LAST week was like a never-ending Gonzalo Higuaín-athon. We had El Pipita apparently saying he wanted to come and play for us, we had Jürgen Klopp turning up at a Copa America game between Argentina and Chile and getting off one minute after Higuaín was substituted, and we had all kinds of nonsense that you expect from the summer transfer window.
Klopp’s son, Marc, even managed to morph in to Higuaín’s brother and agent. It was all quite incredible. The power of the internet.
He isn’t coming. Sorry to ruin it for you, but at 29 years of age he’s not going to leave a club competing in next season’s Champions League for one that isn’t. At 29, you base your decisions on the short-term — and to me Liverpool look a medium-term option for a footballer right now.
And Klopp in Levi’s Stadium? Have a little look at the pre-season schedule and what Liverpool are doing. Specifically, where Liverpool are playing AC Milan on July 31. Where we will need facilities for a pre-season that it feels like the manager has spent eight months talking about. It’s a reccy — no more no less.
Klopp’s gone for a look at where we’re doing pre-season, and Argentina are playing Chile. If I was in San Francisco and Argentina were playing Chile I’d go as well.
There have been two games at the Rose Bowl, where we will play Chelsea, since then and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s gone to them, too. Perhaps this time more heavily disguised. We were linked with Javier Hernandez earlier this year — if he’d been snapped at Mexico v Jamaica last Thursday it wouldn’t have meant we were signing him would it?
Most of the transfer rumours that do the rounds can be debunked by applying logical thinking. Do you really think that Jürgen Klopp is going to get on a plane for 12 hours to watch a footballer for an hour and a bit and then use that as a means of deciding whether or not he’s going to sign him? That’s ridiculous when you break it down.
When a footballer is due to be signed a manager won’t only have watched him once or twice before making a decision. There will have been months of watching him live, poring over videos, sifting through scouting reports, and taking in statistical analysis. He’s not just going to bounce into San Francisco, watch him playing with Lionel Messi and decide to sign him based on what he sees that night.
While there are numerous reasons for it not making sense that involve simply adding two and two together and arriving at four, you can also have a look at our squad as a reason for not actually needing to buy a striker this summer. And not just Higuaín — any striker.
We will play about 46 or 47 games this coming season, assuming we don’t get knocked out of both cup competitions straight away. That’s not a lot. As a means of comparison, our 47th fixture of last season was played on March 10 against Manchester United. We’ve effectively chopped two months off our season, maybe even more. The less games you play, the less players you need.
I really don’t see our strikeforce as an area where we need anything more. After all, it appears Klopp is generally a fan of playing one striker. And we have five decent-to-excellent options to choose from.
In the Premier League, Klopp’s team really started to click after the West Ham away game, when we slipped to a miserable 2-0 defeat. That’s reflected by our goals-for column after that point.
In the last 18 games of the season, we outscored Leicester and Arsenal — who finished top and second respectively — by 10 goals, while we outscored Spurs, the only viable challenger to Leicester for the most part of the season, by six.
Those figures were achieved with some pretty heavy rotation in our last few games as we prioritised the Europa League. No other top-flight team scored more than 35 goals over the same period — we bagged 41. An area to be concerned about? Surely 41 goals in 18 games is hugely encouraging and evidence we have a good strikeforce.
We have to place our trust in Sturridge now — get him back from the Euros in full working order, give him a proper pre-season, and take him as being fully fit. We simply can’t go out and buy a striker just because Daniel Sturridge might get injured.
When fully firing he’s in a bracket with Sergio Aguero and Harry Kane as the top three centre forwards in the Premier League. You would need to spend a hell of a lot of money to get a better goalscorer in, and you would also need to be very convincing on how you sell it given that we don’t have the Champions League football that the top players supposedly crave. Big money buys will also expect to be first choice, too.
After Sturridge we’ve got the great potential of Divock Origi. We saw what he’s capable of over the last few months of the season when he was picked ahead of Sturridge to lead the line in both Borussia Dortmund games and the Anfield derby. It’s clear that Klopp rates him as a big player for us both now and in the future.
What I like about Origi is how varied his goals are. For his Southampton hat trick he poached one, absolutely thunderbastarded one home like Alan Shearer in his pomp, and then peeled off a defender for a very clever header. There are one on ones, there are headers from two yards out, there are goals from 25 yards. He’s not just standing in the six-yard box and kicking the ball between the white things (as underrated a skill as that seems to be sometimes). He’s got a very exciting future at the club.
Then comes Danny Ings. Energetic, willing and a very good option. There isn’t much we can say about a player who’s only made nine appearances for the club (scoring three goals) and done nothing wrong is there? I like him. I like what he offers.
You’d be fine bringing him on to win a game off the bench. You’d be fine using him in any game, really — he’s proven in the Premier League.
Roberto Firmino is another option. He’s been here for just under a year now in which time he has played up front, he’s played off the front, he’s tied Roberto Soldado in such a knot that he’s still figuring out how to untie himself and he had a very promising first season. It’s often forgotten that he missed a big chunk of the season pre-Christmas with a back injury but after that he weighed in with around a one in three record — a perfectly good return for a player of his position.
As an attacking option he’s another one we can hang our hat on.
On transfer rumours, the talk around Christian Benteke’s departure seems to have dried up. I feel he’s had a little bit of a harsh time since he’s been here, and he hasn’t been as bad as many people will have you think. No, I’m not going to tell you he’s been great, or that he’s going to singlehandedly fire us to the title — nor do I think £32million was a particularly good deal for us.
Benteke has a very specific style — one that Brendan Rodgers was never going to pander to, which made signing him bizarre in the first place. But anyway, he did sign him, and he’s here. He scored nine league goals last season, which isn’t a great return, but they were generally important goals. Match winners, equalisers, and also a goal against Bordeaux that got us to the knockout stages in Europe.
His price tag sees him done down a little. He’s a good player. Maybe not quite suited for us — he probably doesn’t really move enough — but a useful player for certain situations and something different to what we have in Sturridge, Origi, Ings and Firmino.
If we don’t get the majority of our money back, I’d keep him. If we sold him for £15m you’d be hard pressed to get a better striker for that money.
I’d keep all our strikers, sign none, and go all out for a midfielder who will sit next to Emre Can and dominate and control games. Or centre backs that ensure that we don’t blow two-goal leads. I could even be swayed into signing a left back.
Whatever, we have more pressing needs than a centre forward.