THIS summer’s transfer window – at home but maybe even more so in Europe – was bonkers.
For the first time in a while, Reds fans weren’t quite so rude about Sky Sports’ Jim White or so sniffy about the whole affair as Liverpool participated in the madness right to the last minute. Announcing a £35million deal on deadline day was a far cry from Ian Ayre turning the Melwood lights off days before the window “slammed shut”.
The summer sideshow – a distant cousin of the beautiful game – has become an entertainment event in its own right, appealing to the money-minded transactionist, but also to the traditional supporters who consume gossip like rabid dogs under a dripping tap. Then it all comes to an abrupt halt as Jim’s mad yellow tie gets flung like an ultraviolet lasso across the Sky studio. Even at home these days, it feels slightly effeminate to merely close a window or pull gently down on a skylight without the need to call Everest or Safestyle for a quote.
Perhaps only Paris Saint-Germain with their insane Qatari outlay and the purchase of Neymar for a zillion quid have trumped Liverpool for intrigue over the summer. However, the bottom line is that The Reds, in relation to this season at least, went only 1/3 of the way towards spending a publicly advertised £200m war chest. The anomaly for Liverpool, in contrast to the instantaneous Parisian loan of Kylian Mbappe, is the fiscally savvy capture of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig for next year but for the moment his worth remains rooted in Germany.
In terms of new recruits, Mohammad Salah from AS Roma is the star attraction; already ensconced in red, a woolly-headed speed merchant of the highest class looking a snip at £36.9m plus addons. What Salah brings to Jürgen Klopp’s preferred front three makes him the most exciting Roman guest in Liverpool since the Papal visit of 1982.
The earlier captures of Andrew Robertson and Dom Solanke from Hull City and Chelsea respectively offer promising youthful reinforcement. Both have already featured impressively and will have a part to play on all fronts.
The £35m investment in Arsenal’s versatile Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also an ambitious move, albeit with some debate as to where he fits into Liverpool’s first-choice front six. Nonetheless, it is a sensible signing for variety and cover should injuries, tiredness and/or loss of form strike in midfield or upfront amid the added burden of high-octane Champions League football.
For obvious reasons, Catalan overtures towards Phil Coutinho – who remains Liverpool’s most coveted player – and Fenway Sports Group’s mulish refusal to release the Brazilian has dominated the headlines over the last few weeks. Even if the statement issued by the owners has somewhat backed the club and Klopp into a corner as Barcelona’s pursuit of an unhappy player has accelerated, a firm stance is to be celebrated; dispelling a gathering notion of Liverpool as a selling club.
The outcome is that Coutinho remains a prize playing asset albeit that Jürgen has to manage his reintegration, mood and performance – a task that falls indisputably falls under his job description.
The fans, fickle and emotional as ever, will forgive at the sight of the first mazy Latin dribble and Klopp will be aware that his treasured team dynamic and group spirit is fostered in the most brotherly way by winning games. The challenge of unravelling teams committed to a low-block defence that still demands Coutinho’s guile and vision isn’t going away. For supporters and manager alike it is 12 months too early to be burning shirts and bridges.
What leaves the sourest taste is the unquestionable failure to augment quality and number of resources in the crucial position of centre back. The riches available to Klopp upfront and in the middle of the park only serve to heighten defensive concerns.
The failed pursuit of Virgil van Dijk is less of a saga than it was an unmitigated cock up.
That the manager presumably identified the Dutchman as his first and foremost target is clear admission that he wasn’t entirely satisfied with Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip. The established pairing each have their virtues. The Croatian and Cameroonian are neither tyros nor complete duffers. If they both stay fit (which is debatable) they might build on a respectable partnership that last season brought a top-four finish.
The eagerness of the club, mindful of previous failings, to announce a deal not yet done; whether to stall a bidding war or ward off other suitors was amateurish in the extreme. The subsequent apology by way of a public statement might have been necessary to escape tapping-up sanctions. The further addendum ending interest in the player wasn’t only ill advised but smacked of a half truth and left little room for further manoeuvre.
