IF history tells us anything it is that the players that are brought in to Liverpool very rarely make an immediate impact, and those that do — John Barnes, Fernando Torres and Kenny Dalglish spring to mind — are few and far between, writes SAM JONES.
Slightly longer is the list of players that came in, looked good and then showed improvement. Luis Suarez, for one, hit the ground running and then stepped up again, but only after a season and a half. It took him time to develop.
And for every Suarez or Barnes we have signed there’s also been an Andy Carroll, a Stan Collymore. For every Xabi Alonso a Robbie Keane, Christian Benteke, El Hadji Diouf, Stewart Downing or Alberto Aquilani. The list goes on, but the point is big money, famous, mostly attacking players — the type people call out for — seem more likely to be a miss than a hit.
So where does that leave us? Sadio Mane is already being hailed as our saviour, but history suggests he probably won’t be, not yet. A more likely place to look for progress in Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool is in the players we already have. Those that have been here a year or more and are now ready to take a step up. If you think of the most impressive Liverpool players ever, the list of players who have developed slowly then improved outnumbers the immediate impacts massively.
Every great player Liverpool have had in recent history, Barnes, Torres and Dalglish aside have taken that step. Even the ones that made an immediate impact have stepped up further, and there are some candidates in the current side.
Philippe Coutinho is the obvious one. Looking him up on YouTube delivers the highlight reel to end all highlight reels. There is absolutely no doubt about his talent, although question marks remain about his consistency and occasional anonymity. The mark of the great player, the thing that separates them from players who are just good is consistency. They don’t just occasionally produce, they produce every week.
If Coutinho is able to take that next step, to delivering more often than not, then the absence of a marquee signing this summer will soon be forgotten because he’ll be better than any player we could reasonably hope to attract. Adding more goals to his game, the criticism that accompanies consistency, was something he did last year, taking his one in seven for most of his career to better than one in four is impressive, and though it’s early days two in three bodes well for this season.
Midfield was another area where a lack of transfer business caused rumblings of concern. Marko Grujic looks a prospect, but pinning our hopes on a 20-year-old with only 45 career appearances seems unlikely, and with the loss of the dependable Joe Allen there is a feeling we are light in the more defensive midfield positions. I think that it’s clear that Klopp thinks Emre Can is the answer here, and the signs of his improvement are already there.
Contrast the out of position centre back with a mad mistake in him, gifting Romelu Lukaku the equaliser in the derby under Brendan Rodgers, with the accomplished midfielder tearing through Borussia Dortmund’s midfield, playing one twos at full tilt then setting up Divock Origi with a perfectly weighted through ball, just six months later under Klopp. Rarely has a young player changed their ability to impact a game so much so quickly.
There are other candidates in the squad who have the potential to take a leap forward this year. With nearly a year of playing settled football and a solid pre-season behind the team, many of the barriers facing Klopp in the development of his players are now removed. The likes of Origi and Roberto Firmino, undoubtedly talented players that showed significant promise in their first season, are now well placed to push on.
And, having said Mane probably won’t be our saviour, there is precedent. Torres was brilliant from the off, but his breakout season coincided with his move to Liverpool, having better players around him and a great manager with a system designed to play to his strengths.
That gives us maybe five players who are on the verge of a step up. They are all at the age where it happens, and undoubtedly have the talent.
And who would bet against that happening? One of the reasons many were excited to get Klopp was his intention to do it slightly differently. He’ll spend money if he needs to, but he’d rather make a player than buy one.
Much of this summer was spent agonising over Mario Götze. As ever there is the perennial clamour to sign Marco Reus, though thankfully it seems tongue in cheek now. Between them they cost Klopp’s Dortmund 17million Euros. Granted Götze came from their academy, but we have one of those too. Robert Lewandowski cost him 4.5m. Imagine the fume if we spent 4.5m on a striker. Imagine, though, spending 21.5m and having those three.
If history tells us anything it’s that the transfer market hasn’t always been kind to Liverpool, certainly not in terms of the immediate gratification that so many demand now. Maybe if we learn this lesson and, instead of focusing on signing the likes of Reus and Götze, look to who in our squad will develop into Reus or Götze we’ll have a better time.
We’ve got the manager to do it, he’s got the credentials — the list of players he brought on and developed at Dortmund include Lewandowski, Reus and Götze, but also Shinji Kagawa, Ilkay Gundogan, Nuri Sahin and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
One trend among these players is that many of them were better under Klopp than for other managers — Götze, Sahin and Kagawa definitely point to that, so whatever you think of our current crop they are likely to be more impressive this year than we’ve been used to. Add that to the natural development that players go through we can expect to see one or two breakout seasons this year, especially with the time that can be spent on the training pitch due to the double edged sword of no European football.
When the dust settles on this summer’s business it’s not going to look so bad. Positive net spend or not, the squad looks in good shape. With maybe one notable exception, but let’s not kill the mood…
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History also shows we haven’t won a league title for 26 years so maybe we do need them.
