With news yesterday that it's Borussia Dortmund rather than Liverpool that are destined to secure the signature of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it's understandable if you want to curl up in the fetal position for awhile. He wasn't our first--or maybe he was, if you're waiting until marriage, this metaphor is confusing--but he was our most recent, and Liverpool's inability to land him after weeks of back-and-forth nonsense and drama and nearly moments from Russian journalists was a tough blow to take. Dortmund swooped in and did what Liverpool could not, and now a player that many of us had penciled into the starting eleven as a key component of the club's return to Champions League football will instead be plying his trade for last season's runners-up in the competition. Decisions!
There's not an argument for Mkhitaryan to have joined Liverpool other than a sentimental one; we love Liverpool, we'd love for Liverpool to be good, he is good, ???, profit. Sadly it wasn't that simple, and few can begrudge him for choosing to head to one of European football's most fashionable and form teams. He'll now find himself as part of an attacking contingent that will including Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jakub Błaszczykowski, and Marco Reus, which is probably an enticing prospect if you have a pulse and like nice things.
All is not lost. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a lovely player and would have surely made Liverpool better. He'll very likely make Dortmund better. But that he's there and not in Liverpool is not the end of the world--it's just common sense and football. Being sad and disappointed is justified, and you should keep doing that for as long as you find it useful. When you're done, let's talk about why losing out on Mkhitaryan doesn't mean Liverpool are cast into the abyss.
1) The "failure" is on July 5, not August 31.
Remember last summer, when Jordan Henderson was used as a makeweight to try to bring in Clint Dempsey, which occurred on the heels of the club vetoing a move for Daniel Sturridge? That sucked. This is competing for a hell of a player and losing out to a club that's in better standing on the continent than Liverpool. That's not pleasant, but there's almost two full months left to recover. Had this happened in the dying days of August with nobody else identified as a backup, it'd be catastrophic. Yesterday stung, but there's time to move on.
2) There's a plan being carried out and the personnel available to do so.
Remember last summer, when Liverpool's scouts were on gardening leave and at least one of the signings is thought to have been a holdover from the previous regime? That sucked too. You got the feeling that Liverpool were just sort of flapping in the wind, directionless in the transfer market and hoping to get anything beyond Rodgers' two pet projects. The business in January--which was, unequivocally, the business--and thus far in the summer indicates that collectively, the backroom staff are on the same page and moving in the direction they feel will help the club progress. We can look forward to the rest of July and August with careful expectation, hopeful that the early evidence we've seen with a full staff in motion only provides more of the same.
3) The signings in the summer thus far.
None of the four signings the club have made to this point in the summer are blowing anybody away, but they're all intentional as hell and should make Liverpool better than they were last season. Simon Mignolet either challenges, overtakes, or replaces Pepe Reina, and while he can't fill the emotional void the Spaniard would leave, he'd be a damn sight close to Reina's form the past few seasons. If it's both of them, even for one season, there's no way Liverpool are worse off given the competition it would create. Luis Alberto is young and skillful, adding to the craft that's already present in the squad as a Philippe Coutinho type who won't be quite as polished. Kolo Toure shouldn't be first-choice but has experience and a positive presence in the changing room, and will give an uncertain defensive unit some much-needed leadership. And while I have no reason why, I'm completely sold on Iago Aspas. There's just something about him that I really like (now that all the things I didn't like have been settled), and I'm hopeful he'll at worst be an upgrade on Stewart Downing and at best be a complete wackjob who runs himself into the ground for the team, bags himself a dozen or so goals, and creates at least a handful more for his teammates.
4) The squad coming back.
I'm torn as to whether or not I should include Luis Suarez here, but we're looking at six matches without him to start the season anyhow, so whatever. There's questions about Daniel Sturridge's fitness, which is worrisome, but if he makes a full recovery, there's a core unit coming back that was very, very good at times. If Reina is back, he has a hungry backup to push him along in a way he just hasn't experienced during his Liverpool career. Daniel Agger had his finest season fitness-wise and will be ready after preventative treatment on his back. Glen Johnson will be rested, Jose Enrique showed signs of consistency in the run-in (though his work in the final third is still something that should happen not at all ever), and Martin Kelly is back from injury. Lucas has a full summer of rest without serious rehab needed and managed to show flashes of his world-class form from two seasons ago. Steven Gerrard might not be ready for the start but will be available on the heels of a solid spring, and Joe Allen will be looking to prove himself after his early brilliance dropped off dramatically. Jordan Henderson is super dreamy and also a wonderfully adaptable squad member if not a locked-on starter, Philippe Coutinho will likely struggle at times but was still one of the buys of the season, and Fabio Borini has a chance to make an impact with Suarez out and Sturridge potentially recovering. They're not world-beaters, but this is not a collective that is too far off.
5) The new season is on the horizon, and anything can happen.
Well maybe not anything. Still, stuff. Liverpool sustaining a top four challenge would probably be more than enough to qualify the 2013-2014 season a success. I think they can expect to be in the running for a European spot at season's end, and right now there is nothing to indicate they can't. NOBODY'S EVEN DONE ANYTHING YET YOU IDIOTS! Liverpool probably won't win the Premier League title, probably won't finish in the top two or three or four, and might even find themselves in the bottom three because LOLverpool and Loserpool and other unoriginal bro'd-out pejorative monikers because funny and wait what does pejorative mean? But I'll be damned if I don't wake up on August 17th expecting Liverpool to just about run through everyone they encounter, even without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Luis Suarez--temporarily or permanently--or any sort of reason to believe they could actually do that.
Because why not?