LIVERPOOL FC in 2016: 10 games, three wins — not including the penalty shoot-out victory over Stoke in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final — 14 goals scored, 15 conceded, a final secured, spectacles broken, only one top-flight game where the opposition failed to score from their first shot on target…
It’s only the start of February. Madness.
Factor in to those figures zero permanent transfers for right now then sit down, breathe and sip some water. Screw that, where’s the tequila?
Jürgen Klopp, who is not the “biggest friend of the January window,” always wanted it to be a quiet one until injuries and a starvation of quality forced the club into the market. In the end, it was as uneventful as he originally expected to be. Serbian starlet Marko Grujic was signed for £5.1 million from Red Star Belgrade and will join the club in the summer. Steven Caulker was recruited as short-term defensive cover on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
And Liverpool have not seen greater pace this year than the speed in which Jose Enrique’s proposed deadline day move to Newcastle was on and then off due to a failure to agree personal terms.
There was only one golden thread gluing the winter window together, a 26-year-old who managed 22 league goals in just 15 games and twice scored against Real Madrid in the Champions League this season. Strong, skilful with intelligence in and around the box capped with a clinical edge, everything Liverpool were crying out for was packed into his 5 foot 7 frame.
But the pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira was always going to be as painful as last-minute Christmas shopping in stores filled with frantic people pushing and shoving. Negotiations with Ukrainian sides are notoriously difficult, but with the Miners in the middle of a title tilt and not in the mood to lose the Brazilian for anything less than the Austin Powers billion fafillion gajillion kind of money, Liverpool knew they’d get pushed and shoved. And pushed and shoved.
The club still tried though, and that in itself is important. Do that more often. Target players with the stylistic qualities that will suit and uplift the team. Sounds as simple as making toast, but it hasn’t been done enough. DO THAT MORE OFTEN.
Okay, so no Teixeira, but why didn’t Liverpool get someone else in?
This a recurring theme when it comes to transfers. Supporters, understandably, want to see signings. They can be exciting, can build hope, and allow you to press pause on everything that’s happening in life and scour through YouTube videos, stats, the player’s previous interviews and such. Forget sex, signings sell.
But if we all agree that quality is what the club are missing, getting someone else in is the easy, but not the most effective answer. Teixeira was a priority because he was the best option on Liverpool’s shortlist. Attempting to bring in number two or three or five just to have another body in the squad is doing the same thing over and over and then pleading against insanity.
Klopp has already stated that simply growing the squad without properly enhancing it is not for him. Not for me either, thanks.
When asked why he didn’t buy a forward in January on Tuesday night, Arsene Wenger brilliantly answered: “If you know a world-class striker who could strengthen our team you should have told me before the transfer window was over. They do not walk in off the street and say ‘please take me’. They are all at big clubs and under contract.”
World-class that would strengthen the team. Not just someone else. Arsenal have been doing it right by prioritising genuine quality over quantity and Klopp has the same idea.
Liverpool desperately need to elevate their standard in both boxes. Liverpool desperately need to add inspiration to a squad that is heavy on industry. But Liverpool need to bolster the team for the next few years and not just the next few months.
Listen to Melissa’s new show on TAW Player: Full Stop – featuring sports journalists covering Liverpool FC. In show one, Melissa is joined by Andy Hunter (The Guardian), Neil Jones (Liverpool Echo) and David Maddock (The Mirror)
While January was dead in terms of completed deals, the club did a lot of long-term planning. There is confidence that Schalke defender Joel Matip will sign as a free agent in the summer, while Leicester’s promising left-back Ben Chilwell has been extensively scouted along with Udinese midfielder Piotr Zieliński, who is on loan at Empoli. Grujic will link up with the squad at the end of the season and while these are not the stellar names, Klopp is undoubtedly getting a clearer idea of the big business that needs to be done then.
He has been in the job for four months, overseen 27 games and lost count of the injuries he’s had to contend with during this period. The German has still not seen his strongest 11 on the pitch at the same time and has he navigates his way through a turbulent spell, he’ll be picking up priceless information about what he has, what he needs and what it will take to get Liverpool fully implementing his fighting football.
Good players want to play for Klopp. Great players want to play for Klopp. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to play for Klopp.
Getting the 48-year-old in has been Liverpool’s biggest statement in recent history. They now need to follow their recruitment of one of the world’s best managers with a surgical strategy to help him build a formidable team in his image.