Brilliant (but not enough) signings leave LFC riding on luck in title charge
Liverpool’s aggressive and early dealings left many, not least usually sceptical fans impressed. For so long “monitoring of targets” and “staying in conversations for top players” defined the club’s dealings in the transfer market. The swiftness and efficiency that characterised the summer was therefore received with a welter of joy and shock. In Alisson, Fabinho, Naby Keita and Shaqiri, the club’s decisiveness in dealing with some key weaknesses in the squad was been self-evident.
However, with Liverpool, there is always a tinge of unfinished business with their dealings in the market. What went on in the transfer window is by no means to be scorned. It was brilliant! But for a squad and a manager that has fallen short in three finals and run out of gas in the only attempt for a title challenge (first half of 2016/17), winning should be a matter of desperation. And such desperation should not tolerate a 7/10 rated recruitment.
Some argue that all of Liverpool’s problems cannot be solved in one window. Proponents of such thoughts urge fans to celebrate a “great window”. That view completely disregards the external factors – like a terribly strong City side – that will inhibit turning “a great window” into a “great season”. Also, this argument espouses the idea of linear growth – this window was better than last so that represents progress. That may sound noble but in the ever competitive and unpredictable football world, such views only come across as glorified mediocrity. “Linear growth” inhibits boldness needed to take advantage of opportunities. Leicester City in 2015/16 did not set out to win the league. But when they got to the winter market in a position to win, they took advantage to bolster the squad. Pep Guardiola took over a strong team with a number of league winners yet he overhauled the team to address various weaknesses to get them to win the league in 2017/18.
An opportunity lies before Liverpool this season- Arsenal and Chelsea searching for stability under new managers, the much-talked-about Mourinho’s third season syndrome and a Spurs team susceptible to injuries and suspension after signing no one in the transfer market. The opportunity should necessarily have made Liverpool bolder in addressing the weakness in the centre-back and attacking midfield positions.
You do not carry weaknesses into the season when you want to overcome City. It is in the impressive mirror of City’s squad that Liverpool’s transfer dealing should be viewed. And the verdict from that viewing can only be “progress but still falls short”. City can do a Gundogan – Fernandinho swap and interchange Laporte, Kompany and Stones without a telling drop in output. In DeBruyne, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez they boast an impressive set of midfielders/attackers who offer an impressive attacking depth strong to enough to withstand the loss of form, injuries and suspensions. Then behind Aguero, there is a competent Jesus.
LFC is however left to hope and pray Van Dijk stays fit throughout the season as his absence takes the defence back to comic levels of errors. Failure to sign Fekir or an alternative means the squad is shorn of creativity in the middle of the park. Ox’s injury also doesn’t help. There was a reason Fekir was nearly signed for over £50 million. His skills set was sought and a role in the team clearly marked. Watching Lallana doing pointless Cruyff turns and slowing down play in pre-season would not have suddenly convinced Klopp that there is an in-house solution to signing the Frenchman.
It may be seen as greed or filthy obsession with transfers of the modern football fan to have complaints even after a club has spent £170 million on quality players. But LFC and its fans want to win the league, want to have another crack at winning Champions league. And you don’t do that with a glass that is waiting for luck to fill it up. It may sound preposterous calling a squad that has had genuine quality worth £170 million poured into it a glass that is not full. But that is exactly where LFC are. The squad is strong enough to challenge and even win the league but that is on a number of caveats: front three being as prolific as last season and staying fit throughout the season, VVD staying fit to babysit the mediocre and error-prone centre-backs and finding a solution to the absence of a good attacking midfielder. Too much luck to expect in one season? Most likely.