Closing Out the Transfer Window

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Noel's gone ahead and capped a busy summer by churning out some unparalleled deadline day coverage, and if you're just coming back into the fray, scrolling down is an absolute necessity. From Tuesday's confirmation that Sebastian Coates had arrived to the exit of Raul Meireles last night, the club's transfer activity was covered incomparably. And, given the amount of activity in the past 48 hours, it's no small task.

Recounting the ins and outs of the last few days, let alone the entire summer, is a tall order, particularly with the final move being one that left a discernibly sour taste in the mouths of most. The contrasts to last summer are too easy, and they're made simpler by the sheer number of faces previously arrived that are now departed---all traces of the front office failures are gone, with Joe Cole, Paul Konchesky, and Christian Poulsen finding other places to ply their respective underachieving trades, and Raul Meireles, the lone positive addition of Roy Hodgson's tenure, finalizing a last-minute move to West London in favor of higher wages.

In many cases the moves on the way out were a long time coming; David Ngog's exit had been discussed since the Jordan Henderson deal became a legitimate possibility, Milan Jovanovic never quite found his feet during his two seasons in England, and Emiliano Insua's spot in the squad was always in question after being shipped out on loan to Turkey as a solution to last summer's efforts to move him permanently. Further exits for Daniel Ayala and Sotirios Kyrgiakos, despite the former's youth and a contract extension earlier in the summer for the latter, were also met with collective acceptance.

The move for Meireles, then, is really the only bitter pill in a summer that's otherwise been largely excellent. And, as someone who's trumpeted the ability of the Portuguese midfielder nearly since his arrival, it's an especially difficult transfer to deal with. He seemed integral to the brand of football that Liverpool in the post-Hodgson era were trying to play, and his commitment to the club never seemed in doubt, first stating that he'd gladly stay with Liverpool for the better part of a few decades, and more recently responding to speculation about his exit that he'd "of course" be with the club for the coming campaign.

But it didn't turn out that way, and once again Liverpool supporters are faced with the reality of losing an impact player to Chelsea. In January the situation seemed much more severe---Fernando Torres had been idolized since his arrival on Merseyside, and while the arrival of Luis Suarez had some promise, it didn't seem like anything could take away the sting from a club hero requesting an exit.

As it turned out, though, the signings of Suarez and Andy Carroll, coupled with Kenny Dalglish's return to the helm, were more than enough, both practically and emotionally. The opening of the summer continued the positive trend, with Jordan Henderson and long-term target Charlie Adam quickly signed up, and later moves made for Doni, Stewart Downing, Jose Enrique, and, as the transfer window came to a close, Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy.

Those arrivals don't erase the fact that Raul Meireles' move to Chelsea is a tough one to take, and, along with the departure of Alberto Aquilani, it rightfully causes some questions about the depth in quality in the once comically overstocked Liverpool midfield. For a side that looked starved for ideas at various points throughout the season gone by, and even early in this campaign, expunging two of the more creative players in the squad is reason enough for concern. Aquilani's exit was more or less a foregone conclusion, but for many (myself included), Meireles was viewed as an integral part of the club's future.

So it's okay to panic, or cry, or drink heavily, or question your own existence in the wake of the departure of a well-liked player. But, as much I wished he'd have stuck around, I don't know that life without Raul Meireles signals any sort of end to the positivity or optimism that's accompanied the start to the new season. He'd obviously have made the club better, and certainly deeper in midfield, but if he had his sights set elsewhere, there's little sense in fighting to keep him.

At current, we've witnessed an absolutely blistering debut for Jose Enrique, who's all but claimed his spot as first-choice left back in only three appearances, one of which came only hours after his arrival. At times it seemed like there would never be an adequate solution to the club's troubles on the left side of defense, but the former Newcastle man has settled quickly and proved to be a revelation. There's been similar success for Stewart Downing, who's instantly become a vital cog in the Liverpool attack and has adapted to life at Liverpool seamlessly.

The starts for Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson haven't been as white-hot, with both experiencing some growing pains on their way to becoming first-team regulars. They've both shown steady improvement, however, with Henderson turning in a terrific shift in the win against Bolton on Saturday and Adam finding his feet in a more reserved, contained role deeper in central midfield alongside Lucas. They've also been subject to plenty of criticism---especially Henderson, given his transfer fee--and handled it remarkably well, and both seem to fit well in the mold of Dalglish's Liverpool.

There's more to look for from the summer's additions, with both Sebastian Coates and Craig Bellamy joining the squad in the last two days. Coates is likely to be brought along more slowly but carries more promise, with Bellamy expected to provide cover up front as part of an attacking contigent that, when on form, could be mighty difficult to deal with.

It's not blowing smoke to suggest that Liverpool are much better off now than they were three months ago, and that's including the unexpected and disappointing departure of Raul Meireles. By all accounts the club have the players they wanted, offloaded those they didn't (or that didn't want to be around), and, despite being less than a year removed from talking seriously about relegation and administration, are well placed to make a run at returning to the Premier League's elite.

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