Open and shut: How the 'Big 5' did in the transfer window
- Big hopes in: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) £32.5m, Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim) £29m, Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton) £12.5m, Joe Gomez (Charlton) £3.5m, James Milner (Manchester City) free.
- Big names out: Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy) undisclosed, Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) £49m, Glen Johnson (Stoke City) free, Mario Balotelli (AC Milan) loan Lazar Markovic (Fenerbahce) loan.
- Net spend: £21.7m
If there are doubts surrounding United’s dealings, the same can certainly be said of their northern rivals, although Liverpool can’t be accused of sitting on their hands. The Reds were England’s most active team early in the transfer window, immediately striking deals to bring in English trio Milner, Clyne, Gomez and Brazilian Firmino.
There was then a slightly protracted period trying to agree terms with Villa for Benteke, but they eventually got their man. Yet there remains an undeniable question mark over whether it will all work or indeed, whether Brendan Rodgers is the man to pull it all together.
On paper at least they look a far stronger prospect than last season, when they failed miserably to replace Luis Suarez. Two scratchy wins and a decent performance in a 0-0 away result at Arsenal then indicated promise. But a 3-0 belting at the hands of West Ham, breaking the Hammers’ half-century victory drought at Anfield, undid much of that early optimism.
Teenager Gomez came from the clouds, using a strong pre-season to win an unexpected starting role at left-back, but there are still Godzilla-sized doubts about their central defenders. Martin Skrtel and the heavily maligned Dejan Lovren have been the centre backs of choice so far, with no reinforcements made during the transfer window. The signings do appear to have improved Liverpool’s prospects, but it is all about performances on the pitch, and few would be picking this squad for a top-four finish right now.
Transfer rating: B.
Predicted finish: 5th. If the signings don't gel, it could end up being worse. Tottenham and Southampton have also made shaky starts and, on current form, Crystal Palace and Swansea could be their biggest threats to European football.