In contrast to last summer, Liverpool’s activity during the upcoming transfer window will determine how well they do in the Premier League next season.
Brendan Rodgers got away with it this past year – and that’s not to say Liverpool’s title charge was built solely on fortune. Liverpool had a poor transfer period last summer by the standards normally set by title contenders. The only undeniable success, though with room for further improvement: Simon Mignolet. All the other arrivals disappointed to some degree, and Liverpool can’t suffer a repeat this time around.
What does the future hold for Luis Suarez? Hard to say at this point. Real Madrid may come in for him, or they may sidestep him entirely and move for one of either Sergio Aguero or Radamel Falcao. They could just hold fire altogether and stick with Karim Benzema, but that isn’t really Florentino Perez’s style. Liverpool would obviously love it if their star striker was overlooked in favour of either Manchester City or Monaco’s, but Real Madrid’s president can’t help himself when it comes to players who have had seasons like Suarez has.
So should we revisit that much-chugged on riff of last summer and give it another go? Hypothetically speaking, obviously, Liverpool aren’t guaranteed to fall apart if Suarez leaves. If they invest wisely they’ll be fine. I said it last summer and I’m sticking to it. It’s difficult to part ways with a player of that calibre, but teams have been successful after such a sale and they can continue to be. The most recent and obvious examples? Falcao and Atletico Madrid, and Edinson Cavani and Napoli. Both strikers won their previous clubs trophies, and both of those clubs secured silverware in the season following their departure.
That doesn’t take into account the differences with the Premier League and Serie A and La Liga. The English league will bring more competition for the league title next season than Italy or Spain will, but the principle remains the same: you’ll be fine if you spend well.
But let’s assume Suarez does stay on at Anfield next season, the club would still have to add at least one more goal-scoring forward but would have a lot to do to make up for the deficiencies at the other end of the pitch.
Liverpool lost out on the league title this past season because their defence was awful. Dress it up however you like, you can’t concede three goals in the penultimate game of the season if you’re looking to win the whole thing. You can’t win a league title if you don’t know who your two best centre-backs are – or maybe you can, but it’s bloody difficult. Sooner or later you’ll get found out and the philosophy of outgunning the opposition will come back to haunt you.
It’s not to say Liverpool aren’t enjoyable to watch – they are, or were. You just can’t have such glaring holes in defence if you’re to be successful over a stretch of 38-games. In a cup competition, yes, just not in a league season.
It remains to be seen how much leeway Liverpool’s owners will give Rodgers this summer in the way of big-money signings. Adam Lallana looks to be a top target, and he won’t come cheap. But reckless spend – because that’s how I’d describe £20-plus million being spent on Lallana – isn’t the only way to improve on this past season.
A thought: wouldn’t someone like Jan Vertonghen’s transfer fee be in the same ballpark as Lallana? The Spurs defender would be a much better acquisition than the Southampton captain.
The recruitment method that bought the club Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto also gave them Coutinho, so the lesson is be absolutely sure of what you’re getting. Coutinho isn’t a one-off, nor is a £15 million striker who will score you 11 in half a season and over 20 in an entire campaign. If it hasn’t already become annoyingly drilling: it’s about being smart and spending wisely.
Liverpool aren’t in a position where they’ll spend in the way Chelsea or Manchester City will do this summer, or even Manchester United, despite being able to offer Champions League football over the Old Trafford outfit.
They’ll therefore need to scour Europe for a few bargains who can fill the squad out to go along with one or two big signings, because I don’t subscribe to the idea that price always dictates the quality of a player. Liverpool should know.
This team isn’t short by one or two; Rodgers needs a squad rather than just a good eleven. This team isn’t equipped to handle four competitions next season. The club must make the most of their budget this summer, and while significant reinvestment is needed in the event Suarez does leave – though not necessarily on just one player – shrewd, plentiful purchases must be the order of the day.