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A Look Back At Liverpool's Transfer Windows Under FSG: Part 2

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We continue our look back at Fenway Sports Group's Liverpool transfer windows, concluding with their four most recent endeavors.

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Previously, I broke down FSG's first four transfer windows with Liverpool. Let's continue our look back and delve into the four most recent transfer window dealings of Rodgers and the owners.

Transfer window: Winter 2013

Setting the scene:

After the mismanagement of the summer window, which saw no new striker come in to replace Andy Carroll, Liverpool saw poor results begin to stack up. The sensible fans preached patience as the team had just begun the process of implementing new manager Brendan Rodgers's more possession-based style of play and hiccups were to be expected. Clear signs of improvement could be seen in our team set up and performances, which gave fans some reasons to hope despite poor results against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United and demoralizing draws with Manchester City and Everton. Strong showings against Fulham and perpetual Suarez whipping boys Norwich City had most fans behind Rodgers, with the caveat that the club had to buy a striker in the winter to help convert some of those draws to victories and provide support for Suarez up top.

Ins: Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho

Outs: Joe Cole, Doni

The One Who Got Away: Who cares?

Conclusion:

Far and away the best transfer window from FSG. Sturridge and Coutinho filled voids Liverpool desperately needed filled, and they both did it in show-stopping fashion. Joining the team early in the window and without the usual drama and angst, their inclusion in the team provided an immediate boost in creativity, work rate and goal conversion. The Philippe Coutinho deal created tons of excitement from all corners of Liverpool fandom. There were high hopes for him, and for a fun change of pace in our transfer window dealings, instead of being a bitter disappointment, he exceeded every expectation in his first season with the team. While his form has become patchy as of late, the positive effects he had on the second half of the 2012-2013 season can't be forgotten.

Daniel Sturridge, on the other hand, was no Liverpool fan's first, second or even third choice to fill the gaping hole is the team's attack. He had a reputation for being selfish — because I guess some people don't like that quality in a striker, for whatever reason — and hard to work with. Most detractors, myself included, cited his less-than-impressive career with Chelsea as proof that he wasn't up to the task of partnering with Luis Suarez. Scoring three goals in his first three games in a Liverpool shirt went a long way towards disproving that theory. While his time at Liverpool has been marred by long stretches out with injury, when he's fit, he's rarely out of form.

Also, everyone hated his dance, wouldn't shut up about it. Now, some two years later, show me a Liverpool fan who hasn't attempted to replicate that dance at least once, and I'll show you a liar.

What tipped this window from great to brilliant was the fact that both of these players were acquired for a total of around £20m. Yes, that's right: for the price of only one Stewart Downing, the club secured the futures of both Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Targeting young, underappreciated talents in the team's areas of need and scooping them up cheap, it was the first time FSG came close to achieving their well-publicized Moneyball approach for the football transfer market. By all accounts, Sturridge is an FSG signing, with Brendan Rodgers having little interest in bringing the player in on loan in the previous window. For a Liverpool fan, it is perhaps a touch worrying that the single best signing of the current manager's reign was a player forced upon him.

Regardless, this window saw the beginning of the sadly short-lived, but wickedly effective, partnership between Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. And for eighteen glorious months, everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.

Final League Position: 7th

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Transfer window: Summer 2013

Setting the scene:

Following the incredible improvement of the team in the second half of the previous season, thanks to the introduction of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, fans had high hopes for this season. The biggest concern was the fact that Luis Suarez was set to miss the first five games of the season while serving his ban for biting Branislav Ivanovic. Though Sturridge had proved himself capable of stepping up to lead the attack in Suarez's absence, fans feared what an extended spell out of the team for Suarez would do to the beginning of Liverpool's season. Amidst this concern were questions about the future of Liverpool veteran Pepe Reina, who appeared to spend all of his free time passing Barcelona love notes — Do you like me? Check yes or no. His head and heart had been in Spain since word of Victor Valdes' impending departure from the La Liga side became known. Brendan Rodgers needed to deal with the Reina situation as well bring in players who would complement the current set up and help carry the momentum of last season to the next one. Oh, and they also needed a defensive midfi— haha, just kidding.

Ins: Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Simon Mignolet, Joao Teixeira, Kolo Toure, Tiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho

Outs: Peter Gulacsi, Andrew Carroll, Danny Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing, Stewart Downing, Dani Pacheco, Pepe Reina (loan)

The One Who Got Away: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the one whose name you will now uselessly always know how to spell.

Conclusion:

The best thing about this transfer window was what didn't happen: namely, Liverpool fans weren't forced to watch Luis Suarez have the season of his life in Arsenal red instead of Liverpool red. When Arsene Wenger attempted to trigger Suarez's £40m release clause with a cheeky and incredibly insulting £40m + £1 offer, John Henry employed the interesting method of just straight up not honoring Suarez's contract in order to keep him at Anfield for one more season. It worked out in the end, for everyone involved except Arsenal — so yeah, perfect all around. Luis Suarez went on to score a league record-tying thirty-one goals with Liverpool, earning him the Premier League Golden Boot, European Golden Shoe and PFA Footballer of the Year awards, among others.

