For those of you that haven’t read one of my transfer pieces before and you’re only here for the gossip, then you might want to skip to the bottom of the page. I’d hope that you’d stick around, though, as I like to put something of an opinion piece about what’s gone on over the past week in the bit before I talk about the players we’re almost certainly not going to sign…
Obviously most of what’s gone on this week has been about the build-up to Sunday. At the time of writing we’re just over 48 hours from the start of the new Premier League season and our match against Arsenal. I may well touch on that, but there are one or two other things that I think need a mention before we turn to our impending battle with the Gunners as well as the rumours of our ins and outs.
Spend, Spend, Spend
It’s genuinely bizarre how many Liverpool fans seem to be obsessed with the notion of Jürgen Klopp not having bought well enough in this transfer window. So many football supporters in general seem to fixate on the idea that money solves all problems. That’s kind of understandable; after all, it’s what the press have been telling us for years.
What’s odd, though, is that Klopp has made absolutely clear that that is not how he likes to work. Here’s a quote from him:
”Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players, yes. But if you bring one player in for £100million or whatever, and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney. Do I have to do it differently to that? Actually, I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money. I want a special team spirit – I don’t feel it is necessary, I want it.”
That’s the way the German likes to work. It’s the way he has always worked. It’s the way he worked at Dortmund that had Liverpool fans casting such jealous glances over at the Westfalenstadion and wondered why we couldn’t get a manager who did that sort of development with our squad. In fact, of all of the big money signings this summer it’s interesting to note that Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who cost United over £26 million, and City’s £20 million acquisition in Ilkay Gundogan were both nobodies before working with our boss.
So why the obsession with spending big on one or two players? José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are winners. They will bring glory to our two Manchester rivals, make no mistake about that. But at what cost? They make little to no effort to train the players they’ve already got, Mourinho especially.
The classless big-mouthed moron from Portugal made a comment about United signing Pogba and said, “…to have this problem, you need to be at one of the top clubs in the world”. The insinuation being that neither Liverpool nor Arsenal fit into that bracket. But is that true in either case? Obviously not. He’s just crass and reacting to the knowledge that he’s bought every title he’s won other than the ones in Portugal, where it’s basically impossible for Porto to do anything other than win.
The Papers Dictate The ‘Reality’
Despite the growth of social media and fan-driven content, there is a sad truth that not enough football supporters are even close to realising: The papers dictate what people feel about any given situation.
Here’s what I’m talking about. Manchester United have always been the darlings of the press. This summer they have spent £100 million on the signing of Paul Pogba and brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic on £260,000 per week. But what should be considered to be a good season for them both? What will need to happen for the wider public to consider them as ‘flops’?
“It feels amazing!” @Ibra_official spoke to #MUTV after a memorable competitive #MUFC debut: https://t.co/kaE7FUGOCu pic.twitter.com/cqP4LQY9x8
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 7, 2016
Zlatan, as he’s irritatingly known, will score goals this season. But if he finishes with less than ten is that good enough when you consider his wages? Less than fifteen? If he scores five goals in one game but doesn’t score a winner is that an exceptional return?
As for Pogba, he will also add steel to United’s midfield, but is that enough for a player that has cost more than most other teams’ operating budgets? Does he also need to hit double figures on the goals scored or assists managed front?
The point is, almost whatever the both of them do will be declared to be a success by the press. Any time Zlatan scores it will be ‘world class’. Any time United keep a clean sheet it will be because Pogba ‘ran the midfield’. It is completely irrelevant how much truth there is in either of those statements. They will be ‘true’ as far as the press are concerned and the wider football-supporting public will follow the lead.
.@vancole9 is excited to have @PaulPogba at #MUFC…
Read more: https://t.co/9yMIjDWDxP #POGBACK pic.twitter.com/9weHsOj7NG
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 10, 2016
Liverpool’s transfer business this season has actually been reasonably spot on. Klopp has mitigated our weaknesses and we’re looking strong and balanced. But the press feel that we haven’t done enough, that our signings lack the ‘pizzazz’ of other teams. Unsurprisingly, plenty of Liverpool supporters believes that line and are quick to slag off our new players before they’ve even kicked a ball in anger.
Bring On Your Arsenals
What will Mané do? Will Wijnaldum be the disappointment that Newcastle fans have suggested, or will he fill in some of the midfield holes that we had last season? Can Klavan deal with the likes of Sanchez and Walcott, or will his lack of Premier League experience mean that their pace causes him too many problems?
