Almost 72 hours have passed since the summer transfer window slammed shut at 11:00pm on Thursday night. I knew I was jinxing things when I naively arranged a pizza and drinks night to see the Deadline Day out as my best friend and fellow red and I harboured hopes of at least one big deal going through in the final hours. Yeah, we all know how that ended, shite. Since then, I’ve fumed, thought about it some more, fumed again and then had time for reflection….still shite. Okay I’m exaggerating (I think), let’s look at the positives and negatives of our window, how we compared to our rivals and predict where Klopp and his men will finish after his 4th transfer window has come to an end.
Transfer Window Rating
The window started with apparent purpose, Virgil Van Dijk was quickly identified as a priority signing, contact was made, trips to Blackpool were reported and one pathetic apology later lead to the Dutchman training alone wondering whether his dream move would materialise. Salah now looks like a bargain with some of the deals completed on deadline day, a left back was required and as we’ve heard far too many times, others have come back into the fold almost “like a new signing”, Moreno for one. Robertson has come in and seemingly pushed our little Spaniard to show glimpses of what we came to expect when he first arrived from Sevilla. Solanke could end up being a real coup with his fee yet to be decided by tribunal. Keita was another top target identified by Klopp. Leipzig dug their heels in, turned down a £66m+ bid but accepted his 2018 release clause (£48m) plus a small premium to secure his signature next summer. A potential stroke of genius by the club and something we’d all be applauding if the likes of Madrid or Bayern Munich had pulled off such a manoeuvre. The Thomas Lemar rumour came out of nowhere, a pleasant surprise for LFC supporters, finally bidding for a top talent to end the window with a bang. Two bids were rejected, a third didn’t happen even though it was reported the player himself came out and turned down Arsenal in favour of a move to Anfield. A huge disappointment and a missed opportunity for FSG to show ambition and put the net spend agenda to one side for a short while at least.
The Reds managed to trim the squad also, out went Lucas (Lazio – £5m), his 10 year association with the club coming to an end in favour of a new chapter in Italy. Andre Wisdom (Derby County – £2m), Kevin Stewart (Hull City – £8m in some reports) departed whilst Crystal Palace welcomed back Mamadou Sakho, the self-elected President of the Liverpool country eventually made his way back to Selhurst Park for £26m. Sheyi Ojo (Fulham), Ryan Kent (Freiburg) and Divock Origi (Wolfsburg) headed out on loan with the latter bringing in a £6m loan fee.
Incredibly, goalkeeper Bogdan has made his best save since he’s arrived at the club, his Liverpool career, yes he’s still here. Markovic failed to attract any suitable offers but may well be an option from the wing as the squad looks a little thin in that area due to the players that exited the club on loan.
Mohamed Salah (Roma – £34m)
The Egyptian returns to England a more mature, well rounded attacking star, taking his pre-season form into the Barclays Premier League. Already carding 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 games, the “Chelsea reject” has started like a man determined to prove his doubters wrong, not a bad way to start.
Andrew Robertson (Hull City – £8m)
Perhaps not the first name on everyone’s list when you consider the full-back’s that were available. Kolasinac was a fantastic signing for Arsenal on a free whilst Ricardo Rodríguez departed Wolfsburg for A.C Milan at an absolute steal at €15m, Mendy chose the riches of Manchester City so it meant Hull City’s Mr. Reliable was the man to boost the ranks at left back. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in that position as a resurgent Alberto Moreno has staked his claim to become the number one we all had expected him to be back in 2014.
Dominic Solanke (Chelsea £ – to be decided by tribunal)
The England U’20 World Cup winner and Player of the Tournament turned down a new deal at Chelsea to continue his development under Jurgen Klopp. Much promise was shown in pre-season, the youngster has bags of potential and will hope to make an impact from the bench as well as the various cup games over the course of the season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal – £35m)
The only incoming deal on deadline day. It’s well document that The Ox is a Liverpool fan and the England international quickly endeared himself to Reds supporters as it was documented he turned down £180,000 a week deal at Arsenal, £220,000 a week at Chelsea to instead put pen to paper for Liverpool on terms of £120,000 per week. Still a huge amount of money of course but refreshing to see that money isn’t always the main motivator for a young Footballer. This signing also represents a statement that shows the club is capable of attracting players from a rival. The right manager, back in the Champions League and the possibilities can be endless over the next few years. Chamberlain is yet to establish himself in a fixed position at Arsenal and it is believed he will be given a chance in central midfield under Klopp. A future successor to Milner perhaps, his versatility is a gift and a curse but under Jurgen, I believe AOC can fully unlock his potential.
How Did Our Rivals Do?