The prospect of a deal being revived at the last minute – never ruled out by the usual trusted sources and ramped up by the Merseyside rumour mill – appeared to distract the manager from seeking a viable alternative. We all know Klopp likes to stick to his guns but any assumption that van Dijk was the only centre half in the world who could improve on what Liverpool’s existing first-choice pair is open to serious question. Some will trot out the usual question asking who is available but The Reds have spent the entire summer in pursuit of two prime targets that weren’t.
In a key position, Liverpool now face the prospect of up to 50 matches in the league and Europe alone with Ragnar Klavan and the promising but completely untested Joe Gomez as cover. Anyone still scarred by the madcap defending in the defining 3-2 defeat to Swansea last season has a right to be slightly worried. Anyone still mindful of mayhem inside The Reds’ penalty area at Watford a few weeks ago is entitled to beg the question.
We trust to luck and are ignoring, some might say recklessly, the vagaries of that long, taxing English season. If the scale of the club’s ambition is another top-four finish – a potential indictment in itself – they might get away with it.
If you’re content to wait until Klopp gets “his” man you may remain sanguine. If you’re tired of waiting on another year, anticipate the usual January bluster and fully understand Southampton’s entrenched contempt towards Liverpool FC, one has every reason to cite the van Dijk chronicle and the reluctance to switch attention elsewhere as the difference between a successful and underwhelming transfer window. Remember the context of what was promised; the necessity and wisdom of purposely leaking such intent and the oafish strategy attempting to deliver on that promise.
Some of the above might seem sacrilegious to the club and manager’s devotees but while several aspects of The Reds’ summer business deserve much credit, no one should be immune to criticism. Under previous regimes, supporters’ scrutiny and critique has kept Liverpool floating around the top echelons even amid the harshest of modern times.
To end on a positive, it’s definitely not all bad. Exciting challenges lie ahead at home and overseas. On their day, this side are fantastic to watch. They have the beating of anyone. They thrashed Arsenal 4-0 last weekend and played some brilliant attacking football with the imprint of the manager’s attacking philosophy written like a message through Blackpool rock.
If only the fallout of that secret seaside sojourn hadn’t resulted in such clumsiness and subsequent intransigence, we might be expecting even greater riches from 2017-18.
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Spot on mike but that type of talk will get you branded as one of the so called fsg out loons when it’s starting something so glaringly obvious
Nope. Mike’s piece is spot on – its the FSG out loons who say “What about that 200m? la” that most people get annoyed by.
FSG are fantastic owners. The trophy cabinet since thier arrival is testament to how fantastic they are.
Well said Mike, and well-reasoned. The only thing I would add is this: we haven’t spent in a January window for years. The world and his mum knows we have money, and we still haven’t spent it. And I’m pretty sure the bookies aren’t going to offer odds on Phil staying at LFC past next summer.
That being the case, *if* we’re lucky with injuries up to January, and we’re doing well at home and crucially, if we’re lighting up the CL and into the knock-out rounds, surely that is the time to strike and offer Southamtpn whatever it takes to get Van Dijk and do likewise with Monaco and Lemar. That kind of injection of quality could propel us to God knows what by season’s end. It also has the benefit of allowing Lemar – a potential replacement for Coutinho – to bed in before we cash in on Phil. And it means we snap up VVD while the iron is still hot.
Obviously loads of complicating factors could knacker both those deals, but as Jonathan Northcroft said recently, Liverpool have good targets, but they have to get them. And if it means waiting a few extra months, so be it – but get them. We have to get them. If we do, next summer’s shopping will be a stroll in the park.