We’re now just two days from finding out the answers to some of those questions. Arsenal will not be the walkover that some people think, with their attacking options far outweighing their defensive frailties. I remember the excitement in 2014 when Chelsea came to town and we were all excited about a centre-back pairing of Branislav Ivanovic and Tomas Kalas. We know what happened next.
Yet I’m confident of a Liverpool win. Arsenal traditionally start slowly and Klopp has got us firing on all cylinders in order to hit the ground running. We’ve got three away games in a row and you have to feel that seven points would be an excellent return from them. Get underway with a win and an impressive on at that and you give yourselves an excellent psychological advantage for the upcoming campaign. I think 3-1 is not an outrageous suggestion. Let’s go, Reds!
The Runners And Riders Of The Rumour Mill
Before the season kicks off, of course, we need to talk a bit more about transfers. In his press conference this afternoon Klopp talked about six strikers being too many but that we aren’t going to be giving teams any ‘gifts’. No surprise, then, that the same two strikers who have dominated the summer’s out-going talk are the ones who are top of our list of discussions…
The ‘Get Rids’
I’m a fantasy football player. If you’ve ever played it then you’ll know there’s a word that means a lot: ‘Differential’. If you don’t play then I’ll explain. A differential is a player that other teams don’t tend to have. Whilst everyone will be bringing in Aguero and Hazard, not many will be using Andy Carroll, for example. Christian Benteke would be high-up on my list of differentials this season. As long as he’s not still playing for Liverpool.
The Belgian is a good player; a much better player that a lot of Reds fans give him credit as, actually. It’s just that he doesn’t fit our system under Klopp one little bit. He would be brilliant in, say, a Crystal Palace team. No wonder, then, that Alan Pardew seems to be keen to sign the striker. In a market where Yannick Bolasie is likely to go to the Blues for £30 million I think LFC are dead right to hang on for more for the big front man. He won’t be a Liverpool player at the end of the transfer window. Where he goes and how much he costs, however, is another matter entirely.
Sometimes I completely forget that Balotelli is even on our books any more. Then I see photos of him training and it all comes crashing back to me. The Italian was always going to be a gamble and, truth be told, he was one that I thought might just pay off. It wasn’t to be, of course, and now we can’t seem to get rid of him for love or money.
Reports suggest that both Sassuolo and Chievo have made enquiries about taking Super Mario back to Serie A, with the only stumbling block being Liverpool’s asking price. Unlike Benteke, this feels like one where principals be damned: Do whatever it takes to get him off the books and let’s go back to pretending he never even played for us.
Are we going to sign anyone else? Obviously the signing of Jonathan Woodgate as a scout is weird and doesn’t count. So who else? A left-back has been declared an absolutely priority by everyone except Jürgen Klopp, whilst plenty of people also want a defensive midfielder to be brought in. I don’t see either positions getting filled any time soon, but here’s the names we’ve been linked with this week:
Just when you thought we’d heard everything there was to hear about Mahmoud Dahoud the plot thickened. The midfielder has been a Klopp target all summer long, but Borussia Monchengladbach are reluctant to let him go as they’ve already lost Granit Xhaka to Arsenal during this window. It seemed as if the Reds had put a pin in signing him, but then rumours emerged during the week that the 20-year-old has a £10 million release clause in his contract that comes into effect next summer. Is it true? Does it matter? It gave people an excuse to talk about him all over again, so what’s not to love about that?
It seems appropriate that in the season that Liverpool will win the league they sign a player who enjoys Parades. Or Paredes, as the case may be. The 22-year-old is on the books of Roma but spent last season on loan at their Serie A rivals Empoli, impressing enough to catch the eye of the Reds and Manchester City. apparently Roma have put a £16 million price tag on his head, so presumably Liverpool will try to get him for £10 million and a packet of skips before Chelsea just pay the price Roma are asking. The Argentinian is referred to as a ‘starlet’, so expect Reds fans to want him desperately then be furious when we don’t get him, despite having never seem him play.
Look, man, another ‘starlet’ that Liverpool are apparently desperate to sign. Whoever the manager is in the Anfield hot-seat it appears that we love being linked with a young player and going ‘head-to-head’ with other clubs for his signature. This time it’s Tottenham and Southampton that we need to ‘do battle with’ to secure his signature, according to the ever reliable Metro. Nothing says ‘brilliant sources’ like a newspaper that you get free on the tube, of course. The eighteen-year-old has played for England Under-19s and would cost around £2 million. Another one I expect Chelsea to sign and then never play.
Until next week…