Many Liverpool supporters have been asking the question. Why is it that we’ve not made an approach to bring in more new players to Anfield this month? Surely we need a replacement for Philippe Coutinho after his big money move to Barcelona at the start of the year? Well, it doesn’t really matter how many of us fans are convinced that making a move is a good idea…it all comes down to whether Jurgen Klopp thinks so. And it doesn’t appear that he does.
Barcelona were determined to get their man and he was desperate to make the transfer happen in order to realise a lifelong dream and ambition. Liverpool received around £145m for the Brazil international and Klopp would surely be given some money to spend to bring in someone to inject some creativity back into the side. But, here we are a day before the window closes and it looks like the German is happy to let players leave while bringing in no more new faces. A £75m deal for Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk was wrapped up before the January transfer window opened and the mood among supporters was buoyant. The Dutchman headed home the winner against rivals Everton in the FA Cup before sitting out an enthralling 4-3 victory which ended Manchester City’s unbeaten run this season. Things were looking up and fans were happy.
But roll on a couple of weeks and their is despair and abject misery around much of the fanbase. Why? Well, defeats against the bottom two clubs in the Premier League have followed those exciting victories over rivals and many fans believe that the race for top four is over already and we won’t be in the mix for the Champions League next season. Many onlookers would say that these fans have been reactive. And they’d be right. Yes, losing to the likes of Swansea City and West Brom isn’t going to do a lot for morale, but we still hold fourth place and should be looking up the table rather than over our shoulders.
A lot of these fans are pointing to our rivals and claiming that they’ve improved their squads while we have weakened ours. There is of course an element of truth in that. Manchester United have added Chile star Alexis Sanchez to their ranks, after paying through the nose to do so, but it’s hard to see how the others have made themselves drastically better. Lucas Moura looks to be a good addition for Spurs, especially at a price of £25m, but is he really going to elevate them above us? Do they not still rely heavily on Harry Kane? Meanwhile, the only addition Chelsea have made so far is the £15m capture of Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, who has looked rather rusty since coming into their side. Is he so good that we cannot expect to challenge them for a top three place? I don’t think so. Antonio Conte is still hoping to see his club sign him a new striker, but he won’t get much say in the matter. A deal for Olivier Giroud would make sense for them, but that would only remove another reliable goalscorer from Arsene Wenger’s squad. Their impending deal to bring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the Premier League is a big one, but will he make them that much better than the side which contained Sanchez and sits below us in the table? It doesn’t really look like it.
More perspective is required from a lot of fans this week.
If we did go out and sign a new playmaker to replace Coutinho, can you imagine the kind of instant pressure and expectation that player would be under? The way that some people are going on, you would think that Coutinho was our only good player and that our hopes all hinged on him. Perhaps those who believe that should take a look at the games where he does and doesn’t play. They will be surprised. Coutinho was clearly a very important player for us, but the wins over Everton and City prove that he is not the key to success that he’s been made out as. We still have the attacking threat of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. That’s a very exciting trio, even if they did look out of sorts against Swansea and WBA. A rot has not set in and people need to show more belief and optimism about our prospects. We’ve added the centre-back we so desperately needed and it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect him to instantly solve all our defensive problems. He is one of the building blocks and won’t be playing alongside some of these players in the long-term. A new goalkeeper would go a long way to making our defensive line stronger and Klopp will realise that, even if he has given Loris Karius the gloves once again.
The signing of Van Dijk, along with Naby Keita, shows that Klopp is prepared to wait for the right players. He won’t go out and waste money on players he doesn’t believe in. And surely that should come as a breath of fresh air to our supporters? Are people not tired of seeing disappointing players brought to the club? Are we not tired of taking punts on wasters like Mario Balotelli, Lazar Markovic etc? While Klopp may well be taking a gamble with our prospects of a top four spot this season, he is also showing diligence with regards to our finances and the quality of the squad. Yes, there are several players who aren’t good enough to be here long-term still occupying places in his squad, but he’s not one to make overhauls in every window. Klopp is calculated in the way he does business in the transfer market and his patience in getting deals done for Van Dijk and Keita is admirable, if not frustrating. People need to remember, or even realise, that Klopp and FSG are not going to go and splurge a fortune in fees and wages on a player heading towards the latter years of his career. The average age of signings made during his tenure is under twenty-six and Van Dijk is relative veteran, especially given the price, in terms of signings made since October 2015. Klopp is not going to spend £60m to be reunited with Aubameyang this month, especially when he prefers Firmino up top in his side.
Personally, I would like to see us make an offer to bring Leicester City attacker Riyad Mahrez to the club this month – but I can see why Klopp doesn’t want to do that deal. The Algerian doesn’t play the same role for his side as Coutinho did here and it would be a relatively big gamble to convince Leicester to do business at £70m+ for a player who isn’t necessarily a natural fit for the role he would be asked to play. On the other side of the coin, Mahrez has plenty of Premier League experience and is a hugely proven player with a PFA Player of the Year award in his cabinet following Leicester’s title win in 2015/16. I think he would be less of a gamble than the likes of Thomas Lemar and Nabil Fekir. He would be likely to get going quicker than those players thanks to his knowledge of football in this country. He would also suit playing alongside the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino. Unfortunately, we won’t get to find out just how well suited he would be.
Supporters need to show the same kind of patience that Klopp himself has in the transfer market. If we fail to get back into next season’s Champions League and end up in fifth or sixth place, then he will take the blame for that. He’s big enough not to hide away from responsibility. But if we do maintain our position in the table and things end up ok, then a lot of moaning fans will have to eat their words following the outcry this month.