Patience, Pride and Prosperity - Stepping back and taking stock of LFC's transfer window

IMG_6839.JPG

About a week before the window closed, it looked like Liverpool were all done for the summer and I started thinking about writing this piece about the value of patience in the modern game. Then we signed Keita, AOC and put in 2 bids for one of the most exciting talents in French football, but ultimately fell short. This now feels even more relevant.

 

The instinctive reaction when Liverpool failed to register a bid for Virjil Van Dijk and then refused to match Arsenal's bid for Thomas Lemar was one of massive disappointment.

 

Why hadn't we addressed the area of real concern at the heart of our defence, where we not only lack quality but depth? Why had we not matched an amount for Lemar which we could afford and which the player was pushing for?

 

That reaction is understandable, the consequence of massive expectation in lieu of sealing champion's league football for only the third time in the last 10 years. Bloated by an opinion piece claiming we would have a £200 million transfer "war chest" - an idea built partly on the sale of Moreno, Sturridge and Markovic for a total of £60 million, all of whom remain on our books. Anticipation pushed higher still by so called "ITKs" who lost hundreds of followers over the last few hours of deadline day and all seem conveniently quiet since the closure of the window.

 

Twitter is an insular bubble where rumour becomes expectation. Where opinion becomes fact and where fake Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain quotes rack up thousands of retweets without any check on their validity. It can be easy to look at twitter and end up in a spiral of negativity - forgetting that our team has improved consistently since Klopp took over.

 

Everyone knows what we are capable of in attack, as we have proven time and again. The fact that Philippe Coutinho has yet to play a minute for us this season and yet we have scored 14 goals in 5 games is not down to luck - it comes from Klopp's vision of attacking as a team, not relying on individual players.

 

That is all well documented, but if you look at our defensive stats they too show signs of improvement. 7 clean sheets in our last 9 league games is flattering and misses that we changed our style of play towards the end of last season in order to seal fourth place. But 2 from 3 this season along with a much more reliable metric - looking at the last 38 league games we have played - show slow but steady improvement. During that period we conceded just 41 goals; the lowest at any point over Klopp's tenure.

 

This is not to say we are flawless at the back, we all saw how the watford game went and that lessons still need to be learned, but I've been increasingly impressed by Matip and, although I'm not chairman of the Dejan Lovren fan club, I can say as a fact that Matip and Lovren as a pairing are good enough to achieve top 4 football, because they've done it once already.

 

The general consensus is that continuing our pursuit of Van Dijk would have risked a transfer ban which would have been disastrous. Whether there is any truth to that I don't know - but I believe that if a deal was possible it would have been done. It wasn't, so it hasn't.

But why didn't we go after someone else? There were other cente backs available who would have improved our team; Howedes was just one of the names that was touted around before his move to Juventus.

 

Howedes is not a ball playing centre back - which we know that Klopp wants, so why would we go in and offer him enough money to prize him away from Juventus, for a player the manager wouldn't want?

 

Short sighted spending like this is what kept arsenal in the top 4 for so long, whilst never really pushing for the title. It's enough to paper over cracks but it's not how a club pushes forward and grows without continuously spending way over the odds on 1 season solutions (*Manchester starts to blush*), but it's also part of why Arsenal is in such a state. A bloated squad with a ludicrous wage bill, inertia everywhere. Unable to bring in the big names they wanted because they were unable to offload the questionable purchases which they've racked up, owner pullling away his own funds.

 

13 months ago we were heading into a brand new season with Nathaniel Clyne as our only right back and at left back, Alberto Moreno - widely blamed for losing the Europa League final (rightly or wrongly) - only to then have a shocker against Arsenal on the first day of the new season, as well as James Milner - a right winger!

 

Klopp wasn't worried. He stuck to his guns and when his preferred options for left back weren't avalable for what he thought was a reasonable price, he didn't sign a short term solution leaving our squad clogged up long term. Instead he put his trust in James Milner, who proved to be a reliable and solid option for the year.

 

12 months on, with an outlay of just £10 million (largely recouped by sending Kevin Stewart the other way) we suddenly have strength and depth on both flanks. Clyne's injury last season would have been a headline grabber, this season it's barely been discussed! To the point where I don't even know when Clyne is due back, or in fact what his injury even is!

 

Whilst Manchester City spent close to £130million for 3 full backs, we spent £10 million and have 6. I don't remember Kyle Walker scoring any free kicks like that in the Champions League!

 

If we want Joe Gomez to become the player that we hope he will become, he needs space to grow into. He will need to get minutes for the first team playing at Centre Back. It will be terrifying every time I see him lining up on the team sheet, it will worry me and we may well lose games because of it. But you won't see any young players come through the academy if we don't take the risk and allow them to make those mistakes.

 

Van Dijk might come next January, he might come next summer, he might never come. But other options will also become available. Toby  Alderweireld goes into the last year of his contract next summer for example. Maybe Klopp sees James Milner slotting in. Second guessing Klopp's next move is a fools errand, but putting faith in him is sensible, because he sees the game in a different way and that's why he has been so successful.

 

Klopp's Modus Operandi has never been and never will be to spend spend spend. That's not to say he is afraid to spend; 50 million for Keita, 75 million for Lemar, but he's not interested in being mugged off.

 

Holding out for £55million for Benteke and Sakho (two players clearly not wanted at the club) is good business and leaves us with more money to spend - I don't think many would disagree with that point.

 

Why, then, are we as fans so incapable of seeing that the same applies for buying? If we had matched Arsenal's bid we would not only have £90million less to spend in future, it would push up every other price we were quoted next year and would have left even less space for the massively talented Ben Woodburn to grow into. Lemar would have been a great addition, but his cost became too high and it is sensible to walk away it that situation. The player wants to come and if a deal can be done next summer at the right price, I remain optimistic.

 

Having kept Coutinho, bought Keita out from underneath Barcelona's nose, and offered huge money for Lemar, FSG have shown that they are willing to invest, but invest wisely and responsibly. The Keita deal in particular is phenomenal! Klopp is in this for the long haul so short term solutions like Howedes might appeal to fans, but not to Klopp. His plan for the club is longer than the next 12 months and I believe we're moving in the right direction, but these things take time.

 

In AOC we have a versatile young English talent who Klopp will take to the next level. In Robertson we have competition for Moreno and if his goal for Scotland is anything to judge by, a man with a peach of a left foot. In Salah we've added pace to mirror Sadio's. In Keita we've tied up one of the top midfield talents in Europe 12 months before anyone else was really looking. in Solanke we've managed something of a coup. Meanwhile, Firmino and Mane have both stepped up to another level so far this season, Coutinho and Lallana are still to come back and we're back in the Champions League!

 

We have our issues still to face. This window hasn't been a 10/10. Centre Backs, Emre Can's contract and Coutinho's reintegration will all still rear their ugly heads over the next 12 months. But the idea that our squad isn't much better now than it was last season is laughable. Is it perfect? no. Will it be challenging for the title this season? Possibly not. But Jurgen Klopp is in this for the long haul - and we should be too.

 

If you don't think we're progressing fast enough, that's up to you. But patience in Klopp's project is what led Dortmund to the Bundesliga title, not splashing the cash. Our annual revenue is closer to Newcastle's than to Arsenal's. We don't have the financial firepower to match Manchester City's spending. But we do have a world class manager and owners willing to back him.

Up the Reds.