Transfer Woes: Our Competition

Far be it from me to suggest that Liverpool supporters have a tendency to over-react, but the general mood around the camp at the moment seems to be that the Reds will fail to achieve anything next season if we don’t make further improvements to our squad before the transfer window closes. I’m not sure that’s true, though I would certainly feel more confident if we could at least get the Virgil van Dijk deal over the line. I do think that some Liverpool fans have significantly less faith in the squad than the manager does and I think they’ll be surprised at how much certain players get used over the coming months. Take Ryan Kent, for example. If we’d signed him from Real Madrid’s youth team for £25 million people would be going wild, but instead he’s just ‘one of our youth players’.

Regardless of whether or not Jürgen Klopp is likely to use more youth players than some of the club’s supporters think, I’m intrigued by the downbeat nature of feeling around the place. Aside from anything else, isn’t it better to wait until the transfer window is actually closed before freaking out and declaring it to be nothing short of a disaster? We could well still end up with van Dijk and possibly even Naby Keita. If we end up with neither then freak out then by all means, but not before we know what’s happening. I’m fascinated when I compare our freaking out to the business done by all of our main competitors. That’s why I thought now was a good time to have a look at what the rest of the top six have been up to…

Chelsea

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Ethan Ampadu (Exeter) Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco) Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford)
Willy Caballero (Free Contract) Alex Kiwomya (Doncaster Rovers)
Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid) Nemanja Matic (Manchester United)
Antonio Rudiger (Roma) Bertrand Traore (Lyon)
John Terry (Released)
Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)
Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth)

Of Chelsea’s signings so far this summer, then, one is a youth player that will likely never actually make the first team, instead floating around the loan system for five years before being sold to one of the top flight’s lower clubs for a few million, and one is a reserve goalkeeper. Only three of the five are actually players that you’d expect to come into the team and two of them are defenders. Given John Terry’s been released and both Nathan Are and Kurt Zouma have left, have the current Premier League champions actually strengthened their team at all? That’s without even mentioning all of the usual youth players sent out on loan by the Blues, further weakening their reserves.

Tottenham Hotspur

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Federico Fazio (Roma)
Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Nabil Bentaleb (Schalke)
Clinton N’Jie (Marseille)

There are certain members of the press that keep suggesting Tottenham are having a brilliant transfer window. This in spite of the fact that they have bought precisely nobody and the only bit of activity they’ve been involved in is selling one of the best defenders to a rival team. Personally I’m all in favour of a manager and a club trying to improve their team through training and consistency, but how exactly are Spurs improving on a season in which they won absolutely nothing by standing still? This is the most bizarre of all approaches taken by any club in this window and is in now whatsoever a ‘transfer strategy’.

Manchester City

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Benjamin Mendy (Monaco) Enes Ünal (Villarreal)
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur) Nolito (Sevilla)
Bernardo Silva (Monaco) Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma)
Ederson (Benfica) Joe Hart (West Ham)
Danilo (Real Madrid) Willy Caballero (Released)
Douglas Luiz (Vasco da Gama) Jesús Navas (Sevilla)
Gaël Clichy (Basaksehir)
Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham)
Douglas Luiz (Girona)
Bacary Sagna (Released)

There’s no question that Manchester City’s business has been the most intriguing so far this summer, with the above list not quite summing up what they’ve been up to. More than a few players have returned from loans, for example, before being shipped out again. Douglas Luis is a good example of City’s over-riding attitude, brining him in before sending him out on loan to gain some experience. Ignoring loans, they’ve got rid of four fullbacks and brought in three to replace them. Similarly one goalkeeper has left and another has arrived. They’ve upgraded, but is there much there to be afraid of?

Arsenal

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon) Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)
Sead Kolasinac (Schalke) Yaya Sanogo (Toulouse)

I’m interested to see how Arsenal’s season develops this year. On the one hand they were only one loss for us away from finishing in fourth spot as usual, yet on the other they haven’t done much business to improve when everyone else apart from Spurs has. Lacazette could certainly be an inspired signing, but given they’re likely to sell Oliver Giroud this summer and could yet lose Alexis Sanchez, does he improve them enough to ensure they challenge? And what of Arsene Wenger and the pressure he’ll be under the second they stop performing?