Rodgers and the transfer committee surprised many people by doubling down on center backs, bringing in Premier League veteran Kolo Toure for stability, as well as youngster Tiago Ilori and Mamadou Sakho, who Ian Ayre claimed was the club's "marquee signing" of the summer. Pepe Reina went to Napoli for a season-long loan after his Barca dream was squashed. In his stead, Rodgers bought goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Sunderland. Nowhere near as effective as Reina in his prime, Mignolet nevertheless proved himself an excellent shot-stopper and even more excellent heart-stopper with the ball at his feet. In that season, he provided stability, if not confidence, for the defenders in front of him. Speaking of those defenders, Sakho was easily the best signing of this window, though injury kept him out of the side for much of the season. In Skrtel, Toure, Sakho and Agger, Liverpool had four competent and seasoned center backs, which made their inability to keep the opposing team from scoring all the more confounding.

Iago Aspas was not the fast, tricky goalscorer that Brendan Rodgers was looking for (absurd 4 minute hat tricks against second tier Spanish opposition notwithstanding), and his participation in the side was limited at best. Luis Alberto appeared to have only been purchased to up the team's players-named-Luis quotient, since Rodgers's plans had no place for him.

Still, Liverpool had a great first half of the season in the league, going into Christmas day at the top of the table. Only consecutive loses against Manchester City and Chelsea brought them back down to earth.

League Position on 1 January: 5th

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Transfer window: Winter 2014

Setting the scene:

Despite a strong first half of the season and the fact that they had no mid-week European fixtures to contend with, questions were being asked about the lack of depth in Liverpool's squad. This situation was highlighted by an injury to Lucas Leiva, which meant that Liverpool had no defensive midfielders at their disposal. To combat this, Brendan Rodgers began his controversial experiment of deploying Steven Gerrard in that deeper role. With tricky fixtures against Everton and Arsenal looming on the horizon, fans were anxious to see the club acquire a solid defensive midfield specialist.

Ins: Galvanis(z)ation!

Outs: Clean sheets, the ability to add scorelines on one hand

The One Who Got Away: Yevhen Konoplyanka, the one whose name you refused to learn how to spell out of principle, because fool me once...

Conclusion:

Well, that was something, wasn't it? An 11-game winning streak, which turned into a title challenge that went down to the last game, if in name only. Liverpool played some of the best, most exhilarating counter-attacking football in the world, with Suarez and Sturridge leading the charge. They bulldozed their way through games with the mentality that if they conceded four, they'd just score five — and at least one would be a wonder-goal you'd tell your grandkids about for years to come. Songs were written about the glory of the season, and despite the sad result, Liverpool hearts were buoyant once again. Poetry in motion, tra la la la la.

However, the unfortunate truth is that this unprecedented run happened despite the team's defense, not because of it. As has been said plenty of times in the months that followed: their attack may have earned them second place, but their defense lost them the title. Stories about games that ended with clean sheets were like old wives' tales shared around a campfire. So while the fifteen-or-so men Brendan Rodgers had at his disposal were effective, perhaps acquiring a player or two in the January window would have provided the team with the final push they needed to see the season out and finally end the wait for number nineteen.

It's worth noting here that even though the only thing Liverpool fans wanted in the world was a defensive midfielder, Rodgers spent the window chasing after Yevhen Konoplyanka, a Ukrainian left winger. While most fans agreed that the player would have been a welcome addition to the squad, he wasn't what they needed most.

Final League Position: 2nd

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Transfer window: Summer 2014

Setting the scene:

The unlikely title challenge mounted in the previous season left expectations high for this season. With the addition of Champion's League football to lure in big name talent, Liverpool fans went into the summer eager to see who Brendan Rodgers would bring in, first to complement Luis Suarez and then to replace him.

Ins: Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno, Mario Balotelli, Javi Manquillo (loan)

Outs: Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger, Pepe Reina, Adam Morgan, Martin Kelly, Conor Coady, Jack Robinson, Divock Origi (loan)

The One Who Got Away: Alexis Sanchez, who had you wondering if they make players' kits in size extra small (until you remembered Iago Aspas).

Conclusion:

After a third (THIRD) biting incident at the World Cup made keeping hold of Luis Suarez impossible, the club did well selling him to Barcelona, even if the fee was lower than it would have been before Suarez's Italian dinner. In his place, Mario Balotelli was bought from AC Milan at the end of the window. His output hasn't been stellar these first few months. He's no Suarez, but anyone who expected him to be was dreaming. He's showed moments of brilliance, but has been ill-suited playing up top alone. Perhaps when Daniel Sturridge returns, we'll see the best of Mario Balotelli.

In what may be the most confusing decision made by Brendan Rodgers in any transfer window, he spent considerable time and effort prying Dejan Lovren from Southampton. Buying a left-footed center back when our two best center backs were already left-footed was a head-scratcher. Insisting on starting Lovren despite consistent poor performances has frustrated the Liverpool faithful, as well as Mamadou Sakho, who has found himself out of favor by the manager. The decision to sign Dejan Lovren was also the nail in the coffin of former vice captain Daniel Agger's Liverpool career. While Lovren is younger and fitter than Agger, he's also a considerable downgrade in terms of footballing intelligence, talent, and most importantly, tattoos.

Adam Lallana and Emre Can have had bright starts to their respective Liverpool careers, though both have been under-utilized so far in this season's campaign. Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo, similarly, appear to be shrewd signings, but they seem stuck rotating into whatever side of the pitch Rodgers decides not to play Glen Johnson on. Rickie Lambert has done what everyone expected, while Lazar Markovic's limited contribution could best be characterized as underwhelming. Fans are excited to see Divock Origi play at Anfield next season.

The slow, disappointing start to this season has been a fall back to earth for Liverpool fans who were up in the clouds after last season. However, this team has considerable talent, new additions included. All that remains to be seen is if Rodgers will figure out how to get all the cogs working as they should.

Current League Position: 8th