“At Liverpool, there’s a strategy behind what we’re doing,” Brendan Rodgers replied in July, as he was questioned on whether the Anfield outfit were falling into the same transfer traps as Tottenham the year previous.
In summer 2013, upon the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Spurs splashed out a club-record £104million to compensate for the Welsh wizard’s departure, only for their league form to tank and Andre Villas-Boas to lose his job by Christmas time.
In direct parody, the Reds spent a similar sum this summer as Luis Suarez left for Barcelona and the Merseysiders have now dropped all the way to twelfth place in the Premier League – just four points off the relegation zone.
So, as Rodgers admits his future could now be on the line, and to prove despite his assurances otherwise, Liverpool have in fact ‘done a Tottenham’, here’s FIVE glaring similarities between Spurs’ transfer policy in summer 2013 and the Reds’ during the recent offseason.
It may seem like a rather superficial comparison, but to rule it completely coincidental would be naive.
In summer 2013, Spurs splashed out £104million on seven players and during the recent off-season Liverpool spent a near-identical £107million on seven players – discounting £10million signing Divock Origi, who has returned to Lille on a season-long loan.
Both clubs have resultantly suffered from the same issue – how best to fit all these signings in.
Despite costing a combined £60million for example, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic have racked up just 1214 minutes collectively in the Premier League – the equivalent of 13 start-to-finish appearances, or just three each out of a possible twelve.
Likewise, Etienne Capoue, Erik Lamela, Paulinho and Vlad Chirches, costing a rather eerily similar £61million the previous summer, averaged just 14 Premier League outings apiece last term and all were linked with moves away from White Hart Lane during the summer.
Having depth is all well and good, but both Liverpool and Spurs have suffered disastrous transition processes and slumps in form as a consequence of so many additions, whilst it’s proved impossible for both clubs to keep all players happy.
Both Liverpool and Tottenham have proved that replacing a key player with squad depth simply doesn’t work.
As Spurs sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in 2013 for a whopping £87million, the mantra was simply ‘we’re swapping a one-man team for an eleven man team’, whilst also pointing out the demands of those dreaded Thursday night Europa League fixtures.
Likewise, as Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona this summer, Brendan Rodgers argued that the added commitments of Champions League football meant that he needed a wider and more varied roster. Admittedly, there were times last season where Liverpool had to rely upon academy players to fill up their matchday squads.
Yet, with Bale and Suarez’ departures proving considerably more debasing than either Premier League side anticipated, both clubs would have been better off focusing their funds on a select few high-quality signings instead.
In the absence of such acquisitions, the Reds and the Lilywhites’ starting XIs have both lack clear focal points and none of the signings have particularly risen to the challenge of filling the void left behind by their talismanic predecessors – perhaps ‘a diffusion of responsibility’, for the criminologists and psychologists amongst you.
In summer 2013, Tottenham splashed out a £26million sum on Roberto Soldado in what was probably the most ill-thought Premier League acquisition of the window.
Over the last two campaigns for example, Spurs have come 4th and 2nd place respectively in terms of shots per game from outside the box, giving them an average of 53% of attempts at goal coming further than 18 yards away. Yet Soldado could count all his goals from that range for Valencia on one hand.
Combine that with the Spain international’s absence of height, strength or power, and he’s a front-man not only completely alien to Tottenham’s philosophy, but also the style and nature of the Premier League.
At 29 years of age and with a club-record fee involved, Soldado was a risk the north Londoners didn’t need to take. He’s gone on to net just six times in 34 Premier League outings, with only two goals coming in open play.
Once again, there are obvious parallels with Liverpool. Although their £16million swoop for Mario Balotelli may be far less costly in financial terms, it’s had a similar effect in severely reducing the Reds’ potency going forward.
In parody of Soldado, the Italian international’s elusively mercurial, laid-back style is the complete antithesis of the high-intensity pressing and passing game that came to define Liverpool last season.
Cesare Prandelli, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini have all failed to tame Balotelli over the years, making you wonder why Brendan Rodgers thought he’d fare any better. Since moving to Anfield this summer, the 24 year-old is still waiting on his first Premier League goal for the Reds.
Being by far the most lucrative transfer windows in both clubs’ histories, Liverpool and Tottenham’s urge to spend their entire bounty during their respective summers is understandable.
Yet, perhaps they should have taken a leaf out of Arsene Wenger’s book and saved some for a rainy day – or more specifically, when better transfer opportunities arise.
The Lilywhites haven’t come anywhere near that level of spending in their two transfer windows since and resultantly all their signings have been rather low key. Some, such a £5million acquisition Benjamin Stambouli, can’t even make the starting XI.
Likewise, although it’s believed Brendan Rodgers will be given a small kitty come January, he’s never going to have the opportunity to invest in his squad so prolifically again.
The Anfield gaffer has recently called on Liverpool to work ‘harder and smarter’ in the transfer market to land a marquee signing, yet his ambition to break all transfer records at Merseyside last summer, despite his largest purchase being Adam Lallana for a relatively modest £25million when compared to modern standards, was glaringly naive.
It’s becoming more of a norm in the English top flight for directors, owners and other officials to have a significant say on transfers, but Tottenham and Liverpool both adopt that model to a far greater extent than the average Premier League club.
Spurs, for example, brought in Sporting Director Franco Baldini to handle their transfers last summer and it’s abundantly clear that many of their purchases were made with future profits in mind. How much input Andre Villas-Boas had, if any at all, remains open to interpretation.
Similarly, although it’s believed Brendan Rodgers has the final say on transfers at Liverpool, their transfer committee – including scouts, cheif executive Ian Ayre, head of analysis Michael Edwards and head of recruitment David Fallows- is infamous, and many of their signings last summer came with a hint of compromise.
Once again, perhaps this is simply the nature of modern practices but the predominant issue is that managers at top level live and die by their signings – even if it’s others making them.
AVB got the bullet by Christmas. Will Brendan Rodgers share a similar fate?