I completely share the frustrations of the VVD debacle. Though I also find it curious that Man City and Chelsea didn’t bid for him either… As much as we did ruin our chances by briefing the press, there was a report about Southampton’s feelings towards VVD’s representatives wrt Koeman’s departure and I have to wonder how much of that is also a factor. As for other targets, I suspect Klopp and the coaching staff think that the drop-off from VVD to the Ben Gibsons and Harry Maguires of the world is similar to the drop-off from VVD to Klavan and Gomez. Klavan has a bad reputation amongst some supporters, but go back to the W-D-L stats of the games he played in last season, and what those games were, and you’ll be surprised. I am as nervous about this season as anyone though.
Some other comments, and I share these with love and kindness so please don’t get angry: your sentence, “it feels slightly effeminate to merely close a window or pull gently down on a skylight without the need to call Everest or Safestyle for a quote” is a little disheartening. I don’t think being effeminate is a bad thing yet every way I read that sentence it seems you’ve given it a negative connotation. Elsewhere, your quip about Salah, Roma, and the Pope is clever, but it’s a little uncomfortable how you’ve squeezed it in at the expense of erasing his Egyptian Arab Muslim identity. And lastly, and maybe this is the thing that bothers me the most: can you please sort out your semicolons. I’ve been waiting for TAW’s resident punctuation perfectionist (gareth) to say something about it for weeks…
Thanks for the comment. The use of effeminate is in no way meant to be derogatory. It was used purely to convey a lighter, more gentile touch to contrast with the unnecessary slamming shut of windows. There’s nothing more painful than trapping a finger under the weight of wooden casement.
Regarding Salah, the absent mention of his nationality was deliberate so as not to dilute my quip (which I laughed at myself). I didn’t know he was a Muslim and don’t see it as relevant. By the same token, I couldn’t offer any insight as to the religious persuasion of any current Liverpool player.
In respect of my overuse and misuse of semi-colons; I apologise if it’s jarring for the reader and trust Gareth will send me on a grammar course to correct the errors of my ways.
Seriously, though – thank you for reading my articles and I assure no offence is taken. You merely gave me the opportunity to respond with an extra dollop of flippancy.
Up the Reds
Oh that semicolon in your comment there is definitely going to drive me nuts for hours. So well done. :-)
“It was used purely to convey a lighter, more gentile touch ”
I think you should look up the word gentile. That sentence could be deemed offensive!
Oops. Sorry for that typo. I meant gentle!
Haha! Sorry for being a pedant, typos are easily done. It’s just that particular typo did raise an eyebrow!
“I didn’t know he was a Muslim”
What?? His name is Mohammed Salah. The clue is right there.
That neither Arsenal, Chelsea nor Man City put in a bid (particularly the London pair) is a peculiar one. Was there general acceptance that to do so would only pave the way for a move to Liverpool? It doesn’t really matter now, but might be a factor next summer.
It really is so bizarre – I think there must be information that’s not available to us that explains the whole thing. It could be that the other clubs were also threatened with transfer bans, as it’s been reported that Chelsea and City reps also met with Van Dijk, and maybe they kept it under wraps and didn’t feel the need to make a public apology. Or they were so sure he wasn’t interested in their clubs so as you say they weren’t going to do Liverpool any favours. But in the end it comes back to this, why would a club like Southampton not take the 70m? so they can move from mid-table to mid-table? And then lose him in January anyway? Their chairman said it’s not personal but it definitely sounds like it was more about precious egos than anything else.
I wonder if we have an agreement to buy him in January. This way, the Saints stood their ground in this window, as we have with Phil. They got to play hardball, to make their point. However, Klopp will ultimately get his man and VVD will get his preferred move. Would explain why Klopp showed no interest in another centre-half. And may explain why other clubs haven’t bothered.
Yes this makes sense from Liverpool’s point of view, but doesn’t make much sense from Southampton’s I don’t think… Why is January that much different from now for them, and why would they be willing to affect their captain’s career for it? I really think there is a part of this story we haven’t heard yet. But I hope you’re right.
