It’s barely been two weeks since the season finished, and the transfer window hasn’t even opened yet. But, rightly so, Liverpool have been swift to put a few pieces of business in motion, including changes within both the playing and coaching staff.
First up was Kolo Toure and Andre Wisdom signing new contracts. Whether we feel Wisdom is ready to break into our team, or were simply protecting our asset and ensuring that we could get a decent fee for him if any clubs are interested, is up for debate. But either way, we don’t lose out a lot. He won’t be on high wages, can cover a couple of positions, and we could get him another loan spell if necessary. Toure’s new deal is a bit stranger, as he’s someone within the squad I would class as dead wood, who is taking up a hefty 70k a week in wages. And last summer we were willing to let him go to Trabzonspor, only for him to reject their offer. I guess our thinking is that, with Gerrard and Johnson (likely) leaving, we need all the experience we can get. Toure will likely play a bigger part off the pitch than on it; offering words of wisdom (no pun intended) to the younger players and leading by example in his application in training and his attitude/professionalism.
Perhaps the biggest piece of news so far came in the reveal that Brendan Rodgers would be staying in his job, after weeks, if not months, of speculation. The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti had been touted as possible replacements, but both decided that they needed a brief break from the game. We can’t know if that had any bearing on FSG’s decision, or they always planned to stick by Rodgers regardless of who else was/wasn’t available. Brendan knows he will be walking a tightrope until he regains the confidence of the fans. No doubt the Liverpool support will be there when it comes to the football, but we don’t want to see the manager making the same mistakes he made last season and demonstrating the stubborn side we saw glimpses of. Rodgers must consider himself quite lucky to still be in charge, and therefore must act accordingly and show that he knows what holes need plugging and what errors mustn’t be made again. Playtime’s over; now we need results.
A by-product of this no-nonsense stance seems to have led to the dismissal of Colin Pascoe, and the release of Mike Marsh upon the end of his contract. This is where the rumours really started circulating, and conspiracy theories were in plenty supply. Did Rodgers agree to let his accomplices go? Are they the fall guys for a bad season? Did FSG go over Rodgers’ head to dismiss them? It would seem odd for Rodgers to suddenly lose faith in the assistants he’d worked with all this time, but maybe it was just a case of him accepting that changes had to be made after such an awful year. It may not have been so much that Pascoe and Marsh were blamed, but just that FSG and Rodgers came to the conclusion that a higher calibre of assistant and coach could be brought in, and preferably someone with a genuine connection to the club that would help get the fans’ confidence back up. Hence the links with Pako Ayestaran and Sami Hyypia.
We can’t forget the two transfers the club have sealed (pending medicals) since the end of the season. James Milner and Danny Ings had long been linked with a move here, but in the past week their arrivals have been confirmed. The only issue I can find with Milner is that he’s on a huge wage, and I can’t see us agreeing to pay him that unless we see him as a first choice player. His versatility means he can fit in in a few positions, which may have been a factor. But his preferred role is centre midfield, and you’d struggle to find a more similar player to Milner than our own Jordan Henderson, so fitting those two into the same midfield might cause a few balance issues. Neither can really operate without a defensive midfielder behind them, nor are they the controlling midfield player we also seem to want given the links to Inter’s Mateo Kovacic.
Danny Ings is a player I was less interested in, as with Divock Origi to return from his loan spell, and Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, and Mario Balotelli all still on the books and no guarantees that we could find a buyer for each, I would have liked us to prioritise a first choice striker instead of bringing in more backup. But Ings at least will be an improvement on the aforementioned trio, and will likely compete with Origi for the League Cup and Europa League games on offer.
A big decision has yet to be made as to who will be our new captain after the departure of Steven Gerrard. An announcement will likely be made before pre-season begins, though it’s possible Rodgers will give himself longer to assess the situation. Jordan Henderson is the obvious choice, but I’m not sure he’s as certain to take the armband many may believe. There’s a chance someone like Martin Skrtel or James Milner will take the burden for a year or two as a safe option, as to not create the added pressure on a younger player that they have to step into the shoes of Steven Gerrard. Mamadou Sakho may also be in with a shout, as former PSG captain and arguably our best player over the entire course of last season.
Opinions will no doubt be split on many of these issues, but we’ve barely dipped our toes into the water of summer 2015 so there’s still a lot more to come. Big judgements will be withheld until September the 1st, and until then we can just hope that we knuckle down and ensure that our business is as good as it can possibly be and is enough for us to bounce back next season.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)