Just over a week has gone by since Liverpool’s painful defeat to Real Madrid in Kiev. Although Jurgen Klopp’s men lost in gut-wrenching fashion to Los Blancos, an undeniable sense of optimism hangs in the air. This has been in large part fueled by the left of field signing of Fabinho from Monaco, and the apparent willingness of the owners to splash the cash this summer.
The Fabinho coup was nothing short of a statement of intent by Liverpool. The Brazilian was touted by many to join the ranks at Manchester United and yet the UCL runners-up nipped in to secure a deal in no time at all. He can play competently in three positions and, at twenty-four, is a good age for the first team. The speed and efficiency of the transfer are massive positives for the club, after years of protracted and painful transfer sagas. Liverpool, though, must be steadfast in what is perhaps their most important summer transfer window in the Premier League area.
A warning from history
It must be remembered that Liverpool have been here before in their recent history. Riding the crest of a wave, they have gone in to previous summer windows with high hopes before making an almighty mess of things. 2002, 2009, and 2014 were all years in which Reds fans dared to believe only to find they had taken regressed with a mixture of bad recruitment and poor judgment.
In 2002, the club bizarrely allowed Anelka to slip through the net; wouldn’t pay for Duff from Blackburn; and allowed three real howlers to take place as they put all of our eggs in a Ligue 1 basket. 2009 was worse still, one of Liverpool’s best teams in the Premier League era suffered from a lack of investment, as two American shysters ran the club into the rocks. Benitez made a mess of things, too, as he wrongly gambled on Alberto Aquilani’s capacity to replace Alsonso. The squad rotted and was left with the likes of Ngog and El Zhar playing too many games.
2014 wasn’t as bad as all of that. The club simply couldn’t recover from the irreplaceable Luis Suarez’s departure, and foolishly didn’t sign a proper striker. Balotelli was never going to suit Liverpool’s approach and they allowed Sanchez to join Arsenal rather than insist he was part of any deal for Suarez. All too painful seasons followed as Liverpool failed to build on a position of strength. On each occasion, they tumbled down from 2nd to as low as seventh the following season. This cannot be allowed to happen again, not with the squad in such a good place.
Patience, not panic
This window is very unlikely to offer again the calm seas the club experienced with the Fabinho transfer. Clubs will be well aware of Klopp’s desperation for a goalkeeper. They will also be aware of John Henry’s wallet, and consequently demand silly money for players. There is also a World Cup in less than two weeks and club presidents will be keen to wait to see if the summer anti-climax will offer any inflation on their in-demand players. Liverpool already experienced this with Nabil Fekir as Jean-Michel Aulas allegedly stalls on agreeing a fee before a ball is kicked in Russia.
The point is this: The fans will be demanding more new, high profile faces, with almost hourly posts from social media enhancing the impatience. Liverpool must try to remain focused and get the right quality of player this summer. Unfortunately, it looks as though they will have to pay over the odds on at least two of their preferred targets. The club must be careful not to get too bogged-down with clubs keen to shake them by the proverbial ankles. There is nothing like a huge price tag to crank up the pressure for a new signing.
There is, however, no need to panic. Klopp will have identified plenty of options for his preferred recruits. With his high press so demanding, and the team needing to take the next step, they must not hit the alarm button and go after players that simply don’t suit the way Klopp plays. They did this with Benteke as well as Balotelli, and neither man looked anywhere near the required calibre as we meandered through mediocrity.
Trophies will come if Klopp continues to get it right
Klopp has so far played a more-than-reasonable hand in the high stakes game of Premier League transfer windows. He has seldom signed anyone who didn’t look like they could add something to the team at the very least. So far, the squad he is assembling is strong and starting to become filled with character as well as quality.
But they will need to add more depth in key areas such as centre-half, centre-mid, and in the attack. The likes of Klavan, Grujic, Moreno and Ings are simply not of the required quality to be able to step in and help maintain momentum – see: West Brom, Stoke and, Chelsea towards the end of the last season.
Liverpool’s squad must be in a position to make a realistic stab at the domestic cups as well, without taking too much sting out of the League/Champions League campaigns. Last season, this simply wasn’t the case as they were let down against Leicester and West Brom in cup matches; the fringe players couldn’t make the most of their rare chances. Although ultimately a footnote last season, these defeats are telling. Just one trophy has been won this decade by the club, in what is becoming a lengthy, worrying barren spell.
It would be a massive boost for Klopp’s reign if the club was able to buck this trend and win one of the domestic cups next season. A league title may still be beyond anyone but Manchester City next season, but if they stutter, Liverpool are well-placed to push them. It would also take the pressure off this squad as sizeable monkey would be removed from their shoulders. If they were to do this by rotating and still being able to field quality elevens, then this summer’s window will go down as a success, no matter how difficult it could yet prove to be.