At what stage does Liverpool’s transfer activity become “panic-buying?”

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By Matthew Cotton @MatthewCotton3

August is entering its final days. It just epitomises how quickly this year has gone.

It is also that time of year when the summer transfer window is nearing its end, and teams are working tirelessly to tie up deals before the day when millions of fans across Britain tune into Sky Sports News for “Deadline Day,” which this year will be on Monday, 2 September, because the normal deadline day, the 31st August, this year falls on a Saturday.

In between now and the closure of the transfer window, Liverpool have the small matter of a home game against their fierce rivals Manchester United. The Reds have made an excellent start to their league season, with two 1-0 wins in games at home to Stoke City and away at Aston Villa. Liverpool also recently beat Notts County 4-2 in the Capital One Cup, despite throwing away a comfortable-looking 2-0 lead that meant Liverpool needed 30 minutes of extra time to see off a side that has one point from four league games in English football’s third tier (I’m going to give Notts County credit for not caving in at 2-0).

Liverpool’s mood will also have been worsened by injuries to Kolo Toure, who has been a fine addition on a free, Aly Cissokho and Joe Allen. This means that Liverpool will need to jump into the transfer market once again. However, when does it become a case of panic-buying, e.g. buying for the sake of buying?

A defender is high on Liverpool’s priority list. This has been the case since early February, when club legend Jamie Carragher announced his retirement after a 17-year career in the first team. Whoever came in had massive shoes to fill, and Liverpool moved to snap up Kolo Toure on a free transfer from Manchester City. He came with experience and has proved an excellent free signing but suffered a groin injury in the extra time of the Notts County match, so now Liverpool either need to sign a new player and throw him in straight into the deep end on Sunday’s match, throw young and inexperienced Andre Wisdom in at centre back, or hope that Martin Skrtel is fit enough, which Brendan Rodgers has said he would be.

So one could say that Liverpool are now starting to panic, because they knew they would need defensive reinforcements, especially with Skrtel’s future up in the air and the fourth-choice defender Sebastian Coates facing most of the season on the sidelines due to injury. This sparked Liverpool’s latest search for defenders, bearing in mind Toure wasn’t going to be playing every game.

In my opinion, central defenders weren’t the only positions requiring strengthening over the summer. I still maintain that Liverpool need a defensive midfielder to cover/compete with Lucas and Steven Gerrard, yet there have been no signs that one is forthcoming. Watching the three games Liverpool have participated in, although this has produced three wins, “comfortable” is not a word to describe them. Liverpool must learn how to kill games off, and they need to buy a wing forward with a good scoring record to finish off the numerous chances Liverpool create.

I had previously said that a centre forward was required, but Daniel Sturridge has started excellently, with four goals in those three games and it is looking ever more likely that Luis Suarez will stay, having tried to push for a move away over the summer with Real Madrid “interested” – that’s cooled, but some ‘journalists’ have tried to reignite these rumours. If these rumours turn to reality, Liverpool really will be in panic buying territory, with little time to find a replacement for his goals and his all-round play (not his numerous controversies). However, despite his behaviour over the summer, Liverpool don’t think he will be sold, which is why they haven’t been hastily bringing in potential ‘replacements.’

There are a lot of supporters that are concerned by Liverpool’s inability to bring in a “marquee” signing that would make the top four think “Wish we could’ve got that player.” Firstly, it was Henrikh Mkhitaryan (who’s joined Borussia Dortmund), then it was Diego Costa who has decided to stay with Atletico Madrid and recently it was Willian, a highly-rated attacking midfielder who has joined Chelsea from Anzhi Makhachkala after being linked with Tottenham Hotspur as well as Liverpool. As far as getting that type of player is concerned, Liverpool are on Plan D, and there are days left to make that change. However, a player brought in that costs lots of money isn’t necessarily going to be a success. Liverpool can vouch for this as much as any other club; Andy Carroll was signed for £35 million (a record for a British player) from Newcastle on 31 January 2011, and Stewart Downing came for £20 million from Aston Villa that summer. They’re teammates…at West Ham United after both were offloaded this summer, at massive losses. This kind of spending is making Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group very cautious about throwing money at the club. As the saying goes, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”

However, Liverpool prefer to go for value for money, a factor that may explain the lack of big-money arrivals. The fact that Liverpool are so averse to spending big money on many players seems to suggest that there won’t be any panic buying of this type of player. In fact, Liverpool’s summer started quite well, bringing in Toure, forward Iago Aspas, attacking midfielder Luis Alberto and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, preparing for the eventuality that Pepe Reina would leave for Barcelona (he did leave, albeit on loan to Napoli for the season).

Liverpool have been guilty in the past of panic buys. The aforementioned Carroll signing came in on the same day that Suarez joined from Ajax for £22.8 million and Fernando Torres left to join Chelsea for £50 million. Torres had expressed a desire to leave for Chelsea in the week that preceded that crazy day, and when Liverpool accepted he was leaving, sought to bring Carroll to Anfield. It seemed like an excellent buy at the time, and although there were highlights, it became obvious that Carroll wasn’t going to adapt to Rodgers’ new playing style and moved to West Ham, first on loan and then on a permanent basis. Liverpool wanted to buy Clint Dempsey from Fulham, but the owners weren’t thrilled about paying over-the-odds for a 29-year old, and he joined Tottenham instead, leaving Liverpool with two senior strikers in Suarez and Fabio Borini (who got injured) between September and January, and it told in the start they made to last season.

I personally liked Carroll, and wanted him to stay, but 11 goals in 58 games he played for Liverpool wasn’t value for the £35 million spent. I also don’t agree with panic buying players – the management and owners would have had the summer to recognise the squad’s weaknesses and try to rectify them. I don’t buy into the “If a player leaves on the deadline day, you’ve got to panic buy” sentiments. Tottenham for example are buying players such as Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado and are closing in on highly rated Erik Lamela to compensate for what is looking like the inevitable loss of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. Tottenham have conducted their summer business impeccably: they’ve prepared for the likelihood of losing a world-class player and replacing him with quality.

There is disagreement as to what constitutes panic-buying. One thing is for certain, panic buying a player towards the end of the transfer window is not something that is to be recommended every window.