What The Title Race Says About Transfers

I can’t really decide what Liverpool’s performance against Norwich at the weekend says about the Reds. I’ve been stewing on it since I returned from Anfield and it is difficult to pin down precisely where we’re at right now. On the one hand, the players turned it in for half an hour or so and put three past the East Anglian club, with the supporters turning feral for the time needed to get us over the line. On the other hand, we were quite poor for an hour, with a better team than the Canaries likely to score a couple of goals against us. Their actual goal had a huge slice of luck about it, but when you consider that we are the first team in the top nine in the Premier League that has conceded a goal against them, the fact that Teemu Pukki missed at least one gilt-edged chance suggests that we might have been thinking about other stuff during the opening hour of football. In the end, we won quite comfortably and put the pressure on Manchester City, who dropped points themselves to blow the title race wide open.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been saying that Manchester City will drop the points that we need them to before the end of the season, but the fact that Liverpool won’t be perfect means that the title is already heading back to the Etihad. To an extent, I still believe that that is true, but I’m also starting to feel that we might just be able to keep enough pressure on them to mean that things will remain interesting for the rest of the campaign. I’m not totally sure who else can take points off them and Tottenham Hotspur are more than capable of defeating us on their day, to say nothing of the likes of Everton and Manchester United coming to Anfield before the final final whistle is blown. Right now, I’d fancy us to beat both of them, but it’s fair to say that they will both be putting everything they’ve got into stopping us from winning another title. There is also the risk that going deep into the FA Cup and Champions League might cause us a distraction, but we’ve suddenly got a squad that should be able to cope, despite what pundits previously thought.

The Pre-Season Shouts

Before a ball was kicked in the Premier League this season, BBC pundits were asked to make their predictions about where teams would finish at the end of the campaign. Liverpool had come off the back of a really poor season by our standards under Jürgen Klopp, but none of the mitigating circumstances were taken into account by the chattering classes. Add to that the fact that Chelsea had won the Champions League and it isn’t too hard to see why some of them might have expected the London club to compete with us and Manchester City. Seven of the pundits concerned had Chelsea winning the title, whilst thirteen thought that Pep Guardiola’s side would be able to defend it. Zero had Liverpool down as title winners, with only three of them thought that we’d finish second. Eighteen of the nineteen pundits concerned said that we’d at least finish in the top four, whilst Jermaine Beckford had us missing out to Leicester City. Of course, predictions make fools of us all, so we should get too caught up in all of that.

Yet I can’t help but ask why it is that so many people thought that Chelsea would finish ahead of us, given that they’d finished fourth in the 2020-2021 campaign and we had had no defenders for most of the season. Indeed, Chelsea were fortunate that Leicester once again bottled the top four chase, else they might not have finished in the top four at all. The only answer I can come up with is that the West London club spent nearly £100 million to re-sign Romelu Lukaku, who was meant to be the missing piece of the puzzle for them. For so many pundits, as with supporters, spending money equals success, in spite of the fact that that has not been the case so many times in the past. Indeed, just this season a quick look across Stanley Park will tell us that spending money alone isn’t enough of a guarantee that you’ll succeed in the Premier League. Similar can be said of Manchester United, who many pundits fancied to challenge because of the re-signing of Cristiano Ronaldo and the arrival of Jadon Sancho, but those signings weren’t enough.

Transfers Aren’t Everything If A Club Is Badly Run

Bringing in the right players is always a good idea, given the fact that you need to constantly be looking to improve if you want to win. Bringing in the wrong players, meanwhile, will make no difference to your desire to be successful. Cristiano Ronaldo is the perfect case in point on that front. Manchester United were reportedly spurred into action when there were rumours that Manchester City wanted to sign him. A well-run club will have seen what happened with Juventus last season and figured out that him going to the Etihad would have been likely to disrupt what Pep Guardiola is doing there. He is yesterday’s man, capable of scoring goals and doing that ridiculous celebration of his, but not part of a team. It didn’t take long for that to proven at Old Trafford, where the accused-rapist has indeed got on the scoresheet plenty of times but the team as a whole is a bit of a joke. There are structural problems at the Red Devils that signings alone won’t allow them to recover from any time soon.

The same sort of thing can be said of our Blue Brethren. There is little doubt that Everton have spent money in the transfer market. They have been splashing the cash virtually every transfer window, allowing them to ‘win’ a few of them. The problem is that the structural problems at Goodison Park are so ingrained that no amount of money will ensure success. Such is the nature of life at Everton that they are no in a position where, despite having spent more than us, they’re pinning their hopes on Donny van der Beek and Dele Alli being successes under Frank Lampard when more experienced managers haven’t managed to get a tune out of them. The weird thing is, there are definitely some Liverpool supporters that would prefer for us to have spent the money that Everton have and won nothing than see the club be responsibly run, simply because it will mean that we’ve made more transfers. Buying players might trick pundits into thinking you can be successful, but actual success is based on being well-run and pulling in the same direction.

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