Transfer Window Rating
Major Ins – Kolasinac / Lacazette
Major Outs – Oxlade-Chamberlain / Szczęsny / Paulista / Gibbs
If, like myself, you thought the transfer window didn’t quite pan out as hoped, spare a thought for the lads at Arsenal TV, the meltdown must have been iconic. They got off to a good start with the shrewd acquisitions of Kolasinac on a free whilst they picked up one of the most prolific strikers in Europe in Alexander Lacazette. Although, both players found themselves benched as they were on the end of a 4-0 thrashing thanks to Mané and Co. Similarly to Liverpool, they have an unhappy player on their hands in Sanchez, who must had thought his nightmare was coming to an end as a £60m bid from Manchester City was accepted. After previously backing out of a deal for number one target Thomas Lemar, The Gunners had a £92m offer accepted late on deadline day. French players Giroud, Koscielny and Lacazette supposedly made their way to their National team mate’s room to convince the young winger to join the French revolution at Arsenal only for Lemar to explain he wasn’t interested in moving to a team in the Europa League (ouch). Reports gathered pace that Lemar instead wanted a move to Liverpool to play under manager Jurgen Klopp. Both clubs missed out in the end thus the eventual collapse of the Sanchez-City deal. Finally, Wenger lost his battle in persuading Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to remain at the Emirates. The boyhood Liverpool fan made it clear he wanted to leave for pastures new after turning down a huge £180,000 a week deal. Chelsea had an offer accepted but The Ox held out for The Reds and a bid followed 24 hours later. He got the move he wanted whilst The North London club had no choice but to cash in on a player they would lose on a free next summer.
Transfer Window Rating
Major Ins – Rudiger / Bakayoko / Morata / Zappacosta / Drinkwater
Major Outs – Solanke / Cuadrado / Matic / Ake / Zouma (loan) / Begovic / Terry / Chalobah / Loftus-Cheek (loan)
As expected, Chelsea started splashing their cash by strengthening all over. In came Rudiger to replace the outgoing captain John Terry, Monaco’s midfield enforcer Bakayoko was brought in for £40m. It was widely expected The Blues would welcome back Romelu Lukaku to the club, hesitation followed and the Big Belgian instead joined Jose Mourinho at United. Antonio Conte was furious as he missed out on the striker as well as a host of other names. Alex Sandro stayed at Juventus, Kyle Walker chose the riches of Man City over the roubles at Stamford Bridge, Oxlade-Chamberain and Van Dijk both declared their wish to join Liverpool whilst Llorente ended up at Tottenham on deadline day. Ross Barkley reportedly had a last minute change of heart as he completed his medical only to bizarrely make his way back to Merseyside which instead resulted in the last minute acquisition of Danny Drinkwater from Leicester City for £35m. Although The Blues improved their squad, I couldn’t award higher than a B due to the sale of Nemanja Matić to a rival and the failure to remove unhappy forward Douglas Costa from the squad.
Transfer Window Rating
Major Ins – Bernardo Silva / Mendy / Danilo / Kyle Walker / Ederson
Major Outs – Bony / Fernando / Iheanacho / Zabaleta / Clichy / Sagna / Navas / Nolito / Nasri / Kolarov / Hart (loan)
No messing about from Guardiola, identified areas of weakness and moved quickly to address them. Claudio Bravo failed to work out as intended, Ederson was the man brought in from Benfica for £34m and the young shot stopper has looked comfortable albeit in his short time so far at the club. Pep allowed four full backs to leave and remedied this by spending £133m on three replacements; Danilo from Real Madrid, Benjamin Mendy of Monaco and Tottenham right back Kyle Walker all come in to offer pace and power down the flanks. Bernardo Silva was the first piece of business conducted, another star name from the star-studded Monaco team that’s now being ripped apart. Silva comes into an already devastating attack. If that wasn’t enough City almost added want-away Alexis Sanchez with a £60m bid accepted only for Thomas Lemar to reject Arsenal which meant The Gunners refusing to let the Chilean leave. City will be title favourites for many.
Transfer Window Rating
Major Ins – Lukaku / Lindelof / Matić / Ibrahimović
Major Outs – Rooney / Januzaj
As much as it pains me to say, United have had a very good summer. They’ve got guaranteed goals in Romelu Lukaku who, as we all know comes with proven Premier League pedigree. The transfer fee was baulked at but I’m sure there won’t be many complaints if he contributes 20+ goals a season as expected. Lindelof has made an unconvincing start to his Manchester United career but is young and has time to improve under Jose Mourinho. Matić is a master stroke and a move that Chelsea may come to regret after selling to a rival. The Serbian is exactly what the team needed. He will protect the back four, is assured on the ball, strong and will allow Pogba to show the very best of his ability with increased license to roam forward and join in with the attack. The re-signing of Ibra is a strange one as the pace and power United have recruited in Lukaku provides dynamism in attack. However, the Swede, on the back of a very successful season personally, will offer another dimension from the bench. United’s only flaw in the market was their failure to prize Croatian winger Ivan Perišić from Inter Milan.