Manchester United

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Romelu Lukaku (Everton) Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad)
Nemanja Matic (Chelsea) Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Victor Lindelöf (Benfica) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Free Agent)

José Mourinho has probably done the most predictable business of the transfer window so far. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future is still undecided, but it’s quietly irrelevant considering the Portuguese manager has brought in another target man in Lukaku. Matic is a solid Mourinho-style player, but not exactly inspiring. As for Lindelöf, he’s another defender to add to a team built around the notion of being defensively solid. Would I be getting excited about my club’s business if I was a Manchester United fan? Absolutely not. I might think we’ll win something next year but I’m not going to enjoy watching us do it…

Liverpool

Ins (Club From) Outs (Club To)
Mohamed Salah (Roma) Lucas Leiva (Lazio)
Andrew Robertson (Hull City) Kevin Stewart (Hull City)
Dominic Solanke (Chelsea) Andre Wisdom (Derby County)

I thought I’d put our business in here so it’s easier to compare against the other teams we’re up against. We’ve brought in a pacy winger to help burden the load previously put on Sadio Mané alone, added a reserve left-back for when Milner’s tired and signed a young striker who’s looking very tasty indeed in pre-season. In return we’ve lost two players who barely touched the first-team and a defensive midfielder who was working as a fourth-choice defender. So far we’ve lost none of the players who made up our squad last term but have added to them with quality and potential.

Who’s Done The Best Business So Far?

When you look at it like this, ignoring players that have either returned from or been sent out on loan, who has had the best transfer window so far? My instinct would be to say Manchester City, but then all they’ve really done is upgrade on positions that don’t really have a massive impact on big games. If you don’t believe me then remember that we won the Champions League with Djimi Traore at left-back and nearly won the league using Jon Flanagan there. City have made incremental changes, but nothing more than that.

For all of the talk that the new television money was going to make this summer crazier than ever, little of interest has actually happened in England so far. In fact, the likely £198 million move of Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint Germain will be the maddest move of the window and it’s nothing to do with anyone over here. Will it kick-start a round-robin of player transfers for Premier League clubs? It’s possible. If Liverpool are adamant that Philippe Coutinho isn’t going anywhere and we stick to our guns then I can imagine the Spanish giants turning their attention to Eden Hazard at Chelsea instead, for example.

Coutinho & Klopp On The Side Of The Kop

The lack of major moves in the market is why I think this transfer period hasn’t even got going yet. Most teams have got money burning a hole in their pocket but they’re waiting to see what the value of a player is. Salah for £35 million is currently looking like stunning business, for example. The £55 million Chelsea paid for Álvaro Morata, meanwhile, might turn out to be brilliant or it may look reckless if he doesn’t settle well in England. Meanwhile they’ve spent over £60 million improving a defensive unit that conceded just 33 goals last term, the third fewest in the division. Spending money in the wrong area?

So much of how this summer will look in retrospect will depend on what happens before the window slams shut. If we don’t buy anyone else then there will be a feeling of it all being rather underwhelming, yet if no other clubs make any more signings are we actually that badly off? Have any of our competitors truly improved themselves at this stage in proceedings? Certainly not noticeably so. Looking through the business that everyone else has done, I’m not particularly scared by anyone.

smileimage9 / shutterstock.com

We need a good degree of fortune when it comes to injuries, but that would be the case regardless. Right now we’re two injuries away from a back four containing Ragnar Klavan and Joe Gomez, but we’d likely have to turn to them for at least some fixtures if we had two injuries and had signed Virgil van Dijk already. Despite what supporters may wish, we can’t have infinite numbers of players just in case a massive injury crisis strikes. The best you can do is have at least two players for every position and there’s an argument that Liverpool currently have that:

Goalkeepers: Karius, Mignolet, Ward

Full-backs: Alexander-Arnold, Clyne, Milner, Robertson

Central defenders: Gomez, Klavan, Lovren, Matip

Midfielders: Wijnaldum, Henderson, Grujic, Lallana, Coutinho, Can, Ejaria

Forwards: Salah, Mané, Kent, Firmino, Woodburn

Strikers: Sturridge, Origi, Solanke, Ings

Conclusion

You personally may not like some of those players – I’m still against Mignolet as our number one and I don’t know how long I’ll cope watching James Milner run through treacle – but the manager rates each and every one of those players enough to feel he can trust them and turn to them when needed. Ultimately it’s irrelevant what you and I think as the Klopp is the man picking the teams that will represent Liverpool Football Club. Virgil van Dijk would be the missing piece to that squad, with Naby Keita being the icing on the cake. Looked at in comparison to the other teams in the top six, however, our business so far this summer isn’t too bad at all.

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