There you have it, then. The transfer window has slammed shut for another five months or so. We’ll have about a month or two of peace and quiet before the rumours start again, so we really should enjoy that whilst we can. Right now, though, we need to have a little look back over the summer and decide: Did Liverpool Football Club do well?
As is so often the case, how you feel about it will depend on whether you’re a glass half-full or a glass half-empty sort of person. A lot of it also comes down to what the manager wanted heading into the summer, with that being something that’s much more difficult to assess. Do you take him at his word or do you question the things he said to the press in order to put your own personal spin on things? Whatever your approach, this is my take on the club’s transfer activity.
Let’s start with the unquestionably positive side of Liverpool’s transfer dealings: The outgoings. Whatever you think of the players that Jürgen Klopp has brought into Anfield for the forthcoming season, virtually nobody can be disappointed with the way he’s so ruthlessly got rid of the dead wood that has been brought into the club in recent times.
Liverpool’s squad has been bloated for years. Mistakes of past approaches to the club’s transfer activity have been difficult to shift from the books. A conversation about said transfer dealings is to be had at some point, but now is not the time. The main thing worth mentioning is that mistakes have been made but now they’re being rectified.
The sheer amount of departures we had, every one was someone we wanted out, is a damning indictment on Liverpool’s past transfer dealings…
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) 1 September 2016
Nineteen players have been moved on, either on loan or on a permanent basis. Nineteen. Some of them, such as Jordan Rossiter and Sergi Canos, are youngsters who never quite looked like they had what it takes to make it in the Liverpool first team. Others, like Adam Bogdan and José Enrique, were squad players who should have been sent packing some time ago.
Some big names have been shifted this summer. The aforementioned Enrique and his fellow defender Kolo Toure have both left, with Martin Skrtel also calling time on his Anfield career. Brad Smith might have been kept on if Bournemouth hadn’t offered what was, frankly, silly money for his signature. The same can be said for Jordon Ibe who never quite delivered on his early promise in a Liverpool shirt.
Far more significant is the departure of two attackers who were never quite right for the Reds, though for entirely different reasons. Christian Benteke was brought in by Brendan Rodgers for big money last summer in the hope that he would offer us a ‘Plan B’. He scored important goals when he did play, but he wasn’t the right sort of man for a Jürgen Klopp attack and recouping the best part of £30 million for him from Crystal Palace was a great move. He will go on to do well for the Eagles, I’m sure.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) August 31, 2016
Then it comes to Mario Balotelli. The Italian might like to ask ‘Why always me?’ but the answer’s not a complicated one. During his time at Liverpool he demonstrated a terrible attitude, a complete disregard for the work ethic expected of a professional football and a lack of any discernible ability on the field. Signed as a vanity project by Rodgers who was convinced he could ‘change’ him, the former AC Milan and Manchester City striker was essentially released on a free by Liverpool to Nice, with the Reds not having to pick up any of his remaining fees. Another brilliant bit of business.
Some players have left on loan in the hope that they come back having either learnt how to develop their game or else regained their fitness. Jon Flanagan will be hoping that a season at Burnley will help him to force his way back into Klopp’s plans, whilst it’s easy to envisage a future where Danny Ward returns from Huddersfield Town as Liverpool’s number two behind Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet is quietly moved on. Could Lazar Markovic return in the future? It seems unlikely, to be honest, but it’s not impossible.
Summer 2016 has been #LFC joint biggest summer clear out since 1892 with 13 players leaving. 2005 also saw the same amount of departures.
— Carl Clemente (@clemente_carl) August 31, 2016
In short, Liverpool’s outgoings have been handled very well indeed. Players such as Joe Allen have been upgraded upon, lads who looked like they could offer something in the future have been sold with a buyback clause included in their contracts and other players who should never have pulled on a Red shirt again have been shown the door. What’s not to love about that?
Klopp did the same thing during his first summer at Dortmund, having taken the time to get to know his players. He was ruthless in getting rid of the lads he didn’t want and replaced them with players he felt could offer something. Right now, with the notable exceptions of Mamadou Sakho and Thiago Illori, there is no one hanging around Melwood that the German doesn’t want to be there. From that point of view we are unquestionably in a better position than we were at this point last year.
