Was Liverpool’s Top Four Finish A Transfer Blessing Or A Curse?

When the 2020-2021 Premier League season was reaching its conclusion, everyone associated with Liverpool Football Club was desperate for the Reds to finish in the top four. This is a team that belongs in the Champions League and deserves European football, of that there can be no question. What Jürgen Klopp has achieved since taking over at Anfield is akin to a minor managerial miracle, turning things around to such an extent that we’ve gone from perennial also-rans to English champions under his leadership. Since we first finished in the European places under the German, we’ve enjoyed consecutive appearances in Europe’s top competition and it was vitally important to the club’s development that we continued to do so. As Anfield itself prepares for the next stage of its improvement, the team needs to keep improving with it and that involves money spent on transfers. The problem is, we know that Fenway Sports Group have built Liverpool to be a self-sustaining model, meaning that the majority of money that will be spent on transfers will have to be generated from player sales first and foremost.

Though there’s no question that Liverpool finishing in the top four last season was a good thing in footballing terms, I do find myself wondering whether it might be a bad thing as far as transfers are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people that would prefer to see us spend money than be successful on the football pitch. I’m also far more inclined to be supportive of FSG’s business model than a number of fans of the club. I don’t understand how you can say that Manchester City have bought their success in one breath and then declare that Liverpool should be spending more money on transfers with the next. At the same time, though, I am afraid that finishing in the top four in spite of the defensive injuries we suffered will allow the owners to ignore the cracks that are starting to form in the team itself. On the surface we’ve got a well-stocked midfield, for example, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that most players are either getting older or else prone to picking up long-term injuries. The defence looks ok right now, but we saw last season how quickly that can change. Was finishing in the top four a good thing?

Top Four Means A Better Quality Of Signing

Finishing in the top four means that Liverpool have the chance of signing a better quality of player. That is an inarguable fact. The fact that Ibrahima Konaté looks so excited to have signed for us is all well and good, but it didn’t happen any sooner because the French defender wanted to see whether we’d have Champions League football to offer. There will have been players up and down the continent that were thinking the same thing, intrigued to know whether they’d be able to play in Europe’s premier competition should they sign for Liverpool. That is, to some extent, why making into the top four was so important. It’s not a side of football that people like to talk about much and it’s not uncommon for people that love talking about transfers to be lambasted, but being able to sign better players means that you’ve got more chance of success. Whilst the likes of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah have gone on to proven themselves to be world-class, they weren’t considered that when we signed them and could easily have gone the other way. Top four doesn’t guarantee that signings will be excellent, but it makes it more likely.

Liverpool’s aim needs to be to win the Premier League and the Champions League as often as possible, which is infinitely more likely with better quality players. Even so, decent players still need someone talented to orchestrate them. Does anyone that knows anything about football think that Frank Lampard would have won the European Cup if he’d remained in charge at Stamford Bridge? Equally, I don’t know how many managers could take over this side and get them playing in the same way that Jürgen Klopp has. The German is able to make the team add up to more than the sum of its parts, which in turn makes the top players want to play for him. It is for that reason that know is the perfect time to be bolstering the squad with brilliant additions, before it gets to the point that new signings start to ask how long the German will be the manager before and who will be taking over from him. We finished in the top four and, all being well, will be vying for the title once again at the end of the season, so striking whilst the iron is hot makes perfect sense to me. The problem is, FSG might not see it that way.

It Allows FSG To Ignore The Cracks

Had we missed out on top four, it would have been really easy for Jürgen Klopp, Michael Edwards and Mike Gordon to turn around to the paymasters in Boston and say more funds were needed to add to the squad. The defensive crisis might well have been something that we hope only happens once in a blue moon, but many people, myself include, pointed out last summer that selling Dejan Lovren and not replacing him was asking for trouble. We’ve brought in Ibrahima Konaté and many will be hoping that all of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have recovered from their injuries sufficiently, yet I’d like one more if I was in charge. The difficulty is that the owners will almost certainly point to our achievement in making it into the top four in spite of all of the injuries and say ‘imagine how good you’ll be now everyone is back’. Whilst I am supportive of the owner’s model, it has to be said that they’re a group of people that will advise caution first and foremost. Their approach to proceedings will almost certainly be to say ‘let’s see how we get on until January’ rather than wanting to spend any money they haven’t already made.

My fear is that Jürgen Klopp’s genius is allowing them to avoid spending money on players that will improve us to the point of being able to keep up with Manchester City irrespective of who they buy this summer. Whether John Henry and his acolytes like it or not, we’re playing football during an era of one club out-spending all of the rest and not even the manager’s ability to make a purse out of a sow’s ear will be able to keep us in the conversation indefinitely. There’s no question in my mind that we should have been in the conversation for Jadon Sancho, instead of letting him go to Manchester United. At the moment we’re lucky because Ole Gunnar Solksjaer isn’t a very good manager, but at some point he’ll stop being in charge at Old Trafford and someone with genuine ability in the dugout will take over. When that happens, we’ll have two teams from Manchester to compete against and we really should be making hay whilst the sun shines. We have a chance to win a couple more Premier League titles before Klopp decides to move on, so to not do so would be a real let down. We should be signing players because of his genius, not using it as an excuse not to.

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