Very good piece. The one issue is that it was Southampton who released the details of the secret meeting and not anyone in LFC. The only reason they did it was the could not have an auction. As has been said on many a platform, from Pros to supporters , “Tapping up” is 99.9% of the normal going on in a transfer. As regards the center half issue, what was on offer wasnt any better than what we have. I don’t think Mangala or Johnny Evans would suffice. I think what we have done so far is very good and not all targets are achieved. Onwards and upwards. Up the Reds. YNWA
This is great. Constructive and supportive. How criticism is supposed to look.
I fundamentally disagree with anyone who says we a) haven’t improved or b) haven’t spent enough and uses these as sticks to beat FSG/The Club. We spent plenty and did our best to bring in elite level players, and got more over the line than most of our rivals.
They did however fail very badly at CB. The VVD shambles aside, I’m fine with the manager asserting that he cant see anyone else to improve on Lovren/Matip. I’m fine with a young, talented defender like Gomez at 4th choice. The real issue is the 1st reserve.
When VVD falls through, you go from having 1/2/3/4 all arguably in the correct pecking order to having something that looks 2/2/4/4 – why therefore we weren’t looking to spend money on making sure no3 is another £10/20m defender is beyond me? Harry Maguire, Michael Keane that sort of ilk would instantly give you quality in depth.
I just don’t know how to feel… One thing I do feel is the sense of inevitability, in the absolute, that we will have a rollercoaster of a season akin to 13/14, coming so close to the title. We’ll beat all the rest of the top 6, score more goals than the eventual winners but we will miss out due to points dropped to scrappy late goals against teams that have our achilles heel dialled. So the feelings of excitement of another title race are extinguished by the pavlovian reflex at the memory of the slip and then the black hole that was the Palace game.
I don’t care what people say, the numbers tell the story. According to The Gruanriads transfer calculator we made a net spend of £41.5m. Even gross spend registers only 79.9. Not getting at least another 3rd or even 4th choice CB is gonna cost us dearly. See Çan happy to sign a new contract when he’s been pulled to CB to cover for the inevitable injuries to Matip and Lovren.
There is a glimmer of hope from the strangest of places. After their trouncing last night the route to the World Cup for Holland now definitely looks like a dead end. Come November Holland could be out of the summer tournament already. No more world cup form to keep for van Dyke. He could force a move in Jan and if the suits have leaned from their mistake we could profit from this. JK says he doesn’t shop in Jan cause the players available then are sludge but this would be a very different scenario.
I don’t blame Liverpool for tapping him up cause we all know that’s how 99% of transfers happen. They were idiots for getting caught but that’s a separate matter. Southampton are way out of line with the way they’ve played this.They’ve chosen to stunt a top player coming into his prime in order to take a pot shot at Liverpool cause they’ve got an inferiority complex. Southampton will never be a European club, they’ll have a few good years then get relegated after a while like all the other smaller clubs. This is what makes this situation totally incomparable to the Coutinho situation. As distasteful as it is I hope that VvD makes the whole atmosphere at Southampton toxic and I hope he will serve as a warning to other ambitious young players that signing for Southampton is a death knell for their careers.
“I hope he will serve as a warning to other ambitious young players that signing for Southampton is a death knell for their careers.”
Apart from the 6 we’ve signed, the 3 Arsenal signed and the odd couple or so that Spurs and United have signed. Oh and lets not mention the death of Pochettino’s career there too….If signing for Southampton is the end, then you’re probably just as well to post that on any Celtic forum as a word of warning.
To be fair, I think Southampton objected not so much to the tapping up as the way we seemed to parade Van Dijk as ours before even making a bid. Accepting facts as regards their place in the food chain is one thing, but being asked to roll over while basically being disrespected is another. We should know, after all the skulduggery carried out by the Catalan press in the last 6 weeks.
Did we? That’s not known. The whole thing is vague.
