Jürgen Klopp is nearing the end of his first summer in charge, and the club have approached the window with a unity of purpose not seen in recent years. Still, not everyone is happy—weaknesses in the squad remain, and Liverpool are likely to end the window with cash to spare. With that in mind, do you think the club has done well in the market? Is Liverpool on the right track, or is there still work to do?
I think a lot of people underestimated Liverpool’s squad the past year or two; that at least on a subconscious level, they bought into Brendan Rodgers’ blame shifting talk of always needing more or better or just other. A lot of the moves this summer, though, have signalled that while Jürgen Klopp some things he wanted to change, he rated the group more than many observers did. That, at the very least, he wasn’t interested in change for the sake of change.
This has led to a situation where, if a home can be found for Christian Benteke, aka Rodgers’ big blunder and the cost the committee paid to bring in Roberto Firmino, it’s possible Liverpool will end the window with a neutral net spend. This isn’t a bad thing. This is a sign Liverpool’s squad is a strong one, and that we should have faith in and hope for what Klopp is going to do with it. With that said, though, a fullback would be appreciated. For depth if nothing else. Because come on.
It might be clouding my judgment that Liverpool has picked up right where they left off last season with the defensive injuries, but honestly, this transfer window has disappointed me for its lack of defenders. Surely a fullback had to be the biggest focus of the transfer committee going into this summer. There’s still time left, of course, but the fact that there’s so little depth at the back before the season even begins makes me wary.
That being said, the situation in midfield and attack is a different matter. Sadio Mané seems like the real deal, and Marko Grujic is a solid addition that Klopp and the committee did well to secure so early. Wijnaldum will provide good depth and options in the midfield that I believe will help Klopp field strong teams in all three competitions this season. They still need to find homes for Benteke and Balotelli, and if they can get decent money for them all the better. But back on the defender front, I don’t agree with the decision to loan out Jon Flanagan when they’re so drastically short on fullbacks.
I’m not unhappy, and we’re certainly headed in the right direction, but it’s hard not to be a little disappointed with the current defensive cover at fullback. Mané is bang on incredible. Grujic I’m extremely optimistic about. Klavan looks fantastically competent. I am confident Matip will immediately become a top ten Premier League center back, and if not, Sakho and Lovren are a more than capable starting pairing.
On top of signing at least one fullback signing, though, I’ll admit I’d like to see a truly great striker or midfielder brought in. I don’t care if it’s a striker, DM, CAM, or winger. Just, for the love of Fowler, Liverpool, please get me a damn at-least-near-marquee signing at some point. Something to help counter watching Paul Pogba go to United.
Noel’s point about Klopp not trying to change too much this summer is spot on—just last week the manager talked about the importance of keeping a consistent side that can grow together. He was answering a question about how to keep his star players from leaving, but his overall argument was that the squad as a whole must be stable over a multi-year period in order to be successful.
At Borussia Dortmund, Klopp made a ton of changes during his first summer in charge because he didn’t have the quality he wanted. But after bringing in the players he wanted, he maintained a strong core group that blossomed into one of the best sides in Europe.
With Liverpool, Klopp has enough faith in the team to skip step one and build around an existing core of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Emre Can, and at least a couple of others. From an outside perspective, it’s difficult to really know how good the current core can be—after all, this group has trained under him for less than a year. But he has earned the benefit of the doubt in regards to his player evaluation, so I trust that he knows what he has to work with.
In terms of complimentary pieces, Klopp has added talented players in all areas. Players like Sadio Mané and Georginio Wijnaldum who might never be the best or even second best player on a top-tier squad, but can still provide consistent performances and moments of brilliance. They are difference makers added to a team with quite a few of those already. He’s not done yet, either. If there’s a new fullback brought in before the end of the window, this will go down as a successful summer of reasonable, well-placed spending.
When I’m at a fast food establishment, I’m that guy who insists on stockpiling a ream of napkins on my tray. Because you never know when you might need them. Needless to say, one-at-a-time napkin dispensers are the bane of my existence. What does this have to do with our transfer business? Our fullback depth situation is causing me to experience the same nausea and cold sweats that I suffer from when I am given just one napkin to go with my one ketchup packet to go with my large fries.
Every time Alberto Moreno even looks like he’s clutching his thigh, or Nathaniel Clyne takes a bad tumble, or James Milner hobbles off the pitch—wait, that one just actually happened—I am paralyzed. Conor Randall and Terence Trent-Alexander-Arnold-D’Arby are promising, for sure, but the Premier League is a tricky place to do your on-the-job learning. I’d hate for this position to be our one Achilles’ Heel, as I think we’ve done superb business everywhere else we’ve decided to be in the market.
