Liverpool were surprisingly quiet in the January transfer window compared to their £110million summer spend, eventually finishing the month as one of just two Premier League clubs, along with Newcastle, that failed to make a single signing.
Some will praise the Reds for not falling into the many traps of the winter market – I’m sure we all remember the Andy Carroll fiasco in 2011. But as a direct consequence of their reluctance to recruit, there are a number of issues facing the Anfield squad that Brendan Rodgers failed to resolve last month.
Being the ever-helpful bunch we are at Football FanCast, we’ve listed the four we view as the most important.
So without further ado…
Having recently dropped the Belgium international for ‘an indefinite period‘, Brendan Rodgers’ dwindling faith in Simon Mignolet has clearly reached breaking point. Understudied by the equally hap-hazard Brad Jones, Liverpool’s entire goalkeeping department requires significant strengthening, so many expected them to do some business on the No.1 front last month.
But buying a new goalkeeper in January was always going to be a tough task. The fact of the matter is that most clubs won’t be selling their No.1’s mid-season, so the only ‘keepers available are those out of favour.
There were some options available to the Reds, such as the formerly unattached Victor Valdes, now with Manchester United, Fiorentina’s £2million-rated Neto and Espanyol’s Kiko Casilla, who was linked with an Anfield switch earlier in the campaign.
None particularly strike as significant improvements on Mignolet however, barring Valdes – a three-time Champions League winner with Barcelona – perhaps shedding some light on Rodgers’ decision not to act in the winter market. The last thing the Reds want is to be stuck with another goalkeeper for the next two or three years that doesn’t quite meet the standard, in perfect parody of their current situation between the sticks.
In regards to the end of the campaign, Neto, available on a free contract in the summer, and Casilla will likely be linked once again. But the more coveted options attainable to Liverpool include Chelsea’s Petr Cech, who declined to do so in January but will most likely leave Stamford Bridge in the next window, Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic, Real Madrid’s World Cup star Keylor Navas and Mattia ‘the next Buffon’ Perin of Genoa.
All could be realistically signed for around the £10million mark.
With Steven Gerrard departing for the MLS at the end of the season, signing a successor to Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic in January could have proved an incredibly shrewd move from Brendan Rodgers, creating a six-month transition period where the players could all adapt to Anfield life without the England centurion whilst his replacement beds in.
Of course, the 34 year-old is a difficult man to replace, especially mid-season, having served as Liverpool’s midfield talisman for the best part of the last two decades and now affirmed in the history books as the greatest English player not to win a top flight title.
That being said, there were some potential Gerrard successors on the market, if Liverpool were prepared to get their cheque-book out last month.
Roma’s Kevin Strootman for example is blessed with the dynamic gut-busting style of play from Gerrard’s earlier years, whilst Yohan Cabaye, the former Newcastle star now disillusioned at PSG, offers a blend of qualities shared by the elder Gerrard, namely a cultured, long-range passing game, industry in the middle of the park and incredible potency from dead-ball situations.
All would have required sizable fees in excess of £20million however, with the exception of the contractually rebellious Delph, so perhaps it’s for the best that Rodgers is waiting until the end of the campaign. The majority will still be available – for the right price, of course – but the Liverpool boss could choose to promote from within, with young midfielder Jordan Rossiter impressing in a cameo-capacity this term.
Yet to score a goal in over twelve-and-a-half-hours of Premier League football for Liverpool, few would have been surprised if Brendan Rodgers decided to boot Mario Balotelli as far away from Anfield as possible last month.
The £16million signing’s performances have ranged from anonymous to awful this season and with his individual style contrasting so greatly with the fluid, mobile and industrious attacking play that came to define the Reds last term, it’s hard to envisage the Italian international having a long-term future on Merseyside.
Rodgers insists Balotelli will be given as many opportunities as possible to turn his Liverpool career around – but the longer the Reds boss keeps hold of the misfiring enigma, the less of their original investment will be recovered by the Anfield side.
Of course, the biggest challenge Liverpool face is finding a viable suitor for the 24 year-old. Not too many managers are interested in a striker famed for his selfish attitude that’s now left two of the biggest clubs in England and two of the biggest clubs in Italy on sour terms.
Should his poor form continue until the summer however, Rodgers will have little option but to sell – even if it’s at a huge loss.
Arguably the most important issue Liverpool failed to address this month, prodigious midfielder-come-striker Raheem Sterling is still yet to extend his contract past 2017.
There’s still plenty of time to convince the England international to agree new terms, but if negotiations drag on into the summer we’re likely to see some of Sterling’s many suitors, including Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid, to test the Anfield outfit’s resolve with sizable offers.
Brendan Rodgers has sought to heap huge public pressure on the 20 year-old since the close of the window, recently informing the press of an ‘incredible offer‘ on the table that the Reds are unlikely to increase upon rejection.
Steven Gerrard’s weighed in as well, by insisting Sterling and vice-captain Henderson must sign new deals, but we’re still waiting for progress on either front.