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Liverpool’s lack of transfers: Is the glass half full or half empty?

Liverpool transfers, Mane, Firmino, Salah, Wijnaldum
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As ever, there are two ways of looking at Liverpool’s lack of transfer activity this summer.  In the online world of football, the glass is often half-empty, especially when it comes to new signings. But is that really the case?

Half empty

Liverpool signed only one player this summer in a position where they should have strengthened ago when Dejan Lovren left, with Ibrahima Konate arriving in May as the much-needed centre-back reinforcement.

Jurgen Klopp’s side also lost Gini Wijnaldum for free, bringing in nobody to replace a midfielder who had featured in 75 of the Reds’ last 76 Premier League games.

They also failed to shift the likes of Nat Phillips, Neco Williams and Divock Origi, a trio of fringe players who were all available – even if Liverpool’s asking prices were ambitious, to say the least. Had they shifted Origi in particular, it’s likely a replacement would have arrived.

Liverpool clearly looked at their options, with Klopp insisting that they never stop working and would always be ready if the right player became available at the right price. That thought just never happened. A midfielder and a versatile forward would have represented the ideal additions. 

The club have instead focussed on contract renewals for key players: Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold all putting pen to paper. Keeping your best players is vital – and something Liverpool struggled with in recent history - but that doesn’t make the squad depth any stronger.

Enter the wild world of Twitter and on the face of it it is easy to see why some may be a little worried, after all, every other club in the league signed more players than Liverpool.

However, Liverpool’s squad is clearly strong enough to compete this season and Klopp always prefers to work with a small squad of players and keep continuity. Any new signing would have been very unlikely to have usurped anyone in the Reds’ best XI - unless you sign Haaland or Mbappe.

Liverpool, it seems, are happy to play a waiting game in the post-pandemic world, just as they played the waiting game several times over the likes of Van Dijk and co arriving.  Once bitten, twice shy; owners FSG don’t do panic buying after the rushed arrival of Andy Carroll for a then-record £35m on deadline day in 2011.

The big concern among some supporters is the depth in attack. Liverpool have four very strong forwards, but beyond that, the options of Origi, Taki Minamino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain do not inspire much confidence. There may be quantity, but is there quality beyond the front four? No.

Add in Sadio Mane’s perceived decline in form over the past year, plus the fact that the famed front three are all turning 30 this season and have been heavily worked in the four seasons under Klopp, and such concerns are understandable.

Some will also point to the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in January, too, but Klopp will bat that away with saying that they don’t sign a player for one month. True, but then the quality of depth needs to be better in that case.

If you have an injury to one of Jota or Firmino at the same time that Mane and Salah are away, you’re looking at starting Origi and Minamino in the same attack. It’s not ideal.

Already, the word from within Anfield is that next summer (it’s always next summer, the cynic will say) is the big one for recruitment. Liverpool’s attack certainly needs refreshing sooner or later. There’s a reason Liverpool previously tried to sign Jeremy Doku, or looked at the likes of Patson Daka and Ollie Watkins. Any of those three would have added quality depth this summer and also provided a long-term vision.

Perhaps, had Origi not been on such a long-term contract after his Champions League heroics in 2019, the Belgian would be long gone and Klopp would have brought in another versatile forward who suits the system better.

And while new contracts have been aplenty, the big one still remains, with Mohamed Salah now into the final two years of his deal.

Half full

That said, from Liverpool’s squad that won the title a little over a year ago, they’ve lost Wijnaldum, Xherdan Shaqiri and Lovren, but effectively added Thiago, Harvey Elliott, Konate, Kostas Tsimikas and Diogo Jota. 

The squad, on paper, is clearly stronger than it was when they started that 2019/20 title-winning season. To say it’s not strong enough to compete is clearly nonsense.

And while the hyperbole surrounding rivals making big-name signings adds to the hysteria, those rivals haven’t had it all their own way either. Manchester City signed only Jack Grealish (plus Scott Carson’s loan being made permanent!), while Manchester United did the equivalent of when Rafa Benitez asked for a table and Valencia bought him a lampshade, bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo when the thing they need most is a holding midfielder.

Chelsea are clearly going to close the gap, and United will be more of a threat. The top four will be much more squeezed. Winning games between your title rivals will decide who lifts the trophy next May.

Overall

The front three are past their prime. The midfield options of Elliott, Curtis Jones, Naby Keita and even Thiago are yet to really have had a solid run of form in the Premier League. The defence features players who have spent a year on the sidelines and thus their availability cannot be guaranteed.

Such issues make it a risky business. But it’s a risk that Klopp would rather take than not.

Liverpool have a squad strong enough to compete this season, but there’s very little margin of error – just like last season when the pendulum didn’t swing in their favour, and just as there was the season before, when the pendulum did swing in their favour and they ended up winning the title.

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