Liverpool’s transfer business last summer got some mixed reviews, but on the whole, the staff of The Liverpool Offside were cautiously optimistic aside from one major question mark: Christian Benteke. In retrospect, how do you feel about last summer, and did the club manage to address its needs in other positions well enough to make up for that one big miss?
In retrospect I still feel Liverpool did well over last summer, even if we only managed to turn that into a disappointing 8th place finish. I mean, let’s look at all the hits from last summer. Clyne: what a player! He did all the running in a season when players’ hamstrings were popping like bubble-wrap in the hands of a 4-year-old. Firmino: struggled a bit under Rodgers, then went off like New Year’s fireworks to start 2016. Milner: an assist machine, and one of the best fake Twitter feeds out there. Of course Ings and Gomez had their seasons cut short by ACL injuries, but they looked to be quality signings as well. All in all, it was a good transfer window with some very promising signs for the future. You can’t account for injuries or a change in manager before the season starts, but we have a very good core going into next season.
That said, the one glaring weakness from last summer was bringing in Adam Bogdan, so hopefully the transfer committee has a much better eye for goalkeeping talent this summer. Early, Loris Karius-shaped signs suggest they just might.
We signed seven players last summer, lost two to long-term injury, and of the five remaining, three were good-to-great and two were… not so great. They say that on average 50% of your transfers are going to work out and 50% aren’t, so Liverpool still managed to be above average this season. Christian Benteke ended up as many predicted he would, but I actually feel worse for the player than I do for Liverpool with how that has played out. If it’s true that letting Brendan Rodgers sign Benteke was what got him to agree to sign Roberto Firmino, then I choose to look at it as spending £53,800,000 on Firmino, getting Benteke for free, and that still being a deal that feels like it’s going to work out spectacularly for us.
The end results and league position may not have been quite what we were all hoping for—Benteke obviously didn’t work out as well as Brendan Rodgers hoped, Firmino stumbled out of the gate, Ings and Gomez got injured—but leaving out that one big miss that just about everyone thought or knew or at least feared was a miss from the moment the deal got done, 2015 looks really, really good looking back.
Nathaniel Clyne at £12.5M? Yes, please. Danny Ings for £6.5M? Solid value. James Milner on a free? He might not be the man to anchor midfield, but in a more advanced free role you can’t argue with his assists. Then there’s Roberto Firmino. A lot of people didn’t quite know what Liverpool were getting, and £29M wasn’t cheap, but from when he started to find form late in the autumn through to the end of the season he was—with all due respect to the folks who hand out Golden Sambas—Liverpool’s best player. Plus he’s still only 24 years old and seems perfectly suited to play under Jürgen Klopp. Missing on Benteke, the most expensive transfer of the summer, doesn’t hurt any less in retrospect, but just about every other non-goalkeeper move seems more than solid a year down the road.
I think we did really well last summer, and mostly it’s a real shame that Ings and Gomez got injured right around when Klopp arrived, because with the way they had been playing up until then, they were two players I was really excited for Klopp to work with. There’s always next year, of course, and we’ll see then the full impact that Ings and Gomez have in the side.
Roberto Firmino exceeded my expectations. When he found his feet under Klopp—and remember, only after recovering from a pretty serious back injury earlier in the season—he looked unbelievable with his fellow countryman, Coutinho. Nathaniel Clyne was the most consistent, reliable player of the entire campaign, stuck in a constantly-changing defence. James Milner should not have been made vice-captain, in my opinion, but his assists tell a story. While he didn’t have the most impressive debut season with Liverpool, he did a job when needed. In a season that saw Jordan Henderson injured for long stretches, there needed to be someone to lead the midfield. Eventually, I believe that person will be Emre Can, but right now, he’s still growing into that role and Milner was the answer.
