Yet seven games into the new Premier League season, as the Reds find themselves in ninth place, nine points away from the division’s summit and struggling to find a successful formula, it appears that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The similarities between Spurs in summer 2013 and Liverpool in summer 2014 are genuinely staggering.
Fearing the debasing effects of Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid whilst also coping with the inevitable burdens of the Europa League, the Lilywhites splashed out £110million on seven signings in 2013, only for their league form to plummet to such disappointing depths that Andre Villas-Boas was given his marching orders by the end of December. Coincidentally, following a 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool.
Concerned how Liverpool would simultaneously handle Luis Suarez’ departure to Barcelona and the return of Champions League football at Anfield for the first time since 2009, Brendan Rodgers spent an almost identical sum on eight players, only for his side to endure an incredibly turbulent start to the current season, including shock defeats to West Ham and Aston Villa.
Those connections may seem largely superficial; especially in regards to the amount spent and the number of players brought in. But the causes of Liverpool and Totteham’s failed spending sprees were the same, as the consequences are also proving to be.
Perhaps the most predominant effect being a backbreaking weight of expectation. When Spurs cashed in on Gareth Bale and invested in Christian Eriksen, Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, Etienne Capoue, Nacer Chadli and Vlad Chiriches, there was a common feeling the north Londoners could become the Premier League’s dark horses – a new force for the title regulars to fear.
They were an exciting unknown quantity, built upon preceding reputations and the hypothesis that Spurs had swapped a one-man team for an eleven-man team, but eventually never came anywhere that billing. In fact, the failings of Tottenham’s summer 2013 transfer policy have effectively undone the hard work of Harry Redknapp’s four year tenure which pushed them upon the peripheries of the Champions League.
Few anticipate Liverpool to stage another title charge this year, but the new signings were expected to fill Luis Suarez’ almighty void considerably better than they’ve done thus far. Like Tottenham, Liverpool went for improved depth across all departments and in parody of the Lilywhites’ decisions regarding Gareth Bale, they decided not to source a direct like-for-like replacement to Suarez.
But the Uruguayan’s intensity and quality set the tone for the rest of the team; he came to epitomise Liverpool’s tenacious-yet-progressive philosophy last season. In the absence of a similar talismanic figure, the Reds have lacked that sense of urgency both with and without the ball.
There have been other intrinsic mistakes at Anfield this year. Rodgers claimed Liverpool’s summer spending would pan out differently to Tottenham’s, in part due to the fact he invested around half his funds in Premier League-proven players – it’s indisputable that Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli have all demonstrated the quality and suitability to be playing for top English sides. Spurs on the other hand, splashed out on seven players who had never set foot in the Premier League before.
Yet three of Liverpool’s starting back four have changed since last season, with Martin Skrtel now commonly accompanied by summer signings Alberto Moreno, Javier Manquillo and Lovren. The lack of continuity has resulted in shambolic defending and the fifth-worst goals conceded column in the Premier League.
And continuity is the underlying theme. Liverpool have by no means eradicated their core in the same manner Tottenham did – Pepe Reina and Daniel Agger where the only other notable departures this summer, whereas Spurs said goodbye to Scott Parker, William Gallas, Steven Caulker, Tom Huddlestone and Clint Dempsey in the same window as Bale, soon followed by Jermain Defoe in January – but the inclusion of so many new first team players at Anfield, in terms of philosophy, tactics and formation, has caused more problems than solved.
An adaption period is inevitable, yet some signings directly conflict with the style of play we witnessed from Liverpool last term; Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli for example, although two talented strikers, do not fit Liverpool’s breakneck-paced attacking mantra and their limited mobility has resulted in just one collective goal in 467 minutes of Premier League football. Likewise, Lazar Markovic, the joint-second largest Liverpool transfer under Rodgers, is still struggling to overcome the power, pace, intensity and quality of the English game.
Once again, one can call upon Tottenham Hotspur to offer comparison. Their huge turnaround left them struggling for a sense of identity, and in Roberto Soldado they purchased a striker completely alien to their style of play. In 2011/2012 and 2012/13, the Lilywhites recorded the second-most shots per match of any Premier League side, 47% and 56% respectively of which were from outside the box, yet at Valencia, the Spain international was famed for his predatory instincts in the penalty area – he could count his amount of goals from over 18 yards for Los Che on one hand.
You can argue both Liverpool and Spurs were left with little choice to invest such prolific sums in squad depth after losing key players – the temptation to do so is certainly understandable.
Yet, both clubs have proved that integrating so many signings of varied backgrounds at the same time, whilst attempting to reinvent formulas that can compensate for the departure of talismanic entities, is a near impossible task.
Tottenham fell into that trap and so did the Reds – it may not be the most popular decision with the supporters amid the ever-theatrical Hollywood tones of deadline day, but the next Premier League club to be lauded with unprecedented finance for surrendering a star of Suarez or Bale’s quality, would likely be better off holding onto their money.