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The Liverpool Offside 2017-18 Season Preview, Part 3: Transfer Business

In part three of our season preview, The Liverpool Offside staff dig into the summer's transfer business.

Watford v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Liverpool headed into the summer targeting four key signings—three stars who could claim a starting role on the wing, in midfield, and at centre half along with a player to add depth and competition at left back. To date, they’ve gotten in just one of those stars, winger Mohamed Salah, along with a left back in Andrew Robertson. Would you be able to count the transfer window as a success if it closed today, or does more work have to be done between now and 11PM BST on August 31st?

A success? No, no way, nooope. Look, how many games did Lucas have to play at center half last season? And that was without having European football to add to the mix. Somehow we got rid of him and haven’ got another center-back in, and that’s just unacceptable to me. Liverpool need another at the back, while Adam Lallana’s injury has driven home just how light they are in midfield as well. Mohamed Salah seems like a great addition, and Solanke looks like he could really surprise this season as well, but that’s not enough for the summer to be considered a success.

No. Look, if I have a colour-coded spreadsheet for every vacation I take, with all sights and activities ordered by preference, Liverpool can do the same for key positions it needs to fill. Even if the VVD deal pans out, Liverpool still feel like they would be woefully thin for the number of games they’re facing. And I’m really not happy that, even if the signings do eventually arrive, we’re going to be starting another season without a contingency plan (both in defence and midfield), especially as we watch injuries already beginning to take their toll.

More. There’s more work. The state of our squad terrifies me to be honest, and not in a good way. While I’m excited for the signings we have made—Mo Salah and Andy Robertson in particular—we still need to make sure our midfield isn’t destroyed by one injury and we’re not relying on Dejan Lovren to save our asses again. I’m confident the Van Dijk deal will get done before the transfer window closes, but if we don’t get another central midfielder, I think we’re going to be in real trouble.

In short, no. Noel and Chuck both talked earlier in the summer about the risks of being as public as the club were about their top transfer targets upfront. Despite Van Dijk’s transfer request, we have as of yet failed to address our most pressing need, and only partly ameliorated our secondary trouble spot. And that’s just for the starting XI! With 15-20 additional games coming up, quality depth is going to be crucial, and it hasn’t been dealt with at all. We need more signings.

More work. Especially with Keita falling through and especially with Lallana out for the next few months now. We could use a little more depth in central midfield. If— IF— the impossible happens and we actually do get VVD, then I think I can call the window a success even if that ends up being it.

In short, no. I like most of the players we have and adore our manager. I strongly believe we will start well after yet another impressive pre-season campaign under Jürgen Klopp. However, we are outsiders for the top four as it stands. Adding Virgil van Dijk and keeping Philippe Coutinho, as much as I detest the familiar “new signing” vapours, would render this a decent transfer window. But we were assaulted with grand talk of Liverpool’s “record-breaking transfer spree” by club-connected journalists before the summer started, and quite frankly, even if it speaks to having ambition, the club pushing this line only ends up making them somewhat incompetent now. As for what happens next, at this stage, I wouldn't be surprised by Liverpool either thriving in the market or falling well short of their needs.

thisisfine.gif. Or: as a hopeless pessimist, allow me to say that I see 2017-18 as being not only critical from the perspective of judging Klopp’s tenure, but critical also for keeping certain key members of the squad on the roster. Coutinho has been taking up all the column space this summer, and while I don’t expect him to depart before or during this campaign, I’m less optimistic for the future beyond that. Losing Coutinho would be a tough pill to swallow, but I’m really more concerned about the possible knock-on effect that departure might have on Roberto Firmino, the other member of our shrinking Brazilian contingent. I’m going to commit heresy and say that I think Firmino is more important to this side than Coutinho.

What does this have to do with transfers? Calling it a day after Salah is putting a lot of eggs in the “everything will be fine” basket, and, as noted above, I’m a pessimist. It’s hard for me not to feel like depth issues are going to blow up again (thank you, Adam Lallana, for the timely reminder), and when they do, I’d like to avoid a situation where we run out the kids in a bunch of different competitions and tumble out of the race in all of them.

Not good enough. At all. Even if Liverpool somehow still add both Van Dijk (TBD) and Keita, our squad still would be left perilously thin. The injury to Adam Lallana only highlights how one or two key injuries could damage our prospects of competing in any of our four competitions. As it stands, it’s easy to compare this transfer window so far to the disastrous one following 2013-14, but there is one silver lining here: we haven’t lost any integral parts of our first team. First of all, we don’t have a single player that is anywhere near as important as Luis Suarez was to that Liverpool side, and secondly, we managed to keep some of our best young players (namely Philippe Coutinho, no matter what the Catalan press is still saying, and Emre Can) from departing. At least for one more season. As Chuck has pointed out repeatedly, we’ll likely have to bin the domestic cups straight away to keep any hopes of keeping a good league position and/or having decent European run.

If the curtain closed today we’re not looking at a successful run. Salah appears to be a fantastic addition to the first team. He’ll do great and he makes the team better. But our defense is not ready for the season and the cups and the travel. And our midfield could be made up of some pretty iffy combos after just a couple of injuries to the first team. Lallana is out already. And then there’s Henderson’s feet.

Left back-in-waiting is okay. And Solanke could surprise us but he hasn’t played regular first team football before so I don't see him making too big of a splash this season.

But get Virgil and a big britches midfielder and I could save a few fingernails.

If the club do not sign a top quality centre half and midfielder, the kind of player most would consider starting quality for a top four side, this summer transfer window will have to go down as a failure. That may sound harsh, and some fans will dig through the depth chart, picking out promising youngsters and shifting players into different positions and coming up with ways Liverpool can survive with a squad pretty much exactly as deep as last year’s and have it all be alright despite that they’re heading back into the Champions League and two games a week and last season’s squad proved it wasn’t deep enough to handle even just one game a week.

In fact, there are plenty already doing just that. And maybe Liverpool can hold on to the top four and do well in Europe without doing anything else of note in the transfer market. It’s possible. They could win the injury lotto. But this wasn’t meant to be the summer Liverpool said, right, we’ve made the top four and are headed back into the Champions League so we’re going to count on winning the injury lotto.

It was meant to be the summer the club turned a Best XI that could beat anyone into a Matchday 18 that could beat anyone. It was meant to be the summer the club brought in Mohamed Salah and Virigil van Dijk and Naby Keïta along with somebody who might count as vaguely serviceable left back depth. So far, they’ve got Salah and vaguely serviceable left back depth. They still need to do the Van Dijk and Keïta—or equivalent—parts. If they don’t do that, they’re going into the 2017-18 season playing the injury lotto. And if they go into the 2017-18 season playing the injury lotto, the summer transfer window has been a failure.

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