That brings us around nicely to the players that the club have brought in this summer. Supporters may be desperate to see the manager go out and spend obscene amounts of money, but for the man in the hot-seat the most important thing is to address the obvious weaknesses in the squad. If you can do that then you’re on to a winner already. Combine it with removing the dead wood and the negative influences in the dressing room and you’re well on your way to creating a squad that you can be proud of.
Jürgen Klopp is, in so many ways, nothing like José Mourinho. The Portuguese may well be able to boast about the trophies that he’s won but he’s done it whilst spending more than any other manager in the history of football. He’s also completely and utterly failed to build any sort of legacy at any club that he’s been at. His destructive personality means that he’s unable to last more than three years or so before the wheels completely fall off the money-laden bandwagon.
Klopp, meanwhile, is about doing things the ‘right’ way. He openly deplored the obsession in this country with the transfer window, instead declaring that time on the training field was far more important to developing a strong squad and a team with a solid work ethic. He looked at his Liverpool team and made firm decisions about which areas need to be strengthen through the market and which players could be trained to improve and impress.
The Liverpool fans who are disappointed with the club’s transfer activity this summer may not agree with Klopp’s assessment of the situation, but we absolutely have to trust him. There’s no point in constantly questioning every decision he makes, especially when we have no idea how this season is going to pan out. Might we look back in May and wonder why we didn’t sign a left-back or another exciting attacker in the mould of Sadio Mané? Maybe. But if we did do that and they didn’t work out might we also wonder why we wasted our money on such a player when it stilted the development of a player like Sheyi Ojo?
In case you missed it…
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 1, 2016
The biggest question that needs to be asked is: Have we upgraded our personnel? Is Loris Karius better than Simon Mignolet? We haven’t seen loads of the German yet, but from the limited bits I have seen the answer is a resounding yes. Is Joel Matip an upgrade on Martin Skrtel? Again, from the limited play he’s had it’s fair to say that he is. Ragnar Klavan is a better fourth-choice defender than Kolo Toure and Georginio Wijnaldum will hopefully add some legs and some steel to the middle of the park.
When it comes to Sadio Mané, he is unquestionably better than Jordon Ibe as an outfield player and Christian Benteke as an attacker in a Jürgen Klopp side. He is arguably the most exciting player that we’ve seen playing for us since the days of Luis Suarez. He’s nowhere near as good as the Uruguayan, of course, but his lifts his team-mates in the same sort of way as our old number seven did.
When it comes to whether or not this summer has been a success, then, you really need to look at what the manager wanted rather than what the fans were hoping to see. Klopp has made it clear that he believes that Alberto Moreno has what it takes to develop into a decent left-back, whilst he also thinks that James Milner is adequate cover or even a replacement for the big games. That you don’t agree is, frankly, entirely irrelevant. you might think we needed one more midfielder, but Klopp might feel that Marko Grujic will develop well this season.
If you take Klopp on his word, and there’s no reason not to, then it seems that he’s perfectly happy with the work the Reds have done in the transfer market this summer. There’s no way of knowing whether it’s good enough until we get towards January and see how Milner, Matip, Karius and co. are coping with their new positions and their new team-mates. For now, I think we should be very happy indeed.
The State Of The First XI
I think the manager is planning to use two different formations and selections of personnel depending on the opposition. For big games against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal he will go with his tried and trusted method of using the false nine with Firmino in that role. For the so called ‘lesser teams’ I believe he will try to steamroll and bully them out of the game by bringing in the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi. Here’s how I see Liverpool lining up in those two different scenarios if all players are fit:
Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner
Henderson – Wijnaldum
Mané – Firmino – Coutinho
Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Moreno
Henderson – Lallana – Coutinho
Mané – Sturridge
That leaves the likes of Origi, Ings and Grujic to come into the team as and when the manager thinks they can offer something to the team. Are those line-ups good enough to challenge at the top end of the table? Only time will tell. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that the manager favours teamwork over individuals. It’s time to work together in pushing the train in the right direction.