Mike, rabid dogs have a fear of water, they wouldn’t go crazy for a dripping tap.
This was terrific. Somehow, Mike Nevin was able to highlight the positives of this window while simultaneously providing reasoned criticism. A welcome tonic to the mess of hyperbolic negativity or naked apologia of most writing I’ve seen so far. Well done!
When have Celtic denied a player a move of this magnitude just to spite the other club?
My poin is that Southampton have signed 5 Celtic lads so this view that they are pissed off with us is a bit hypocritical
… and would you compare the difference in size and stature of Southampton and Liverpool to that of Liverpool and Barcelona?
The solution to our lack of cover in the CB area is easy. I always thought Steven Gerrard would end his career in that position…so give him some “preseason” to get him fit and training with the lads again and he’ll be first choice in no time:) He can head, tackle, read the game, pass and carry it..just what we need. This is tongue in cheek, of course, but I really belive he could do the job.
Sign him up
Article highlights some key issues. But fundamentally the club will not win a major trophy without investing beyond 100m. This is something that FSG will not do and the buck stops with them. 1 good centreback and 1 goid holding midfielder and 1 good back up striker away from challenging
Back up striker? So stuuridge and Solanke aren’t good enough? Holding mid? Can, grujic, winjaldum aren’t good enough?
I get what you’re saying, but we literally went after Keita, Van Dijk and Lemar for this season. Not exactly the striker and holding midfielder that John mentions, but players in and around those areas. Klopp literally identified those areas as important. We need two good players in every position to challenge, and I think there is merit to the argument that we don’t have that in every position right now. What I don’t agree with John is that FSG “will not do” this. I think they will do, but whether they have the right recruitment personnel in place to do so is another question altogether.
Lemar was not on the radar until Tuesday. Let’s not dress him up as some long term target. Keita is done.
We are one lad short of the lads klopp wants.
It’s been reported that a bid went in for Lemar earlier in the summer but was rejected. He was a target from earlier in the summer. Then it was reported that Liverpool tried again in the last week. I’m just going by what’s been reported in reputable publications, I’m not dressing up anything. Keita is done for next season not this one. We literally cannot play him at City, for example. Hence the conclusion that we are three lads short right now from what Klopp wanted. Some really good things in the window but quite clearly not a perfect window. I think that’s a reasonable view.
The eagerness of the club, mindful of previous failings, to announce a deal not yet done; whether to stall a bidding war or ward off other suitors was amateurish in the extreme.
Naw, it was VVD himself who made it public.
I get your point, but the back four will suffice. And yes, i can wait another year.
Funny things , backs. One minute you can be in agony and not able to play, next playing and scoring for Brazil.
Welcome back, Phil
Hopefully It will be all healed up by the time he comes back eh !
He has been given advice and direction by a bit of a semi-colon of an agent and Barca.
Good article, for the record I am in the glass half full camp. I like the look of the squad overall. The extra players (Ox-Chambo, Grujic, Robertson, Moreno, TAA, Milner the midfielder, Solanke, Salah, Gomez are those that I can think of right now, oh and Woodburn and Eljaria ? ) I think will lower the overall risk of injury and burnout amongst the front 6 and the fullbacks which should allow us to play better for longer throughout the season.
I do appreciate the very valid point about being light (and a bit dodgy) at centre half. No getting away from that. Well roll on the 5-2’s as against the 1-0’s I guess.
Howedes moved on loan to Juve with an option to buy.
I was advocating bringing him in even if we did get VVD over the line but now it looks to be even more of a mistake not to do so.
Strange that we didn’t even try to persue it.
He partnered Matip at Schalke for 5 or 6 seasons and from what I’ve seen their defensive record was similar to or worse than Liverpool’s in that period… So he might be all those things but my guess is the coaching team didn’t think he was an improvement on what we have, for the system we use.
Hoewedes: Agree on your points, but slow! Also, Hummels, Boateng and even Mertesacker have a better opening.