Can Liverpool Balance Infrastructure & Intent?
On an otherwise tranquil day last April 9th, the most persistent, never-ending LFC Twitter storm was kicked off by the Echo’s Ian Doyle. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a mere passing squall in comparison to the furore that Doyle kicked off. It was that day when his article entitled, “Liverpool won’t spend £100m this summer, it will be nearer £200m,” hit the interwebs.
As you'll know from having read my opinion piece, I said don't be surprised if it would be nearer £200m than £100m, depending on sales.
— Ian Doyle (@IanDoyleSport) April 27, 2017
As they tend to do, LFC Twitter gave Doyle a lot of grief that day, and the next and the next, and it’s still going on. Every time Liverpool drop interest in a player or god forbid sell a player his tweets from last spring are dredged up like your ma always bringing up that nice girl you used to date.
Where’s the 200m warchest then Ian???
— fleeto (@fleety82) January 8, 2018
(the only response to Doyle that is clean enough to post)
Doyle was followed by several ITK types and other regular writers who made the same claim, so it’s no knock on him that he came out with it first. And in fact, what has followed has been almost exactly £200 million in player purchases if you count Naby Keita and January’s VVD signing. But, the giant, Ferris-wheel sized asterisk on that total is that Liverpool have also sold players for £183 million in the past two windows following net profits of £28 million and £6 million in the two previous years. (totals via transferleague.co.uk)
THE GERMAN JESUS
The narrative is that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp isn’t quick to spend on players because he won’t just sign anyone simply to fill a hole. No, our manager will only sign the ideal player for his system. This is one accepted truth about Klopp that just can’t be backed up. Have Liverpool actually shown a willingness to wait for any player? We persisted for Virgil Van Dijk for fewer weeks than a season of Homeland, but is that unique? Manchester City just agreed to a summer deal for Shakhtar’s Fred after trying to get him in January… is that more or less persistent than Liverpool’s pursuit of Van Dijk? Is Pep being dubbed the patient one? No, of course not.
Look, Jurgen Klopp can turn water into wine, he can spin straw into gold, but he has to have the straw in the first place doesn’t he? Surely Liverpool supporters now believe in Klopp’s ability to pull performances out of unlikely places, so it isn’t about the need to “shop at Harrod’s.” It’s a problem of having bodies in place to fill the squad so that our manager can get to work on performing his miracles with them.
The Reds went into this week’s all-important Champions League knockout round against Porto and the surprising thing was that they could actually name a full 25 man travelling squad. Take a closer look though and you realize that 7 of the 25 were goalkeepers and right backs plus Can was suspended.
The backups to our otherwise stellar forward line are Ings and Solanke.
The six midfielders Klopp choose from included the Southampton Strangler, Adam Lallana and young Ben Woodburn who hasn’t played in a senior match since September. That left Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
For context, in the 2-2 draw between Tottenham and Juventus, Spurs three subs were Son, Wanyama and the newly acquired Lucas Moura, strong options when you’re chasing a result. Against Porto, Liverpool brought on Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings to close things out, but what options are there if we’re in need of a late goal in the next round?
Look, Liverpool thrashed Porto. Massive credit goes to the players that are already in the squad, the manager for setting them up and the backroom staff for keeping them fit. The Reds should sail through this round, and are the side that Real, City and Bayern will hope to avoid in the next. Unless Liverpool don’t win the whole damn thing the club will be kicking themselves for not reinforcing. For Liverpool, these chances haven’t come along every season. In the club’s first time in the knockout rounds since 2008/09. So, why did the club and the manager take such a risk and leave themselves so short on? Why didn’t Liverpool double down on this chance to make sure that the team were as prepared as possible for a Champions League run and the chase for top four positions?
INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE
The club completed the impressive retro-fit of the main stand in 2016 at a price-tag of 115 million. Liverpool are now moving on to an overdue training complex rethink which is expected to cost 50 million. Then they’ll move on to the Anfield Road end rebuild, and while they’re still considering specific plans you can expect that those three projects will have cost 200 million when all is said and done.
NEW: Liverpool FC to announce Anfield Road extension plans this year – work to begin in 2019.https://t.co/8f9Pg8jEqX pic.twitter.com/Aak2nxpjEm
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) February 8, 2018
Now, these projects will all bring in significant funds to the club one way or another, be it actual revenue or increased value to leverage for whatever comes next. But, the money does at some point have to come from somewhere. Arsenal had to cut back for a while when the Emirates was built and Spurs have been fairly up-front about their struggles with the cost of their new stadium so it shouldn’t be any surprise if Liverpool are pinching pennies to fund these infrastructure projects.
The question is, why aren’t the PR savvy folks at Liverpool/FSG pointing more directly at what they’re building and the costs associated like Tottenham tend to do whenever the subject of a player’s contract demands comes up. Liverpool supporters know that these three projects are key to the next 25-50 years of the club’s success and that if with Klopp’s help, they can thread the needle for a couple of years it would mean huge things for the future.
The way things have been left for LFC Twitter’s crack accounting team to tally our spend and critique away has not been the best move. The £200 million figure was left to float out there all summer and was likely leaked by the club based on how many journalists referenced the figure. Since Liverpool really haven’t dug into that number at all, supporters will be expecting a legitimate £200 million spend again as soon as this season concludes. Until a massive net-spend number is racked up one of these summers Liverpool supporters will continue to rail against their club’s thrifty ways, and yes, Doyle’s article will be referenced again… in a *clears throat* less than positive light.
If it is indeed the case that the club are balancing infrastructure budgets with recruitment outlays and that is ultimately the reason Liverpool often look short a player or three on the pitch, the club should really just say so. Hell, they’d be doing themselves a favour to say so even if it wasn’t true.
At least for poor ol’ Ian Doyle’s sake. Level with us, Liverpool.