I'm completely different to the "English philosophy" of we have to buy, we have to buy, we have to buy, we have to buy and it's only all about transfers, all about transfers, all about transfers, because I believe in training. For training you need time...and the right players. If you don't have the right players, you have to make transfers. But you don't have to make transfers because you don't want to train or you have no time to train.
This is Jürgen Klopp. People gathered in this virtual room, this is the Liverpool manager and steward of a red revival. Next month will herald two years under Klopp’s aegis that has spanned three season and two pre-season campaigns. In that time, Klopp has only made one signing, Steven Caulker on loan, that arrived in the January transfer window. He has never made more than a handful of signings for the first-team squad, and all but one of his signings across two summer transfer windows were secured no later than 22 July.
Liverpool tried to sign Alex Teixeira in Klopp’s first transfer window at the club. Virgil van Dijk would have been a second deadline day signing if Southampton invited Merseyside’s finest to bid for the 26-year-old defender. Klopp’s appreciation of Christian Pulisic would have made him a late signing in the summer 2016 and January 2017 transfer windows. It is clear that buying players early is not entirely by design, but the bulk of the club’s incoming business is completely early so that Klopp can engage in a key aspect of his work: training.
Jürgen Klopp appears to have great faith in the virtues of training and approaches pre-season with particular competitiveness. It is not just about building fitness ahead of a season, , but he wants to foster and awaken a competitive spirit among his group. Players compete with each other for minutes, jockey to impress the manager, and align with the tactical as well as physical demands in matches. Triple training sessions. Big pre-season victories against European elite. All in service of a strong start to the season.
Liverpool won seven of the first ten league games last season, drawing two (Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur), and losing one (Burnley). We only lost one more league game (Bournemouth ) for the rest of the 2016 before a lack of quality and depth in the squad led to a desperate downturn in form. Wins against Arsenal, Leicester City, and Chelsea early in 2016/17 underlined the work Klopp and his coaching team had done with a talented yet flawed side.
After a second pre-season, the results and performances have been largely been impressive. Liverpool won both legs of a tricky Champions League qualifier against the fourth-placed team in the Bundesliga, showed familiar failings in the 3-3 draw at Watford FC, beat bogey side Crystal Palace at home with a clean sheet, and humiliated Arsenal at Anfield. Four wins and a draw in five games. We’ve already experienced a maddening draw in the league that suggests certain weaknesses may haunt a stronger group at times in the months aheadths ahead, but it’s clear that Klopp knows how to get this side ready to start and compete early on in the season.
A transfer window that closes before the season starts works excellently for Liverpool and Klopp. We get our players in early and know what we’re working with until January. Take this season as an example. We sign Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before the game against Watford so he gets an extra few weeks bedding in than having to start after the first international break of the season. Needing to loan out Divock Origi and Ryan Kent, sell Mamadou Sakho, or find somewhere for Lazar Marković to play hardly affect preparation for a new campaign. Klopp has his group and they’ve all had a taste of the Klopp and Liverpool experience before the first game.
For a manager who strongly values, promotes, and develops togetherness among his group of players, this will prove to be an advantage. Of all the managers or coaches in the top six, Klopp is the one who seems to believe that the transfer window is getting in the way of his work on the training field. If there are two things Klopp could probably change in English football that would tailor the game to his strengths as a coach and manager, it’d be a winter break and this new transfer deadline. We all know how Klopp likes to work, and for those fearing the bid continental clubs poaching our players after the deadline, it is simply a matter of Liverpool being organised, clear, and competent.
Liverpool are in one of the ten richest clubs in world football and should be expected to hold onto players the club wants for three weeks until the end of August. If that proves to be beyond a club, accompanied by financial power and a top coaching team, that ranks second in English top flight league titles, joint third in Europe’s premier competition, joint second in Europe’s secondary competition, joint fourth in FA Cup wins, first in League Cup wins, and fourth in UEFA Super Cups then maybe it isn’t the transfer window that should come under scrutiny.