By all accounts, Rodgers was adamant about wanting Benteke, who sticks out like a sore thumb on last summer’s transfer list. It didn’t work out the way he’d hoped, but if buying Benteke was the concession they needed to make in order to secure Firmino, then I accept that. I also feel like that’s maybe a bit too dismissive of Benteke, who has scored some important goals for us this season, when he’s been utilized correctly by Klopp. But the money the club spent on him was too great for him to be a 75 minute impact sub. Also, we got Adam Bogdan. So. There was that too.
Like Steph, I think we did well in the summer transfer window with the notable exception of Christian Benteke and Adam Bogdan. Interestingly, all our signings from last summer are set to stick around for Jürgen Klopp’s first full season in charge apart from the two that clearly haven't worked out. Benteke is a decent player who would improve many other teams in the Premier League but an expensive mistake. Bogdan isn't that great from what he's shown in his brief appearances over the past season but was a cheap transfer failure.
Danny Ings was another transfer that I wasn't sure about, but £6.5 million is more than fair after what we saw of the eager and earnest striker before he succumbed to injury. Nathaniel Clyne is as dependable and durable as it gets in his position, Joe Gomez is a fine prospect, James Milner is versatile and full of creative perspiration, and Roberto Firmino is a cult hero with superstar tendencies in the making. There just needs to be a plan in terms of how to use them, and Klopp seems to be the right manager to get the best out of them.
So, everybody’s pretty much covered the successful ins; arguably, we signed three of the five best performers of the season last summer in Firmino, Clyne, and Milner, while Bogdan was a cheap disaster and Benteke an expensive misfit. Both Ings and Gomez impressed me and I’m very excited to see how they get on under Klopp. That’s a very good window by any standard..
That said, I’d like to take time to talk about outgoings as well, as I thought the overall transfer decisions improved the squad, despite what league position tells us. Trading Sterling, Balotelli, Johnson, Gerrard, and Borini for the above is good business. My sole sticking point is the decision to ship Markovic out on a season-long loan, as, despite not being as high on him as some others, I don’t see any way he would’ve been as hapless as Ibe ended up this year, and it will be interested to see how he and Klopp get on in the summer.
Transfer windows always look a little different with the benefit of a little time and perspective—just ask Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana—but there are plenty of reasons to be, albeit cautiously, very optimistic about 2015’s business. Like many others, I've been very impressed by Nathaniel Clyne. In a season that was, to put it mildly, eventful, Clyne was a model of solidity and consistency, to the point where over-reliance on his presence started to become a concern. He's been exactly as advertised and expected, which is always nice when you bring in a sizeable group of new faces. As for the rest of the additions, there's not much to say that the others haven't.
I'll note that there were important moves in the other direction as well, including somehow extracting actual, real, honest-to-goodness, non-Monopoly money from Sunderland for Fabio Borini, quickly finding a new home (sad trombone) for Rickie Lambert, getting the Sterling business wrapped up with minimal acrimony (considering the circumstances), and swallowing their medicine to get Mario Balotelli to Milan. These were moves that had to be made, and it's to the club's credit that they weren't unnecessarily protracted affairs.
Last summer’s transfer dealings looked better and better as the season progressed, and now, reexamining how Liverpool’s newcomers fared, it’s clear there was some good business done in Brendan Rodgers’ final summer, even if it was Jurgen Klopp who brought out the best in the former manager’s signings.
Clyne seemed given to success, and he excelled under both regimes even as the team experienced a tumultuous campaign. Ings and Gomez were two shrewd signings that will give Klopp quality depth at each end of the pitch next season. Firmino and Milner, meanwhile, turned into first team fixtures down the stretch after struggling in the first couple of months under Rodgers. They’ll both continue to have major roles at Anfield.
Even though Benteke and Bogdan were ill-advised additions, it was a net-positive window for the Reds. And hopefully, now that we’re embarking on another summer, Liverpool can recoup a decent portion of Benteke’s transfer fee to minimize the damage of his time at Anfield.
Tuesday - Part 2: Underperformers and Overachievers
Wednesday - Part 3: The End of the Brendan Rodgers Era
Thursday - Part 4: Jürgen Klopp on Merseyside
Friday - Part 5: Positioning the Club for Success in 2016-17