Jürgen Klopp may have been handed an unbalanced side at Liverpool, one that certainly has its share of weak areas in need of improvement, but despite a stumbling league campaign most would say there seems a solid core for the manager to work with.
Young, talented attackers like Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho. Midfield graft from the likes of Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, and James Milner. Some solid if unspectacular pieces at the back. If the side hadn’t been riddled with injuries, one imagines things would be looking far better.
There are weak areas, to be certain—goalkeeper has been an issue all year, with Daniel Sturridge’s injury record striker is a concern, and there’s little natural width—but it’s not a side without talent. Still, former Red Jason McAteer is preaching caution and expects an 18-month rebuild.
"It took him three years to get Dortmund where they were," said McAteer who spent four years at Liverpool. "He didn’t have a great budget there, but he knew exactly the players that could fit his philosophy and I don’t think he’s in the market for big names [now]. He’s looking for players who can do what he wants.
"He will gradually turn it around. If it’s in 18 months’ time then so be it. A lot of the fans—99% of them—are behind him. He’s maybe lost a few because of what’s going on at the minute, but it’s a process that was always going to happen. He wasn’t brought in to instantly win the league; he’s here for the long haul."
It may be Liverpool will struggle to land the sorts of players Manchester City or Bayern Munich or Real Madrid would, but with the signing of Joel Matip on a free—a defender likely to cost £15-20M on the open market—there already seem signs that, under Klopp, Liverpool will be able to attract stars.
There will be prospects like Marko Grujic sprinkled in amongst the more established names, of course, but that’s the case for any big club. Signing youth and looking for bargains is also no different than what the club was doing while Brendan Rodgers was still in charge.
Yet under Rodgers, the money was still there to spend £32.5M on Christian Benteke and £25M on Adam Lallana and £20M on Dejan Lovren—not to mention paying £8M in wages per season plus a significant signing-on bonus to land James Milner. The money for big name signings was there.
It was similarly there for Klopp in January when Liverpool chased after Alex Teixeira and were willing to pay up to £32M for the uncapped Brazilian. Shakhtar Donestk holding out for £38M stopped a deal getting done, but Liverpool certainly weren’t digging in the youth or bargain bin with Teixeira.
McAteer, though, is right that it will be a project. That the expectation cannot be for Klopp to win the Premier League in his first full season at the club. Yet it seems safe to think the money will be there, and Liverpool, the ninth-richest club in Europe, remain an attractive destination—especially now with Klopp in charge.
"It’s not a season to be written off," added McAteer," but he’ll learn a lot about his squad. Who he can rely on, who he wants for next season, who can play the way he wants. You see something when you’re beating Chelsea or City, but you see a lot more when you’re beaten by Watford and West Ham."