As most Reds wake up this morning and bask in the glory of a 3-1 win over Manchester United, a fair few of them will be raising a toast to Xherdan Shaqiri. The diminutive midfielder that signed from Stoke City in the summer wasn’t high on the list of most people when they were drawing up potential transfers in the summer, with many feeling that he was too selfish for Liverpool Football Club. The vast majority have been happy enough to eat humble pie in the months that have followed, given how influential he’s been for us on numerous occasions. His brace against José Mourinho’s team helped to send us back to the top of the Premier League table, but he’s not the only payer signed by the German who has an impact at Anfield.
— Xherdan Shaqiri (@XS_11official) December 16, 2018
As the January window draws ever closer, many will be wondering whether or not the club will be looking to bring anyone in during the month. The defensive woes we’re currently facing might tempt the manager, but he’s never been a fan of short-term solutions – Steven Caulker aside. If he does decide to spend some money, therefore, it’s likely it will only be on a player that he was thinking of bringing in in the summer regardless. Rumours of a move for a defender seem the most likely to me, with Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren surely on the chopping block given their lack of reliability over injuries, meaning that moving at least one of them on and bringing a replacement in would tick my personal box. It naturally begs the question: how good has Klopp’s transfer record been so far during his time in the Anfield dugout?
A Look At Each Of The Players He’s Signed
The most important thing to point out from the outset here I that this is all just my opinion. You might read what I’ve got to say and completely disagree, which is entirely fair. The joy of football is that it’s an entirely subjective thing to discuss. Obviously Michael Edwards deserves as much credit as Jürgen Klopp, but the manager’s hit-rate has been excellent. Here’s a look at the players in my opinion of their order of importance to the team:
For me, the most important signing Liverpool have made in more than a decade. Many will point to Virgil van Dijk as the reason for our defensive revolution and there’s no question that he’s been incredible. Yet it’s also true that our defence wasn’t the all-encompassing disaster that some people painted it as. For example, we notched up nine clean sheets in our first twenty league fixtures before he arrived and seven in the eighteen after we’d signed him.The difference more than anything was that neither Simon Mignolet nor Loris Karius were good enough to rescue us should the defence allow a shot on target, meaning that more often than not we’d concede if the opposition had a shot. Alisson’s arrival means that we’ve got someone who can dig us out when the rare occurrence of a big chance being given away and that is game-changing. I don’t want to lose either through injury, but if one of them were to go missing for a month I’d prefer it to be van Dijk than our Brazilian shot-stopper.
Virgil van Dijk
Having said all of that about Alisson, I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t think that Virgil van Dijk has been a phenomenally important signing. The former Celtic and Southampton man has given the defensive line in general a massive boost, organising them and giving the impression that they’re a well-drilled unit regardless of opposition. There’s an extent to which I think you could probably put them alongside each other in terms of importance, given that we look like an entirely different team at the back since they both arrived.
Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker might well have revolutionised the backline, but Mohamed Salah has been just as influential with our attacking ability. The Egyptian King might not offer the pure, unadulterated enjoyment of never knowing what he’s going to do next that you used to get from Luis Suarez, but he’s offering even more goals than the Uruguayan and without the fear of what mental thing he’s going to do next.
The press might want to paint a picture of him being moody and not celebrating his goals, but I think he’s just working an on-pitch persona that he established after scoring the goal against Manchester City at the Etihad. Anyone who watched Roma in 2016-2017 knew that he was a talent, but the extent to which the manager has helped his career shoot to the next level cannot be understated. If we win the title this season then Salah will be a large part of the reason why.
Arguably the biggest influence on what the Liverpool team can do from match to match is Andrew Robertson. Left-back has been a notoriously difficult position for the Reds to fill for as long as I can remember, yet we now have a lad that we signed from Hull that plenty in the wider media are referring to as the best player in the position in all of Europe on current form.
— Anything Liverpool (@AnythingLFC_) December 16, 2018
His energy is demonstrative of exactly what the manager wants from his side and even José Mourinho was full of praise after this weekend. An amazing signing who seems to be going from strength-to-strength, his presence in the squad means that we no longer have to worry about teams attacking us down our left.
The Senegal international can consider himself unlucky not to be higher on the list, such is the extent to which he’s surprised most people since his arrival from Southampton. I’m quite sure that we’d cope perfectly well if we lost any of our front three, including Roberto Firmino, but the reason they work so well together is that they all offer something different. Sadio Mané’s direct nature, strength and speed mean that he causes defences all sorts of problems, even when he’s not in particularly great form.
