Today the transfer window officially opens and clubs around the country can announce new players as signed and sealed. Liverpool are expected to make a few such announcements, depending on which players have already undergone medicals and who still has a few i’s to dot and t’s to cross before their moves are complete.
With six deals in principle confirmed by the club, including the recently announced Nathaniel Clyne, we may already be well on our way to completing our incomings. A deal for Christian Benteke seems inevitable, and if so that may put us in the situation where we are happy squad-wise, and any other business would depend on players leaving.
Which surely must become a priority soon. With the new additions, our squad consists of over 30 players who could realistically be fighting for a place in the first team, including a few young players on the cusp such as Andre Wisdom and Jon Flanagan (when he returns from injury), as well as returning loanees like Thiago Ilori and Luis Alberto. Then there’s those that would be considered deadwood who rarely featured when available last season, like Jose Enrique and Fabio Borini, and players pushed down the pecking order such as Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. Javi Manquillo’s loan deal may be cut short, and it’s possible we’ll look to loan out a few players of our own in short-term deals in the manor we did with Jordon Ibe last season.
The chances are, those players could all be cut from our squad without any significant effect. One departure that could force us into more transfer activity however, would be Raheem Sterling. We seem adamant that he won’t leave for less than the £50m price tag we’ve put on him, so if a team does match that price we would surely be forced into making a big signing to replace him. QPR’s 20% sell on fee is a bit of a blow, but I don’t think there’s any hint that we’ve been spending money in anticipation of a big windfall like last summer with Luis Suarez. Whether we went for a like-for-like replacement or used the money to strengthen elsewhere is a different matter.
To me, our midfield still doesn’t look anywhere near as strong as it could do. James Milner comes in as an experienced player to somewhat fill the gap that one Steven Gerrard has left, but he’s a very similar player to Jordan Henderson and doesn’t really offer us anything we didn’t already have. Those two are as good a ‘jack of all trade’ players you could get, but ideally we should be building towards a system that utilises the fundamentals of what you need your midfield to consist of. That would be a top class, specialised defensive midfielder, and a top class playmaker/controller. The likes of Chelsea and Arsenal have shown that, with the right players, your midfield can control most games in this manner, and with just the two players instead of our seemingly preferred arrangement of three. The heavily linked Mateo Kovacic would be a fantastic addition, but it is imperative we get a proper anchor man in as well, as Lucas Leiva’s fitness is unreliable, Joe Allen is inconsistent, and Emre Can inexperienced.
Other than that though, once we bring in a striker, Benteke or whoever else, I think that may be us more or less done with incomings. It’s clear that we’ve made a point of getting things done early, likely so that we get everyone together over pre-season as early as possible and the ‘settling in’ period doesn’t have as much of an impact as it did last season. The fact that we’ve mainly targeted players already in England is another suggestion of this. Personally, I think it’s become something of a myth that it’s beneficial to bring in players who already know the league, as we ourselves have countless examples of why this isn’t the case. However, if this is the way Brendan Rodgers wishes to operate, he knows that on his head be it if it goes wrong.
The gaffer seems to have been given free-rein of our summer activity, which is an indication of FSG’s faith in him. While the exits of Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh initially looked like the owners may be going over the manager’s head, the appointment of Sean O’Driscoll as assistant manager, who Rodgers has spoken very highly of, suggests that it was a shared decision. It may seem odd to place such trust in Rodgers after the events of last season, but the flip side of this is that another calamity like last year, and Rodgers can have absolutely no excuses. It will all be on him, with no one to pass the buck to.
It’s a gamble from FSG, but at least if they’ve decided to give Rodgers another chance, they’re doing it properly and letting him manage the way he wants. Not everyone will agree with the players Rodgers signs, the staff he appoints, or the general way he runs the team. But at best he gets us back on track and we can start to believe that 2013/14 wasn’t a one-off, or at worst he pays the price and we move on to a new manager. It’s make or break now, and this summer is going to be a big indication of which way it goes.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)