Liverpool found themselves in a rather unique situation this summer, keen to utilise their enhanced financial firepower to build upon the momentum of their runner-up finish last season whilst simultaneously compensating for the £75million departure of PFA and FWA Player of the Year Luis Suarez.
Yet, the Anfield outfit’s £117million spend is yet to prove fruitful – in fact, the Reds appear to have taken a step back, as they currently lay eleventh in the Premier League with just 14 points from eleven games and a goal difference of -1.
Perhaps it’s time for some assessment then, and with that in mind, here’s FIVE fatal flaws of Liverpool’s summer transfer policy.
Tottenham Hotspur proved as much in summer 2013 upon Gareth Bale’s record-breaking £87million departure to Real Madrid – replacing a world-class entity with squad depth simply doesn’t work.
You can understand Brendan Rodgers’ desire to improve his options throughout the first team, with the Reds re-entering the Champions League for the first time since 2009 this season.
Only having to concentrate on the Premier League was an integral factor in Liverpool’s runner-up finish last term, and even amid their stunning 2013/14 campaign, the Anfield side were forced to depend on inexperienced youngsters in certain fixtures, such as Jon Flanagan, Brad Smith, Luis Alberto and Jordan Ibe.
But in the absence of a similarly talismanic replacement for now-Barcelona star Luis Suarez, the Liverpool starting Xi has lacked clear focal points this season and their form has duly suffered.
Furthermore, Liverpool could well be eliminated from the Champions League in the group stages, as they currently sit three points behind FC Basel in Group B:
…which makes all of that extra squad depth, at the cost of £117million, rather pointless.
Which brings us nicely on to the hotly-debated issue of marquee signings.
There’s clearly a bit of a problem here; throughout Brendan Rodgers’ four transfer windows at the Anfield helm, he’s never spent more than £25million on a single player – Adam Lallana – and continually failed to attract major names to the club.
Not that the Ulsterman hasn’t attempted to. Since taking over in 2012, the Reds have come close to signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Willian, Diego Costa, Alexis Sanchez, Isco and Yevhen Konoplyanka to name a few. But as you can see below, hardly any of Rodgers’ Reds acquisitions can be considered top-class buys:
— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) November 3, 2014
Rodgers recently raised a valid point that many players would prefer to move to London or Manchester over Liverpool for social or family reasons, but even so, if the Reds plan to ever compete with the likes of Arsenal Chelsea, Manchester City or Manchester United in the transfer market, they have to make an Anfield switch as tempting as possible – even if that includes bending the club’s financial structure.
The Anfield boss appears to agree, having demanded Liverpool work ‘harder and smarter’ in the transfer market, and a similar view is held by former Charlton and West Ham boss-come-pundit, Alan Curbishley.
The predominant concern is that, in the long-term, it will reflect badly on Rodgers, suggesting a lack of pulling power, and also eliminate Liverpool from the top end of the transfer market.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but from the off, buying Mario Balotelli for £16million was always a huge gamble.
After all, Roberto Mancini, Cesare Prandelli and Jose Mourinho have all failed to tame the enigmatic Italian, with the Chelsea boss dubbing him ‘unmanageable’ during their time together at Inter Milan, and nothing suggested Brendan Rodgers would fare any better.
Likewise, from a tactical point of view, the 24 year-old is completely wrong for the Reds. Last season, an industrious-yet-progressive attacking style, based upon relentlessly quick counter-attacking, became their identity, but Balotelli is work-shy and illusive, and rather than testing space behind defenders prefers to pick up the ball in front of them.
There’s nothing wrong with that style of play – consider Dimitar Berbatov’s Premier League exploits – but in comparison to Liverpool’s it’s chalk and cheese, and has also made Balotelli stick out like a sore thumb.
Resultantly, the Italy international’s netted just twice in 12 appearances for the Reds and is yet to get off the mark in the Premier League.
Once again, there’s harrowing similarities to Tottenham’s recruitment in summer 2013, where they splashed out a club-record £27million on flopped striker Roberto Soldado.
To think as well, the Reds could have signed the far more dependable Loic Remy, before pulling the plug over an apparent failed medical.
Liverpool’s defensive frailties under Brendan Rodgers are a long-term problem – since taking the dugout in 2012, the Reds have conceded on average 1.2 goals per match in the Premier League, which is obviously too high for a Champions League club.
But in the absence of a prolific goal threat, Liverpool’s poor performances at the other end of the pitch have become even more evident, and Brendan Rodgers’ addition of three new defenders to the starting Xi during the summer, Javier Manquillo, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, has further exacerbated the situation.
Not to suggest any are bad players or poor acquisitions; left-back Moreno for example, is already looking like a solid find, netting this incredible solo effort against Spurs:
…and producing a top display against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
But clearly, they’re inevitably struggling to gel as a backline, particularly £20million signing Dejan Lovren alongside Martin Skrtel, and resultantly, Liverpool’s 15 goals conceded this term is matched or bettered by eleven fellow Premier League sides.
Perhaps this isn’t a failure of transfer policy exclusively – Liverpool’s back four has needed a shake up for some time – but Rodgers should have anticipated the dangers of forging an entirely new defence overnight.
Liverpool spent a whopping £117million this summer, marking the most lucrative transfer window in the club’s history, as a result of the added revenues of Champions League football and the £75million sale of Luis Suarez.
But did Brendan Rodgers really need to spend it all in such a ferocious fashion? Take Arsene Wenger for example – he may often draw criticism from fans, but the Frenchman is one of the Premier League’s shrewdest when it comes to picking his moments in the transfer market.
The Liverpool boss, on the other hand, appeared hell-bent on spending the entirety of his transfer bounty during the summer. That’s probably the largest budget he’ll ever be given access to however and currently the Reds don’t have too much to show for it.
It’s understandable that Rodgers went all-out during the summer, but some deals, such as Adam Lallana for £25million, don’t strike good value-for-money and although he may have entered the current season with a weaker squad than desired, patience from the Anfield gaffer – perhaps waiting for some better, contract-rebel-based deals in January – would have proved wiser in the long-run.