If I said to the average Liverpool supporter before this summer that our biggest piece of transfer business would be Sadio Mané, and we wouldn’t bring in a defensive mid or fullback, they’d probably be disappointed. In short, it hasn’t been the type of transfer window that set the interwebs ablaze with excitement. But that’s really the point. Klopp has repeatedly indicated that Liverpool have a talented core that he wants to work with. As such, he’s taken a practical approach to the transfer market, picking players to fit his system and improve the team, not plotting wholesale changes to overhaul the squad.
Mané gives us pace and a nose for goal that should drastically improve our ability to create goals on the break. Wijnaldum gives us versatility in the center of the park, and also can pitch in with a few goals. Matip should help attacking and defending set pieces. And Karius (once that hand heals) should be an improvement in goal, as well as drastically improving our handsome index.
If—knock on wood—Liverpool can reduce the number of injuries from last year, this is a team that should be able to secure Champions League football and possibly compete for trophies. In that regard, you have to say it’s a success. But still, buy a damned fullback already.
This window won’t be a failure if we don’t bring in any fullbacks. Repeat. The club has performed too many inspired moves for it to be. Mané, in particular, is a perfect fit for Klopp’s system. Matip and Grujic were early moves with big potential. Karius has saved multiple shots this preseason using nothing but pose and ‘blue steel.’
Ideally we could use some fullback cover, that’s true. I don’t fully understand what’s been going on there. But Jürgen Klopp isn’t just turning a blind eye to our defensive flanks without, at the very least, having a quick think about it. And by ‘quick’ I mean long, and by ‘long’ I mean superfreaky serious. It could something’s in the works for later in the window or for January or even next summer. We’ll just have to trust and wait and see. I know that sounds boring (and, yeah, that might be a reference to James Milner at left back). But, to me, the excitement for the coming season far exceeds any fullback concerns, and my current outlook is top-shelf whiskey.
I actually believe this window has gone smashingly. This is a very recent realization for me, the confirmation being the lineup fielded in the second half of the friendly against Barcelona. Injuries/shortages in the backline notwithstanding, what you saw were players capable of competing for starting spots at virtually every position on the pitch in the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1.
Referencing a recent statement I made, what Klopp has managed to do is ship out some clear substitutes (Ibe, Allen, and Skrtel), bring in potential starters (Mane, Karius, Wijnaldum, and maybe even Grujic) to replace or at the very least push a few current starters (Hendo, Mignolet, and Lallana) all while standing one Benteke sale away from realizing a net profit for the window.
As a club, we’ve addressed most of our weak areas: pace, directness, goals from midfield, center half cover and goalkeeper-specific issues. Despite all the talk out of Turkey, my money is on Lucas staying unless a ridiculous offer comes in. Meaning that the lack full back cover on both sides of the pitch is the only real blight that we should expect to be addressed in the next few weeks, making for what has at the very least been a solid A- of a transfer window.
I think Sadio Mané just fits right in with the rest of the club's attacking options, and with the type of player he is, it wouldn't be surprising to see him as the highest scoring support forward or attacking midfielder at the end of the season. He may very well have been second in Jürgen Klopp's thinking when a move for Mario Götze seemed viable earlier in the summer, but Mané will slot in alongside other quality players to give the attack extra edge, pace, and verticality.
There is a lot of concern above about needing to strengthen the fullback positions, but adding a left back along with James Milner to out-Kevin Großkreutz Kevin Großkreutz should be fine. If anything, an addition can be made in January if need be. Liverpool only have domestic competitions to worry about, which means that the squad needs to be leaner anyway. Liverpool's outgoing transfer business has been unusually impressive in terms of fees secured for players who either need more experience or don't fit the manager's needs, while Liverpool have addressed specific deficiencies within the squad.
A tempo-setting midfielder with composure probably would have been preferred to Georginio Wijnaldum, but the Dutch midfielder is part of a solid bunch of players. If Loris Karius and Joël Matip can provide the extra bit of quality that Liverpool require to be consistent defensively, the rest will take care of itself.
Tuesday - Part 2: Jürgen Klopp in His First Full Season
Wednesday - Part 3: Player Expectations for 2016-17
Thursday - Part 4: League vs. Cups
Friday - Part 5: What Would Make 2016-17 a Success?