Transfers are a funny old business, aren’t they? At the start of the summer Jürgen Klopp essentially said that he wouldn’t be adding six or seven signings to the Liverpool squad; yet as things stand we’ve added six or seven signings to the Liverpool squad, depending on whether or not you consider Alex Manninger to be a real signing.
There’s also a conversation to be head about whether or not the singings we’ve brought in are actually any good. Some Liverpool fans are disappointed that we haven’t made any ‘marquee’ signings in the same style as Manchester United and Manchester City, seemingly obvious to the fact that we simply can’t compete with either of them on a financial level. Chelsea can, yet have they made any particularly big, statement purchases? N’Golo Kante will be brilliant for them, but he’s not the the sort of player that gets the pulse racing. Most people hadn’t even heard of Michy Batshuayi and he’s cost them over £30 million.
The business we have done so far this summer has been close to perfect. We’ve addressed virtually all of the problems that pretty much everybody identified in the squad last year, adding goals from midfield, pace and a new goalkeeper. We’re in the process of getting rid of some of the squad players who, let’s face it, weren’t really adding anything at all to them team but were simply being paid wages that was money better invested elsewhere. I think we’re at the point where our team looks well balanced and our bench looks very strong indeed.
Balance Over Names
Zlatan Ibrahimovic may well make a huge impact on the Premier League next season. Likewise Paul Pogba could easily reproduce the form that has made him one of the most sort after midfielders in world football. Yet if you offered both of them to me for the £100 million United will have spent to take them to Old Trafford, to say nothing of the half a million per week the Red Devils will be forking out on wages and I’m not sure I’d be all that keen to take you up on the offer.
For starters, Ibrahimovic is now 34-years-old. I’m not saying he’s not going to add anything at all to United this season, but he’s definitely past his best. On top of that, there’s no guarantee that they will both hit the ground running. Paul Tomkins, who I often refer to on here, has done a huge amount of research into signings that clubs make. He estimates that only about 40% of signings actually work out and increasing the money you spend on them doesn’t make that much difference. Major signings on big wages only work out 50-60% of the time.
For all that people are quick to suggest that Leicester City winning the league was a one-off, we really should be so fast to dismiss the wins of both the Foxes in the Premier League and Portugal in the Euros. What their victories should teach us is that the group is more important than any individuals. Portugal, for instance, looked much more threatening in the final after Ronaldo had gone off injured and they had to figure out how to play as a team. Likewise Leicester were able to cope with the loss of Jamie Vardy towards the end of the campaign because of their team spirit and different people being willing to step up to the plate.
Liverpool’s team looks significantly more balanced now that Klopp has made a couple of targeted purchases. We’ve added to the squad in a way that means we’ll be a much more cohesive unit this season when compared to last. Yes we still need to bring in a left back, but other than that the team is looking like it could really challenge if everybody clicks. For evidence of the importance of a good atmosphere in the squad see how the manager has dealt with Mamadou Sakho this week.
Managers Use The Media
One thing that is amusing to see is the way that Liverpool fans react to comments by the manager. There is no room allowed for the idea that Klopp might be using the media to his own advantage, that he might be saying something to the press in order to aid the club’s transfer dealings.
Take this week’s comments that James Milner could fill in at left and right-back if needs be. It’s caused heads to go all over the place. Supporters who have previously declared that they trust the manager implicitly are now slagging him off for this ‘ridiculous’ plan, demanding that an out and out left-back be signed as soon as possible. But should we take what Klopp’s said all that seriously?
A week or so ago the manager said that Brad Smith was suitable cover for left-back. Two days ago we sold him to Bournemouth. I’m not suggested that Milner will be sold, but I also think that Klopp could be making clear to the England midfielder that he doesn’t see him as a first-choice midfielder any more and that if an offer comes in for him he might want to seriously consider it. He could also be saying to clubs that have got a left-back for sale that we’re negotiating with that Liverpool are not desperate to sign him so we’re not in a position of weakness in the negotiations.
