THERE is something about doing shows that concentrates the mind. Yesterday we recorded our transfer show, The Gutter, and had a big chat about Virgil van Dijk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah among others.
The most bullish I got was about van Dijk. I’m worried van Dijk isn’t a panacea, a solution to all of our concerns. But what securing him would do is send an unequivocal message; in an environment where all of our rivals will be signing centre-backs it would be excellent if we could land the most highly-prized domestically. If it doesn’t happen alarm bells shouldn’t start ringing but if it does happen then it is Liverpool punching their weight.
van Dijk signing, first and foremost, means Liverpool’s third-choice centre-back is Joel Matip or Dejan Lovren. That could well be the strongest since it was Sami Hyypia or Daniel Agger which is over 10 years ago. Both Matip and Lovren have their injury issues. Lucas Leiva deputised well at times through the season, not least against the top scorer in the country, and Ragnar Klavan didn’t let himself down. But neither would think themselves in the class of Matip or Lovren or van Dijk.
Gareth Roberts compares van Dijk’s style to Sami Hyypia in our most recent Gutter show
The most excited I found myself was around Salah, who nearly signed for Liverpool back in 2013. His comments recently about that deal sound like a man trying to clean a slate. I’m glad he makes the effort but I don’t care if he called Alan Hansen a prick and set fire to copies of Revolver in 2013 – have you seen how fast he can run? The answer is very fast. Very fast indeed. YouTube videos can be edited for many things, but a lad running dead fast is a lad running dead fast. With the ball at his feet and without he looks lightning. This obviously helps him score one goal in every two games in Italy but he clearly has the quality to do that too.
The idea of Salah and Sadio Mane either side of Roberto Firmino with Philippe Coutinho in behind is genuinely exciting. It’s what an unplayable front four could look like. That shouldn’t be end the of Liverpool’s spending in the front three. I would be looking to add another pacey option and then look at centre forward if Daniel Sturridge goes. But that front four could well break 70 league goals between them if they click and improve *slightly* on their return from this season. That’s not to be sniffed at.
Another from the recent Gutter show as Neil Atkinson talks about his excitement over Salah
The biggest change of heart I had was around Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For too long burdened by the moniker “The Ox” and a strange situation at Arsenal where he never entirely gets momentum up I thought he flattered to deceive. After listening to Andrew Mangan of Arseblog the situation may actually be the opposite. Stuck doing too many dirty jobs for the team he hasn’t been able to show what he is actually good at. Having had a relatively injury-free season, at the age of 23, the hopes may well be he has put that phase of his career behind him. As Andrew spoke I grew excited about what the player could do for Liverpool, how signing him adds a great deal to the squad.
In this clip Neil addresses question marks over Oxlade-Chamberlain’s mentality
What links all three of these players – and, indeed Naby Keita – is pace. They all get around the pitch quickly. I often cite Alex Ferguson when talking about transfers. I think looking at any summer and wondering what Ferguson would do with a squad of players is always worth doing. Ferguson would address a defensive weakness with a big fee. And he would add as many quality attackers as he could get his hands on.