’s more ethical than throwing money at players. Unfortunately, like Man United are finding out, Liverpool will have to get to a point where they have a minority owner or sell to a sovereign wealth fund. I hope it doesn’t happen, because I do believe that not overspending should be a massive part of the game. Mac Allister is a super player, just the kind Liverpool need though they need a couple more – Caicedo or Villa’s Bouboucar Camara. 

Harry Kane could stay for another year at Spurs but Maguire would be better moving to Aston Villa

I like Ange Postecoglou and he’s a coach that’s the most like Poch. Conte and Mourinho were more artisans. I’m not surprised Daniel Levy has gone for him, because there is a ‘Spurs way.’ Since they won the double back in 1961 fans expect them to play pass and move football. Look at the exciting team of the 80s with Glenn Hoddle in it, so I get it, and Ange will be a step back to a team that’s creating chances and creating goals so Harry Kane may well decide he stays on for another year. Let’s be honest though, if he’s looking at Jack Grealish who’s won four or five trophies in two years, and he can be a central part of a team – and I don’t care if that’s Real Madrid or Bayern Munich – I think Kane’s earned his move. A move would freshen him up and to use a well worn cliche, see him ‘go again.’ I think it’s time he goes. No Spurs fans would begrudge him that.

I’m not so sure about Maguire and Spurs. I think that they do need central defenders, Maguire has the name recognition and is a very good defender. He needs a fresh start and needs to leave Man United because he’s tainted goods there. Maybe Ange Postecoglou is the man in terms of his character to get into his head. It’s been mooted that Villa are interested and I think that would be a slightly better move for Maguire. Unai Emery is a bit more of an experienced coach at the top level. I think Villa need a central defender every bit as much as Spurs. If Ange doesn’t start well, the toxicity around the club would be the last thing that Maguire would need, and at Villa there’s the feel good factor at the moment. He can help in the Conference League and Villa is a progressive, upwardly mobile, happy place. If worst cast scenario happens, he will go from Man United where he’s been seen as root cause of all the playing problems to Tottenham where if it doesn’t happen in the first 12 games for Postecoglou, there’ll be the ENIC out/Levy out brigade. I just think Villa will be better for him as a player and a human being.

More Stories Alexis Mac Allister Declan Rice Granit Xhaka Harry Kane Harry Maguire John Stones Jurgen Klopp Kevin De Bruyne Martin Odegaard Pep Guardiola Stan Collymore Thomas Partey


  1. With all due respect to Stan Collymore(who was a great servant of BOTH Liverpool n EPL(as a player) whilst playing therein). Believe Rice is in the right place considering;
    i) the brand of football being played by Arsenal is exciting(if not daring) with its achellis heel being the depth(plus defending) which when addressed(and not just numbers, BUT the quality), WILL result in Arsenal being more than a force to reckon with.
    ii) Arsenal(Arteta,Edu, Gardlick(hope i got the name right), n the Kroenke’s) are deliberately building(n not cobbling) with the age n profile(including attitude) being the determinants(thereby ensuring not only longevity BUT also the requisite collective attitude too).
    iii) the progress from “was to is” exists for all to see/acknowledge, which is resultant of a unity of purpose/direction.
    iv)The club(Arteta, Edu et al) having done a MORE THAN commendable job in the number of years that Arteta has been at the helm WILL attract young players who are desirous of building something(coupled with the risk that comes with removing themselves from their comfort zones plus testing themselves anew(effort n idea/philosophy too), with the confidence that the Kroenke’s(now they seem to have morphed into a vehicle that is determined to transform Arsenal from its slumber to its FULL potential) will invest their financial muscle n experience to model Arsenal into a sustainable long term force(akin to their other Sports investments, latest being the Denver Nuggets amongst MANY that span different genres of team sports).
    Anyway, i don’t know much(am not an expert, neither have i the experience), BUT am convinced that “the process” evidenced by the results points to a vibrant/growing future for Arsenal and can only get brighter(that is IF the Kroenke’s stick to the script and keep pro-actively investing in the team(and club by extension) thereby making it more attractive(not only to the emerging/established talent, BUT to fans/investors/sponsors too) to identify with. That’s my two cents.

  2. Collymore talking total crap again, AFC have a better team than MU table doesn’t lie. We need to add world class in core areas to go to the next level, do well in champions not just get out of group in wengers latter yrs !.Also, he will join the most decorated club in London.

  3. Collimore and his emotional outburst is total shame!!!
    Rice knows how Arsenal has evolved and old Collymore is aware but the hate is very open. Pundits ought to show some minimum objectivity in their comments.

  4. This is just hate coming from him. He can’t stand that Arsenal are improving and would prefer to see Arsenal in downwards spiral so he get clicks here and there

  5. ‘…because Man United, Man City and Newcastle are going nowhere, Liverpool with potential investment are going nowhere and Todd Boely and Chelsea are going nowhere.’


  6. ‘…because Man United, Man City and Newcastle are going nowhere, Liverpool with potential investment are going nowhere and Todd Boely and Chelsea are going nowhere.’

    True! That makes Arsenal the only one making progress, going somewhere!

    Very dumb Mr. Collimore!

  7. Whatever Stan’s smoking I don’t want it and please stay away from it.

    I feel so stupid reading all the way to the end

  8. Liverpool fan writing rubbish about Arsenal. Completely delusional and lack the ability analyze football. Arsenal with the players they have at the moment are ahead of Man United. Investing money is not a guarantee for success because Man United invested almost 300m Euros above what Man City invested yet they finished 3rd behind Arsenal. Declan Rice is better of at Arsenal than Man United.

  9. Pep and Johnny Stones have been working on John’s hybrid role for the 6 years you refer to Stan. It didn’t work when first tried in matches, but it’s clearly been worked on in the background until perfected, which is when City-shy pundits the season just finished have finally taken notice.

    For Pep himself, I have never heard him refer to himself as a genius, but have heard him reference his mentor Johan Cruyff a number of times, it is no secret as to where his footballing philosophy came from, but to constantly evolve and continuously perfect its delivery in the hardest league in the world, and now at last fully successfully in the Champions League too is footballing genius in my book.

  10. I think its harder and harder to be a ‘top 4’ club these days. City have become a baked-on 1st or 2nd, and then you have Liverpool, Chelsea, ManU, Arsenal, Spurs regularly up there, scrapping for the other three CL slots, and now Newcastle with the funds to get there and stay there.

    The key is consistency. Liverpool and Chelsea have had rotten seasons, Arsenal and Newcastle have had great seasons. Who knows whether either of those will continue?

  11. This dude should stop smoking whatever he’s taking. His delusional and you can clearly see that he’s a hater.

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