- Premier League
Clarke: Reds playing best football in the league
West Bromwich Albion head coach Steve Clarke believes the signings made by Liverpool while he was at the club are finally starting to come good that the Reds are now playing the best football in the country.
Clarke, who takes his West Brom side to Anfield on Monday, will be making his first return to the club since he and Kenny Dalglish departed last summer following an 18-month spell.
Under the duo, Liverpool made a number of signings, such as Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique, who are now really starting to shine under current manager Brendan Rodgers.
"I'm not surprised now that some of the younger players are starting to flourish, or some of the more experienced ones that Kenny signed," Clarke said. "It can take a period of time for people to settle into a club the size of Liverpool.
"For Stewart Downing to be in the team and Jordan Henderson, as well as Jose Enrique, and doing really well, is good. Luis Suarez has really settled into the club now and, if you look at it at this stage, Liverpool are probably playing the best football in the Premier League.''
Clarke can now see Rodgers having the desired effect on his players, too, after also needing some time to bed in at the club.
"I don't think there's anybody in football now who thinks you just turn up at a club and create a good team just because they're a great, historical club," he said. "You have to work at it. Every club in the league has to work hard to try to put a good team on the pitch and you have to work as hard as you can with your players.
"Brendan went in there with a different philosophy to Kenny but Liverpool have always tried to play good football. Brendan has slightly different ideas that maybe took a little bit of time to get across. But you can see now that the team is starting to gel and maybe starting to play the way Brendan wants them to play.
"They had a difficult start but they have picked up and are doing really well and it's going to be a tough night for us. But hopefully West Brom can get the same result as they did last year at Anfield (a 1-0 win).''
Meanwhile, Rodgers feels Liverpool's latest signing, Philippe Coutinho, may also need some time to settle in at the club after signing from Inter Milan for £8.5 million last month.
As opposed to fellow new signing Daniel Sturridge - who was drafted straight into the starting line-up after his move from Chelsea - the Reds boss is keen not to rush the young midfielder into action too quickly. However, Rodgers does believe that when he is ready he will make a significant contribution to the side.
"He's a young player I've got very high hopes for but Daniel was ready to come in and play - we'll see how young Philippe goes,'' Rodgers said. "He was with the medical team with Milan and he has come here and we have assessed where he is in terms of his fitness. He trained with the group on Friday and we'll observe him and see where he's at but competition for places is what we want, that was the whole idea of bringing him in. He's a top young player with big experiences and bringing him into the group adds that competition.
"There's no doubt that the team who have been involved in the last couple of games have been exceptional but it's very important that we've got players in the side who are fighting to get into the team. The key for us has always been to build a competitive squad that would enable us to challenge. That will keep us going and allowing us to develop.''