Would I have put Gini Wijnaldum so far up my list this time last year? Probably not, but he’s really grown into his role so far this season. The former Newcastle man is someone that critics say goes missing in big games, but he’s been ever-present this campaign and is helping us to control the midfield. Jürgen Klopp’s vision of what he would be able to do has seen him shift from an attacking midfielder to a defensive one in recent times, dovetailing brilliantly with Fabinho. An absolute revelation.
The Little Swiss Cube has impressed everyone since he pulled on the Red shirt, as I said in my intro. He’s offering the connection between attack and midfield that we’ve been lacking since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured, chipping in with really important goals, too. I was always behind signing him, mainly because the rumoured £13 million seemed like an absolute steal for a player with Premier League experience. Yet even I must admit to being surprised just how influential he’s been and how often I’m crying out for him introduction against low-block teams.
I’m struggling to think of a player who’s reputation has improved so markedly when not playing as much as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He was the driving force of our midfield last season, stepping up to the plate when Phil Coutinho departed for Barcelona and getting between the lines brilliantly. Since he picked up his injury, however, the extent to which he would apparently be the saviour of us when we were struggling to create goal-scoring opportunities early in the season grew and grew. I can’t wait for him to come back, but I’m glad we’re no longer having that issue.
No doubt plenty of you will be furious that my next two players aren’t higher up the list, but the reality is that they haven’t yet had the opportunity to settle and make a proper impression. Fabinho’s first performances were indicative of someone who wasn’t quite up to speed with the fast-paced nature of the Premier League. We saw against Manchester United that he gets it now, but then Mourinho’s side were the poor that I’m not really sure what the performance tells us about anything.I have no doubt that Fabinho will be a massively important part of the Liverpool team in the second-half of the season. My only complaint about the way people talk about him is that some people feel the need to use praise of him as an excuse to criticise other players that are part of this amazing side. Jürgen Klopp has deliberately signed a whole host of midfielders with different styles to mean that he can use the right ones at the right time. Fabinho’s performances have been understated so far in his Liverpool career, but there’s a long way to go yet and he’s got plenty more to show.
I was concerned about the way some people reacted to Naby Keita’s performance against West Ham in the opening game of the campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think that it was poor. I just thought that people were reviewing the performance that they wanted him to have put in rather than the one that he actually did. They were raving about him as though he’d scored a double hat-trick, rather than dropped the shoulder and lost a lad at one point.My skepticism about him has been justified in the months that followed, with his performances being distinctly average whilst punctuated with a few moments of magic. That’s not because I don’t think he’s a good player, by the way. Much like with Fabinho, I think he’s struggled to get up to the pace of the Premier League and we’ll see the player we thought we’d signed once he has. Again, I’m certainly not suggesting that I think he’s a poor signing, I just think he’s going to grow into his role in the coming months rather than already being the player he was at RB Leipzig.
The departed Estonian might be looking at our current defensive woes and wondering if he made the right decision to depart for Cagliari Calcio in the summer. He was exactly what you want from a fourth-choice centre-back: seemingly always available, more than capable of stepping into the team without a major drop in quality and happy to wait for his chance to prove himself. Though he might have left the club now, we’ll always have Burnley away.
I have long been on record as believing that Loris Karius was a significantly better goalkeeper than many people gave him credit for. His exploits in the Champions League will forever mean that too many Reds will discuss him with no sympathy whatsoever, but for me there will always be an asterisk next to his name that’s the shape of Sergio Ramos.Whilst he was never good enough to push us to the level of title challengers in the same way that Alisson is, he was always a much better fit for this Liverpool team than Simon Mignolet. It was right to move him on after he was clearly affected by what happened in Kiev, but I feel sorry for the way some people talk about him.
To some extent it’s slightly unfair on Marko Grujic to see him this far down the list, but the reality is that he hasn’t made anywhere near enough appearances to be any higher. Many wondered if he had a place in this Liverpool team in the future, but his appearances for Hertha BSC this season have suggested that he might well do. It’s unfortunate that his loan spell has been broken up by injury, but with any luck he’ll return to full fitness and carry on where he left off. If I do another list in the future the I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name much higher up it.
You can argue whether Michael Edwards and his team deserve the credit for identifying the players in the first place or if Jürgen Klopp’s coaching and management is the most important factor to how good all of these signings have been, but the reality is that the combination of a team that know what they’re looking for and a manager who knows how to use what he’s given is propelling Liverpool to the highest of heights. Thirteen players and not one outright flop is remarkably impressive going in this day and age.