There probably aren’t many Liverpool fans who question Kenny Dalglish’s managerial ability. Since January he has surely silenced those doubters who thought he had been absent from management for too long. Growing up watching Liverpool in the 70’s and 80’s he always will be my hero and I am not going to change my mind just because of a rather odd use of transfer funds this summer.
The season ended on a bit of an anticlimax, having played the last 2 games quite poorly but with not many of us really caring if we got into the Europa League or not. Once the Champions league was out of the question it became a bit of a pointless exercise. I think we all looked forward more to the summer and which new faces might come in.
Surely we’d get at least one winger, definitely a left back, probably a centre back and a striker too. There might be a couple of other low cost younger additions as backup to the first team. With such convincing support from the owners in January, immediately spending the money received for Babel and Torres we were all confident that FSG would be good to their word and spend well to improve the team.
We now find ourselves less than 2 weeks from the start of the season, having spent almost £50M and yet we don’t have our definite left back or our probable centre back or striker. We do have our 1 winger, although maybe not the Juan Mata or similar marquee signing that we hoped. Why are we therefore in this position and what could be the options before the start of the season and importantly before 31st August transfer deadline?
1) Further signings to come?
It may be that FSG continue to spend big and give Kenny another unconditional £20M+ to buy Enrique from Newcastle or Pereira from Porto and either Scott Dann or Gary Cahill. However, if this is the case why are we waiting so long before making a move? It’s understood that Enrique and Cahill have only 1 year left on their contracts and obviously Dann having been relegated with Birmingham must realise that his club will reluctantly accept a reasonable offer.
By waiting so long are we really going to be able to get much more knocked off the price of any of these players without risking losing out as we did with Clichy or Phil Jones? This seems an unlikely scenario and I doubt therefore that this will be the likely scenario.
2) We have to sell before we can buy?
Certain sources at the club have suggested this, though we always have to take such things with a pinch of salt as they may be either untrue or simply mind games. However, if this is the case why have we allowed ourselves to get to this position with no available funds left? Does it not suggest a very poor transfer strategy by someone at the club?
I am prepared to concede that Stewart Downing was a necessary buy, even if a little overpriced. He is not as technically gifted as someone like Mata but was excellent for Villa last season, has considerable experience, can certainly cross a ball and was keen to make the move. The transfers that really surprise me are Adam and Henderson.
We all know that Adam almost joined us in January and like Downing for Villa, Adam was his previous team’s best player last season. However, when we spent such a large amount on Jordan Henderson we had to assume that he was the younger, more exciting signing than Charlie Adam and had been signed instead. To sign both is simply over-indulgent and to be honest a waste of money. Henderson has very little experience and at that kind of price we simply didn’t need him. Adam would have been fine as one signing as it would have then left us with £20M further to spend.
The news has come out that our skipper is not now available for a month into the season but even without him we have players like Lucas, Meireles and the improving Spearing to cover those positions more than adequately. We also have Aquilani returning from loan with no certain buyer as well as other less likely options such as Cole or Shelvey. It can’t be said by anyone therefore that Jordan Henderson was an essential buy at this stage. However much Kenny or Damian may have rated him you can’t have every player you want unless there is an inexhaustible supply of cash.
Henderson was not a priority and he should have been left until now to buy if we had money left and had filled the essential positions first. Who wouldn’t have preferred to have by now had Clichy and Jones in the bag or Enrique and Cahill who between them would have only cost probably slightly more than Henderson did?
3) We don’t really need a left back or centre back that much
Johnson, Flanagan and others played at left back towards the end of the season and we have Aurelio and Insua returning from injury and loan respectively. At centre back Carragher, Skrtel and Agger are all good defenders and we’ve offered Soto an extended contract.
Going with the players we already have in these defensive positions will be okay, but that is the issue. We will do okay because the players mentioned are decent players who will mostly do quite well but they are either in the wrong position, too young or too average to take us back to where we need to be.
Let’s be realistic we only have an outside chance of winning the league this year but we absolutely should be able to challenge for the Champions League places. 4th place might not be the pinnacle of our ambitions but it would show progress and should convince the owners and more importantly other players that we are a club worth investing in and coming to play for. Failure to make the Champions League again may just be the last straw for players such as Reina who is far too talented not to be in Europe’s premier competition. We may also find it difficult to resist bids for players like Suarez who will no doubt be more and more sought after as his stock rises.
What is also worrying that Gerrard and Carragher don’t have many more seasons left in them and are both irreplaceable on a meagre budget. Without Champions League football or a realistic title challenge in sight are we really going to be able to replace them or will it be another step backwards after so much promise?
I am still looking forward to this season more than any for some time but if we step back to May and re-run the summer again, would we perhaps be a little more sensible with our cash? One would hope so, but then again we have to cling onto the fact that it is all part of the plan. We almost have a really good team but have we done enough?
Fingers crossed everyone.