The summer is an odd period. Accounts like mine spend most of the time scrabbling around to find something to write about, desperately hoping that the club will sign a couple of players so that we don’t need to witter on about nothing to keep things ticking over. When Liverpool signed Fabinho in the immediate aftermath of losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid last summer it was a great time to be writing such columns, even if it wasn’t a particularly good time to be a Red. This summer, on the other hand, it’s an amazing time to support the Reds but not such a good time to be having to write columns on a regular basis because Jürgen Klopp, Michael Edwards and gang have seemingly decided that signing players isn’t for us. At least not yet. It’s a good time for banter accounts and those that like to pretend that they’re somehow privy to Liverpool Football Club’s transfer dealings, but not anyone else.
#Mbappe spotted at John Lennon Airport 👀 #LFC pic.twitter.com/SHKnPuBFe9
— JURGEN⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐KLOPPITE (@AJno9) June 15, 2019
What that means, though, is that the timing is perfect to think about the state of the squad and the things the club should be looking at doing this summer in order to strengthen the side where possible. On the one hand, I completely understand the point of view of those who look towards our ninety-seven point Premier League tally and our Champions League win and feel that the squad only needs minor tweaks. On the other, I think of how fortunate we were last season in terms of injuries to the likes of Virgil van Dijk and I realise that things might not go as swimmingly this time out. Of course, none of us has a clue what the manager is thinking, nor do we know whether we’ll be making any signings before the summer is over. This piece is very much my opinion of what I think we should do, not what I think Klopp and his team will do. I do trust them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed my own opinion on the matter.
We Don’t Need de Ligt, But We Should Sign Him Anyway
As last season wore on, I saw plenty of tweets from Liverpool supporters saying that they’d ‘been here before’ and ‘knew’ that the Reds would end up trophyless come the end of the campaign. It was an odd attitude to take, given that something happening in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen again in the future. Those same people haven’t seen Liverpool break the ninety point barrier, for example, so they were already in uncharted territory. One thing that I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that I’ve seen from the club in seasons gone by, however, is the failure to consolidate from a position of strength. When we finished second in the Premier League in both 2009 and 2014 we failed to go into the market and add to what were already excellent teams, bulking up the squads.
B) Everybody below Liverpool will spend and improve once more. Standing still only makes LFC more vulnerable this year than last. You have a chance to approach this transfer market from a position of strength. That might not be the case next year. There’s no going back in time.
— Luke Gains (@lukebjournalism) May 16, 2019
There were mitigating circumstances on both occasions of course, including the loss of key players. Yet the simple fact is that we didn’t go into the transfer market and act like the big boys in town and we regretted it in the season that followed. This summer all of the talk is about Matthijs de Ligt, Ajax’s nineteen-year-old central defender who is primed to leave the Dutch club for big money. Every time his name is mentioned in the same sentence as Liverpool, some supporters will be quick to point out that we ‘don’t need him’. They’re not wrong, of course. We conceded the fewest goals of any Premier League club last season, after all. But summer transfers aren’t about what we need, they’re about what we should buy and de Ligt should be high on the list.
van Dijk Is Our Only Reliable Defender In Terms Of Fitness
Look at the ‘Goals Against’ column and you’d be hard pushed to persuade anyone that Liverpool’s defence is in need of major surgery. I’m also not suggesting that that’s what we look to do this summer. I wouldn’t want us to sign de Ligt if it meant throwing our wage bill out of the window, for example. Yet the simple reality is that Liverpool’s defenders are not particularly reliable in terms of actually being able to get onto the football pitch. In the last three hundred and sixty-five days, Dejan Lovren has been unavailable for one hundred and forty of them. It wasn’t always the same injury, boasting back, hamstring and head injuries during that time. The type of injury isn’t all that important, though, when the only thing that matters is whether or not the manager can pick him to play matches. During the same period Joel Matip has missed sixty days of football according to Anfield Online.
Ki-Jana Hoever (17)
Player of Liverpool F.C
Main position right-back, but could also play centre-back. Strong tackler with great technical ability on the ball. Calm when in possession. Can beat his man down the wings with pace, strength, and skill. Good crossing and passing. pic.twitter.com/LR0kUaFTWL
— ,’,’,’ (@FutbolTings) June 11, 2019
A quick look at Joe Gomez’s Liverpool career reveals issues regarding fitness too. He returned from eighty-eight days absence just under a year ago, then missed one hundred and thirty-one days out with a leg injury. Impact injuries aren’t the same as muscular problems, of course, but how many injuries does he need to have before he gets labelled as ‘injury prone’? All of this at the same time as Virgil van Dijk has been fortunate enough to miss no games and Fabinho had to play centre-back. Mention de Ligt and someone will be quick to point to Ki-Jana Hoever and the possibility of hampering his development, but he’s only just turned seventeen. He could not play first-team football for the Reds for seven years and still be young for a centre-back. de Ligt is a generational talent, giving us the chance to shore up our defence for a decade by bringing him in. Do we need him? No. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to sign him.
If De Ligt is available for VVD level money and, crucially, his agent is not pushing him exclusively towards mammoth wages we should move heaven and earth. If he can be brought in on just below the very top earners at around £200k pw and be convinced (like his CB compatriot) of the LFC/Klopp project then it is a no-brainer. I’ve heard a lot about how De Ligt would hold back Gomez’s development but to my mind it is Gomez who needs to prove himself to the team. He has no right to stroll back into the starting 11 based on a few good months. If a season is 9 months give or take, then in the last 4 seasons (36 months) Gomez has been injured for 19 months total; Degsy and Joel have had a string of injuries and illnesses that add up to over 6 months out each in the same period. Liverpool could play almost 70 games next season and I don’t want to see VVD in more than 40 of them. How else are we supposed to cope at the back? I think you could sell a vision to VVD, Gomez and De Ligt where the two youngsters rotate, splitting the 30-40 biggest games alongside Virgil, then they pair up with each other for the domestic cups, European minnows and bottom 5-10 at home saving Virgil’s legs; also swapping in Matip as required according to form and injury. Sell to Gomez and De Ligt that they are the partnership being shaped to take over in a few years time. Sell to VVD that he is the main man being rested to let the kids do the dogs work.