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A Year on the Liverpool Offside: The British Experiment

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BuyingBritish

After the wild final day of the January window and a finish to the season that was reason enough for optimism, all eyes turned toward the summer. Even with the relatively disappointing end to the campaign, Liverpool looked to have the opportunity to strengthen a squad that seemed just a few pieces away from truly challenging the league leaders on a consistent basis. With all the pieces in place off the pitch, the summer promised continued movement in the right direction after things had started so poorly just nine months earlier.

The action outside of England couldn't start until the first of July, but on June 1st the rumor mongering started in earnest. Early reports had Liverpool going after a range of targets across the globe, with plenty of British targets connected to the club to go along with a range both on the continent and off. The connections to Stewart Downing and Ashley Young wouldn't go away, and ties to young English defenders---Scott Dann and Phil Jones among them---seemed to fit with a shift in Liverpool's focus.

That shift was more apparent as the days wore on, with more than a few sources placing Liverpool's aims on Jones and Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson. The desire for the two players was understandable, given that both were young and successful at their respective clubs, but the narrative took a twist as the bidding for the players reached heights that have traditionally been reserved for big-time talent, both British and otherwise. Between Henderson, Jones, and rumored Liverpool target Connor Wickham, there was £40 million on the table for three players that, while promising, hadn't done much to warrant the cost.

Things partially came to fruition a week into June, with Phil Jones heading to Manchester United and Jordan Henderson confirmed as a Liverpool player. Cost was again the main focus, with Jones' price tag roughly equivalent to Henderson, who at that time was supposed to be one part of a deal that would see David Ngog headed in the other direction. With the lust growing for Juan Mata and anyone that wasn't a British product, the collective reaction wasn't necessarily one of disappointment, but one of concern that Liverpool's focus was too narrow.

We got actual insight into the club's plans as June progressed, as Damien Comolli addressed the movement towards homegrown talent:

Yes and no. It’s not because a player is English and young that we are going to go for him. We go for a player because he ticks all the boxes. It’s what we need at this time in this window. If a player is English or British or has played in the Premier League we’ll look at that over someone who is abroad but it could be any nationality as long as they tick the boxes and is what we need for this window and going forward.

More of those boxes were ticked with, as Noel put it, a version of Charlie Adam "whose raking passes picked apart the club he seems set to join when they met at Anfield." Talk of Adam's arrival had been ever-present since a deal fell through at the end of the January window, and it was one of the more divisive conversations throughout the summer. His actual signing wasn't confirmed until the first week of July, which left plenty of time for using the hard data to analyze just how well Liverpool's summer had actually been going.

Unfortunately it also left plenty of time for the growing "in the know" phenomenon, which swept through the collective conscious and provided us with more than a few panicky moments as we waited to see what came next. It was all talk, though, and it was one of the more maddening narratives of the summer---have a player that's been identified as somebody that's possibly connected to Liverpool by a thread, throw out a few catch phrases and refuse to drop names because you're too connected, and all of a sudden we had hundreds of sources intricately connected to the club. And stuff.

Things rounded out with the signing of Stewart Downing, which was almost less surprising than the Adam transfer given that he'd been linked to the club since the 2010-2011 season ended. Given Liverpool's lack of width over the past few seasons, as well as the club's focus on both creating chances and getting players that had a good track record, Downing fit the mold and was generally accepted as an addition that would only serve to make Liverpool better.

The decision to spend so much on British talent was a statement of intent to be sure, but one that left many wondering just how Liverpool were going to look moving forward. They had three new pieces, all of whom were in some way Premier League proven. The price tags would prove to be major talking points down the road, and while Liverpool weren't done for the summer, June and July found them front and center in a conversation focused on just how much players were worth.