Transfer Window rating
Major Ins – Llorente / Aurier / Davinson Sánchez / Foyth
Major Outs – Walker / N’Jie / Fazio / Wimmer
Not the easiest of transfer windows for Spurs as they had arguably the most settled squad going into the summer. They replaced like for like as Aurier came in from PSG to replace the outgoing Kyle Walker. Although Walker is England’s first choice right back, not many would turn down £50m for him! Wimmer was allowed to leave for Stoke and even though Tottenham have one of the best centre back pairings in Alderweireld and Vertonghen, Davinson Sánchez was an opportunity too good to turn down and will provide plenty of competition as one of Ajax’s young stand-out performers last season. Llorente chose White Hart Lane over Conte’s Chelsea and is another good back up from the bench as Harry Kane remains the focal point of that Tottenham attack.
Prior to the summer window there existed key areas within the squad that certainly needed attention. The goalkeeping situation seemed to settle after Mignolet’s form improved last season although the Belgian surely won’t survive another season of inconsistent form. Left back was long discussed more-so since Alberto Moreno’s calamitous performance in the Europa League final loss vs Sevilla. This pre-season however, saw an unexpected upturn in form for the little Spaniard, catching the eye in particular against Bayern Munich, bombing forward at will, providing plenty of quality towards the likes of Mané and Salah whilst more importantly showing some defensive nouse which has hampered his Liverpool career. Robertson was still brought in and will battle it out with Moreno for that first team spot which the latter seems to hold for the time being at least. Depth was certainly needed in midfield as captain Jordan Henderson struggled for much of last season with injury and Adam Lallana has already been ruled out until at least November with a thigh injury. As aforementioned the Naby Keita deal was announced, a brilliant move by The Reds, signing the Guinea International who will arrive in July 2018. Oxlade-Chamberlain was pinched from rivals Arsenal for a sizeable fee considering the time left on his contract but will offer versatility if injuries and suspensions occur. The England man signed on at Anfield with the expectation of playing a role in central midfield. It remains to be seen whether The Ox slots into that midfield three if everyone is fit. In my opinion he will play in rotation with many games to be played and his versatility will probably see him ease the burden on our speedsters in a front three also. Finally, Mohamed Salah flew in from Roma for a fee of £34m. The way the transfer window ended, the sum already looks like a bargain when you consider other deals that were complete before the 11pm deadline on Thursday. The team suffered last season when Sadio Mané picked up a knee injury that ruled him out for the end of season run-in. Liverpool still managed to take 4th place but the speed and directness which Sadio offers was greatly missed. The Reds limped to narrow wins over the likes of Stoke, West Brom and Watford as they struggled to create clear-cut chances against teams who are happy to sit deep. Salah will now give defences two reason to worry as he can drive at opponents or attack the space in behind as a willing runner. The Egyptian has started brightly and along with Mané and Roberto Firmino, the trio represent one of the most feared attacking units in the league.
The Bad and That £175m War-chest
If we had a list of priorities, Liverpool’s list would go as follows;
1 – Centre back – ?
2 – Left back – Check
3 – Pace in attack – Check
4 – Central midfield – Check… only just
Three out of four areas addressed but the key position ended in utter failure. The whole world knew Virgil Van Dijk was target number one. The way the move collapsed is absolutely unforgivable in my eyes. Klopp wanted Van Dijk, The Dutchman wanted to play for Klopp, Southampton are a selling club and Liverpool are their number one customer so what could go wrong? News was leaked from the Liverpool side that Virgil Van Dijk had chosen to play for Liverpool ahead of Manchester City and Chelsea, subsequently taking away any hopes The Saints had of a bidding war. Retaliation took place in the form of a tapping up complaint. Yes it happens in football all the time, often without any repercussions. Not this time. With the threat of a transfer ban hanging over the heads of Liverpool, owners FSG decided to interject, releasing a statement apologising for the misunderstanding and dropped all interest in the player. Utter incompetence. Who shoulders the blame? FSG without a shadow of a doubt however, it is also believed Jurgen Klopp, although presented with a list of alternatives including Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly chose to go all or nothing, instead preferring to wait until January or even next summer to land his preferred target. The Reds go into the season with Lovren, Matip, Gomez and Klavan as the centre back options. The fear is you’re one injury and/or a suspension away from a Gomez/Klavan partnership in a Champions League game. Frankly, the blame has to fall at FSG or the man they employed who was responsible for the leak. If that didn’t occur, Virgil Van Dijk would have been a Liverpool player months ago.