Managers play games as much as agents and selling clubs do. I’ve said before on here that if there’s a transfer rumour you’d do well to ask where it’s come from. Players’ agents like to drop the names of big clubs into conversations so that they can renegotiate a new contract, for example. Selling clubs might let the press know that a well-known team is interested in a player in order to drive the price of said player up with the buying club. It’s all theatre, played out through the national media and Klopp is as guilty of it as everyone else.
The Rumour Mill Is Slowing Down
The downside of that balanced looking squad is that Liverpool are now being linked with less and less players as the press clutch desperately at straws that are shaped like left-backs in order to sell papers or earn clicks. There will definitely be a few more outs before the window shuts, including possible a bit of a mad one like Sturridge, Henderson or Coutinho. But they’re not as much fun for the newspapers to write about as no one wants to read it.
It does seem increasingly unlikely that Liverpool will be bringing anyone else, however. I’m kind of fine with that, too. What the supporters may think it appears that the manager is happy enough with his squad and pleased with Moreno at left-back. Even when rumours over that position have done the rounds they tend to be for youth players rather than an outright replacement for the Spaniard.
Of course some of the less reputable papers are still going to link the Reds with a few more moves in the transfer market and it’s only right that I mention them here. This is, after all, a transfer piece. For better or worse, here’s a summary of the reports in the papers from the last seven days:
The transfer committee has come in for a fair amount of stick over the years since its inception and with good reason. They seem to have turned things around recently, though, most notably in the ‘departures’ category. If we’d have been in Europe we might have kept a few more of the squad players, but we’re not and so I’m delighted to bid farewell to some of the chaff that has been bloating both the squad and the wage bill for far too long.
The Australian was posed to leave the club a couple of years ago only for him to sign a new contract and seemingly get a new lease of life under Jürgen Klopp. Now, fresh on the back of giving us £15 million for Jordon Ibe, Bournemouth have paid £6 million for Smith’s services. Has anyone bothered to ask the Cherries what they make of Mario Balotelli or Christian Benteke? They’re my new favourite team.
Kent looked like a player full of promise when he made appearances in the Liverpool team in pre-season this time last year, but he definitely needed to bulk up a little bit. He seems to have done exactly that this summer and certainly gives the impression of a player who could be a real prospect but, as is so often the case with the youngsters, he needs to gain some experience of the coal-front. Let’s all say ‘muchos gracias’ to Barnsley, then, who have agreed to take him on a season-long loan. A year with the Tykes should soon establish whether or not he’s got what it takes to make it at Anfield.
Left-backs everywhere. Left-backs as far as the eye can see. There’s probably not much in any of the rumours, to be honest, but who cares for facts when made-up stuff is so much more fun?
Let’s start with a player who isn’t a left-back just for the lolz, hey? It’s easy enough to dismiss the words of super-agent Kia Joorabchian at the best of times, but the report that Liverpool have had a £40 million bid for Joao Mario turned down by Sporting Lisbon seems even more absurd when you consider the position the Portuguese international plays in. The 23.-year-old is a midfielder and if there’s one place I’m not sure we need any more players it’s in midfield. Still that hasn’t stopped the rumours from coming in thick and fast. This has got ‘contract negotiating trick’ written all over it, for my money.
Right then, let’s get started with the left-back links, shall we? The one that should probably excite Liverpool fans above all others is the rumour of a move for PSV Eindhoven’s Jetro Willems. The 22-year-old posted a photo on the social networking site Instagram of his head super-imposed on Wijnaldum’s body in a Liverpool kit, leading some fans to believe that he’s on his way to Anfield. Never mind that it also said ‘ha ha’ underneath it. People want to believe we won’t be dependent on Moreno next season and so this rumour sounds good. It isn’t happening, but if it it floats your boat then that’s good enough for me.
If Jetro Willems sounds too good to be true then how a 19-year-old who has only just made the breakthrough into the Lyon squad in Ligue 1? That seems like a much more Liverpool appropriate rumour somehow doesn’t it? The youngster has come through Lyon’s academy and is unhappy that both Christophe Jallet and former United favourite Rafael are ahead of him in the Lyon pecking order. Personally I worry what it says if your transfer target isn’t as good as Rafael, but I’m not a Premier League manager for a very good reason.
Until next week…