History clearly shows that we’ve been second-rate for twenty-odd years, without a top LB for most, if not all, of that time; without a good DM since Alonso left and without a striker who could manage 20 games a season since Suarez left. And now we end a make-or-break transfer window IN PROFIT but still without a much needed LB, DM and striker capable of playing most games.
In short, we are becoming a joke, with a right-winger playing LB, talk of Sakho (good grief!) next to have a go at LB, with very average attacking midfielder Henderson trying, and failing, at DM, with Lucas possibly coming back for his fiftieth attempt to show us he can hack it as a DM – after failing with the previous 49 – and a midfielder plying his trade up front. And we are supposed to believe we can win things . . .
City and United spend hundreds of millions and we end up in profit with three glaring weaknesses untouched and half the team playing out of position!
What have we won since we signed Torres? He left because we didn’t win shit and then he went and picked up a CL title among others. Stop trying to justify the fact that we develop some decent players, win nothing, and then sell them to better clubs where they are stuffing their cabinets with silverware.
How many titles have City and Chelsea won since we sold Torres? That is our competition in this league and we can either play ball, or we can have couch pundits write articles like this about our recent history of mediocrity and selling our only good talent. Two words to sum up our mediocre summer….GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM
One of the myths I hear repeated time and time again is that the great Liverpool sides were big spenders: we were not. It’s balls!
Shanks struggled to fund moves for years and Peter Beardsley was our first million pound player. In the meantime Forest had signed Trevor Francis, City, Steve Daley and Kevin Reeves, United, Gary Birtles and Bryan Robson, Wolves had signed Andy Gray. Christ, Bob Latchford cost the same as Graeme Souness in 1974!
People reference Kenny, a British record signing, without factoring in the 60,000 profit we made from selling King Kev. Players like Hansen, Nicol and Whelan were picked up for peanuts.
Seriously, we weren’t big spenders, we were good spenders.
Seriously, now we are neither.
There might be some truth to that, though Mane looks money well spent.
History shows that when we have developed players , we sell them !
Until that changes , we won’t win the league.
Good article. I’ve lately become frustrated and disenchanted with the armchair Liverpool fans and their insistence that if Klopp does not follow their advice he’s a fool and the team is doomed. We now have a world class manager, which most of you were screaming for, and suddenly he’s sure to fail if he doesn’t put together his team the way you would? How many world class teams have each of you managed? And we should listen to you… why? YNWA… except those of us who choose to do so.
Thing is , this is modern football, not historical football, and modern history teaches us you actually do need marquee signings to win the Champions League, the ultimate.
Made me feel good and positive whilst reading it though, you cant beat sentimental nostalgia.
Modern history also teaches us any players we do develop, we flog up quickly for increased yearly profit. Witness Saurez and Sterling.
All marquee signing start life somewhere as unknown. The question is are we ambitious enough to hold onto them when they peak.
I believe Klopp is the right man for the job. Just hope Liverpool can match his ambition and not sell their top players like Dortmund did.
It is easy to show a correlation between spending money and results, it is also easy to show that it regularly achieves very little. In the past three years Man U have outspent most of the league each window. Despite that they have not been remotely close to winning the Premier or the Champions League. Similarly Real Madrid have comfortably outspent Barca for years now, which one has the better trophy cabinet of recent times?
Looking at the Premier League Player of the Season awards for the past few years again it is clear that it is not just cash that brings in the best players. The last ten different winners are Vardy, Hazard, Suarez, Bale, Kompany, Vidic, Rooney, Ronaldo, Henry, Lampard. The only one of them that we could not have realistically gone for when they moved is Rooney. More telling is that every single one of them has developed into that top signing whilst at the club they won the award with. Not a single one of the top ten most expensive EPL players ever signed as of the end of last summer has been awarded that award, nor the PFA or FWA versions of it.
To my mind, the key to sustained success is having a good manager and the club backing the manager when he wants a player by moving swiftly and decisively to get the player they want. If Rafa had been backed a little more so we didn’t fall back on Ngog then we would likely have won the league. He also may not have been forced to choose between Xabi and Barry. Similarly if Rodgers had been able to bring in a bit of quality in the January of our most recent challenge we may have won the league then too. Klopp is a top manager and appears genuinely happy with the squad, as such we should give them a chance too rather than crying that we could have spent more cash. When was the last time there was not an undercurrent of unrest over the players the manager was provided with? The majority of fans wanted Klopp, give his choices a chance and wind those necks in.
I would love little Albie Moreno to be one of Klopp’s future stars. Sure, he has REALLY infuriated me at times, but is capable of timing the kind of tackle you can’t believe you’ve seen…at breakneck speed. He has every skill he needs to be exactly what we need. He ‘just’ needs the lunacy schooling out of him and we definitely have the manager who can fix him. Klopp can spot diamonds in the rough, and if he believes in Albie, so do I!