Brendan Rodgers has spent over £200m on a range of talents, many of which have either failed outright or been a total disappointment. It has actually become the centre point of his managerial reign; when they dropped out of the Champions League and pressure mounted to dangerously high heights last year, the focal point of criticism was how Liverpool had invested during Rodgers’ tenure.
That, in turn, added greater scrutiny on the democratic transfer committee that was actually making those decisions. Differing in times gone by where a manager would automatically have the de facto say on who his team signed, decision-making at Liverpool is spread across a range of individuals.
Having a clear policy on player recruitment is important for every team but this blueprint must be adaptive.
Some clubs are ‘selling clubs’. Some clubs prioritise signing youth and are more forward looking. Some clubs only invest in certain regions of the world. Harry Redknapp is infamously a ‘wheeler dealer’, renowned for his vision for buying and selling a lot of players, often at bargain prices.
So where do Rodgers and Liverpool fit in with this?
Liverpool are not a selling club, like Southampton, in that they can keep pretty much all of their players, except for when one of Europe’s continental super powers come knocking on the door. They’ll clearly, in no uncertain terms, never negotiate the sale of their best players to English teams for anything short of huge margins, as proven by their sharp rejection of Arsenal’s £40m and 1 pound offer for Luis Suarez last summer.
With their worldwide profile, cross-continental fanbase and current Champions League status’ they can attract basically any player in the world. Only superstars at club’s bigger than themselves represent unrealistic targets.
Financially, they’ve demonstrated frequently that they have the muscle to attract their preferred targets. While spending sprees in the past have been preceded by huge transfer fees received – see Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez – Rodgers will likely still have enough in the bank to spend should the right player become available.
Which leads onto the quality of their squad. If you look at the depth that Rodgers has assembled and the average ability of each player, it’s pretty solid all the way round. Signing more players who could contribute to the squad and provide cover would now seem redundant.
The best way to improve will be to now spend big in selected positions. A world class singing in one position, which will lay down a guaranteed starter in a position for the next five years, is definitely the way forward.
Which takes you onto where needs strengthening most. Simon Mignolet’s stuttering performances remain the lightening bolt of criticism for the entire squad. It’s not like Rodgers has much of an out option, unlike his Premier League rivals. Brad Jones is an equally mediocre alternative; a far different situation to Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, who all have dependable backups when necessary.
In all, Rodgers and the rest of Liverpool’s bureaucratic transfer committee need to start singing big, landmark players as opposed to peripheral, potential European hot shots who ultimately need game time before they produce.
The average age of goalkeepers peaking well into the thirties makes investing in a proven a talent a must – with Mignolet’s shortcomings only serving to emphasise this further.
Rodgers and Liverpool should invest courageously in a proven, quality goalkeeper this window.