Did Liverpool Succeed in This Summer of Change?

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I write this on the morning after the Saudi Pro League’s transfer window has finally closed. The impact that that up-and-coming initiative has had on Liverpool Football’s summer, has been both surprising and beneficial, especially considering some of our former captain’s comments this week. After the torrid and inconsistent exploits of our midfield group last year, it was clear that huge changes would be required upon completion of that 2022/23 campaign. James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keïta, and Roberto Firmino, all left the Reds upon expiration of their last contracts, requiring ample replacements to be recruited soon thereafter. The business is now competed until the 2024 January window opens, with the below speculation likely to continue swirling, before ramping up over Christmas.

Photo: IMAGO

Have Liverpool Handled the Saudi Overtures Well?

Liverpool Football Club have absolutely done the correct thing in standing their ground (on Mo Salah) with PIF-backed clubs. In selling Fabinho and Jordan Henderson for over £52m, they have extracted brilliant money for failing or redundant assets. Without the desires of these Middle Eastern entities, the fan base would have seen these two players in the match day squad at the start of the 2023/24 season.

Making the hard decisions to sell both, enabled tired individuals to be replaced with dynamic and exciting new players. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are already elite-level operators, whereas Ryan Gravenberch has all the potential to reach close to that level. In Wataru Endō, Jürgen Klopp has a vastly experienced and reliable defensive midfielder, one who adds a ball-winning style to the group. The further promotion of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, and Stefan Bajčetić, means the minutes will be spread across a raft of energetic bodies, with our genius, Thiago Alcântara, maintaining a sporadic yet vital role in his final year.

Photo: IMAGO

The more I view this crop (and after watching the first four games of the season), I take the summer business as a solid 7 out of 10. The signing of an elite holding midfielder could have pushed that to 9 out of 10, whereas it would have taken the signing of an extra defender to reach that magic 10. What must be admired and not overlooked, is seeing our German manager go against his loyal instincts and stand by the tough calls, ones which saw some of his lieutenants and senior assets leave the club.

After Four Games, Are We Now Positive for A Strong Season?

After receiving a very welcome nomination for September’s manager of the month award, that (alongside ten points garnered) represents a very solid start to the new campaign. I suspect there are already conversations being held to streamline and reestablish a more effective recruitment drive, yet despite the Saudi and Chelsea distractions, I am happy that so much positive business has been achieved.

The encouraging form of both Joe Gomez and Joël Matip has eased my rearguard concerns, whereas Andy Robertson has finally started to bed into his slightly altered role. Trent is beginning to understand the decisions needed in continuing his hybrid role, all while seeing a vibrant attacking group fight each other for a starting berth. I am happy, if a little on edge about what comes after the international break.

Photo: IMAGO

What Next?

In terms of what the Reds should look to line up for January, unfortunately, there is going to be a melee of speculation regarding our Egyptian King, which will create differing scenarios.

I believe unless LFC have a genuine chance of winning the league (by January 1st), then Salah’s departure for the 2024 AFCON will also see our record-breaking scorer depart for the riches on offer.

Klopp would have little chance of convincing a determined player to stay, especially if he spends six weeks away from the group. Our manager will never force a player to remain, which means much like the Philippe Coutinho sale from a few years back, a January departure could be tentatively orchestrated in the build-up to the new year.

Photo: IMAGO

What Should Be the Targets for The January Window?

The areas of need (outside of a Salah departure), would be the middle ground of the team. It is now almost certain that our Spanish maestro, Thiago, will leave upon expiry of his current contract next summer, which means a fitting replacement could be made before then.

The constant injury battles make any potential extension impossible, which means the signing of Fluminense’s controlling midfielder, Andre, would represent smart long-term planning. Despite the talk of whether Gravenberch can be converted into a holding midfielder, I still hope there is the desire to sign a high-end ball winner, to place in the middle of our numerous creative forces.

If Cheick Doucouré has been deemed too expensive, or Manu Koné perhaps too injury-prone, then either Monaco’s Soungoutou Magassa or Federico Redondo would be intriguing candidates to come in. Both players will only be 20 years old by January 1st, meaning neither would require non-homegrown status. This endeavour would enable the chance to sign both Andre and one of these brilliant young players.

For me, Soungoutou Magassa should be the target for the winter, as he could be the destructive and versatile addition that takes our years business to a 9 out of 10.

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