With the Reds now making it only one win from six so far in 2017, including disappointing results to league bottom feeders, Sunderland and Swansea City, concerns have been raised around Anfield about the ability of this squad to sustain a season-long challenge for Champions League places.
A rotating carousel of injuries has seen the likes of Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Joël Matip miss time in addition to the extended absence of Sadio Mané on international duty at AFCON, exposing key gaps in the squad and prompting inquiries as to why Jürgen Klopp has yet to pull the trigger so far this winter transfer window.
The manager addressed these concerns, revealing that the lack of transfers has not been for want of trying:
“It is not that we don’t want to bring players in,” he said speaking on Sunday to the Echo. “We do. But the thing is, the players we want because we think they help us, the clubs don’t sell. It is not about money in this situation, it is the winter transfer market.”
“Clubs are saying ‘no we have half a year to go, we can not find another player like this, we prefer to take money in the summer, than a few pound more in the winter than whatever’. So it is pretty easy.
“I understand it is absolutely normal, people ask whether we should have brought players in. The situation is yes, on the one side pretty simple, but on the other hand it is pretty difficult.
Reported moves for the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt have been met with staunch resistance from their current employers, while Liverpool were also trumped in the race to sign Julian Draxler early in the window by big-spenders PSG.
The rumour mill has since gone quiet, with the boss hinting that whatever hesitation there might be on the Liverpool end in the search for reinforcements has been due to the specific requirements targets need to fulfill in order to fit into his unique system:
“You see the situation, it’s tight, it’s close, we know that, but if the right decision is not possible in signing the right player, then you cannot make the wrong transfer.
“It is not as if there are 20 players out there who could make this team stronger, who are running around and are available. That is the situation.
“That is why I say we know the situation, we are prepared to move, but for the right player.
“We are not the only side who can decide the outcome of that though eh? The [selling] club makes the decision too.”
A potential start for Matip in Wednesday’s crucial second leg league cup tie with Southampton will mark the first time that the German has had less than two of his key players missing since early December. The up-and-down form in that period—in which sometimes only two of Klopp’s first-choice XI have been missing—speaks to the thinness of the squad when held up against the barnstorming form of the early healthy months of the campaign.
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and the fact that now-indispensable cogs in the Liverpool machine such as Mane, Matip and Gini Wijnaldum were brought on only this past summer is a testament to the overall net positive that Klopp’s first proper foray into the transfer market has represented at Anfield.
But with Liverpool having sat comfortably atop Europe’s profit table for nearly a decade now, the hope is that Klopp and FSG made sure on this occasion to pull out all the stops in pursuing their targets and at least made their parent clubs turn down significant sums of cash to keep their prized assets. Anything less in a cash-drenched league where Bournemouth drops £15m on a Liverpool fringe player and fellow title contenders are sparing no expense would be a disservice to the excellent work that has emerged out of Merseyside this year.
In Klopp we unwaveringly trust, and of course, midseason transfers are by no means absolutely essential to reviving this season’s campaign; but whatever the plan is to bolster this team’s resilience to adversity and get things back on track, let’s just hope it manifests some time before Chelsea visit Anfield in a week’s time.