Aside from the centre back debacle, The Times Journalist and one of the few reputable names on the circuit, Paul Joyce reported a substantial £175m windfall was available and ready to use on deadline day. The amount touted to prize away Virgil Van Dijk and surprise name Thomas Lemar from Southampton and Monaco respectively. I, along with many other Reds were surprised with the Lemar links but then it suddenly dawned on me, why? Why the shock surrounding such a prodigious talent and Liverpool Football Club? The reason is simple, expectation. When you’re not competing in the Champions League you begin to become accustomed with targeting either 2nd tier players or those who’ve not yet unlocked their star potential. Torres, Suarez, Mascherano and Xabi Alonso all spring to mind, players who undoubtedly became world class at the club. Liverpool hold a fearsome front line and by the time you drop Phillipe Coutinho into a deeper role, the midfield three look very solid too. Liverpool have just returned to the Champions League, equipped with a manager that is held in high esteem, playing in a stadium that encompasses the history and tradition of many great players over the years. Shock should be replaced by expectation if we are to move forward.
If The Reds are to return to the top, the mindset MUST change. Look what happened in our last Champions League adventure. Laboured performances against the likes of Basel and Ludogorets whilst Brendan Rodgers threw in the towel against Real madrid, infamously resting Henderson, Sterling, Balotelli, Coutinho and captain Steven Gerrard as Liverpool’s return to Europe’s top tier was short lived. Mistakes of the past can’t be repeated, has Liverpool’s first XI improved? The short answer is yes. Has the squad depth improved? Yes but the quality only marginally. You have to remember Origi, Ojo and Ryan Kent all departed which leaves us thin in terms of pace from the bench yet again. Oxlade-Chamberlain can cover but playing wide is not his intention. Mamadou Sakho was also moved on with no replacement, he has his faults yes and although we’ll never know the full story, the reality was he was as good if not better than Dejan Lovren.
This Thomas Lemar transfer would have been a massive statement. The French starlet was a key component in Monaco’s successful season last term, often operating from a wide left position or as a number 10, the strength in depth available to the Reds would have improved vastly. On the basis of everyone being fit, the front three on current form at least, pick themselves, the midfield three is highly debatable but for this example lets select Coutinho, Henderson and Emre Can. We’re then talking about a bench that could have looked like this; Karius, Gomez, Klavan, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Lemar, Sturridge. The strength in depth propels Liverpool to new heights. No longer reliant on a host of U’21 players with little to no experience in the Premier League and Champions League to fill the substitutes bench. Bringing through talent is vital and that can still happen in cup games but you have to look at the bigger picture.
Two seasons ago Klopp lead his men to two cup finals, last season the target of top four was reached and Champions League football is now back on the agenda. Progress is not scrapping for top 4 again, the aim now must be to cement a place in the Champions League season on season, competing in cup finals and mounting a regular title challenge. Our rivals, with the exception of Arsenal and Tottenham have all spent heavily. I won’t go into the net spend agenda in depth as that can be spoken about in another article but the truth is, we fall behind our counterparts almost every season. FSG missed a huge opportunity in failing to get the Lemar deal finalised. Monaco named their price, Arsenal agreed to pay it, Lemar rejected the move and made it abundantly clear he wanted to play for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool in the Champions League. Two bids were rejected, the intention was there but no third bid? Baffling. The “FSG out” brigade may have been silenced for a season at least but now they will be in full voice should the worst happen, injuries accumulate and the squad start suffering.
Premier League Prediction
On the back of that transfer window my Teacher comment would have been “Okay, should have done better”. Most positions addressed but failure in the Van Dijk and Lemar deals prevented The Reds from having an excellent window. The rate in which Mohamed Salah has acclimatised to Liverpool life and the unwavering stance FSG took in keeping hold of star man Phillipe Coutinho ensured the window wasn’t a poor one. I was torn between a C+ and a B- and it was the Naby Keita deal that prompted me to go with the latter. The Reds have made a strong enough start to the season, maximum points in the opening league games were prevented only by a linesman’s decision against Watford whilst the Champions League Play-off highlighted our attacking potency. If this Liverpool team can find consistency, then the January transfer window may be used to solidify the push on all fronts in both league and on the continent. Chelsea and Arsenal didn’t have the summer most would have expected whilst Spurs found themselves in a scenario of purchasing squad players and balancing a settled first XI. I feel the two Manchester clubs will be very strong and therefore Liverpool will fight it out with Chelsea for third spot. A title challenge will only occur, in my opinion if luck with injuries are on our side and a dip into the winter transfer window to rectify what was missed this window. It’s an exciting time, I hope we can still say that at the turn of the year.