LFC’s transfer dilemma: Stick or twist?

Our transfer activity, or rather our lack of it, is a hot topic amongst Liverpool fans at the moment and with all the noises coming out of the club being that we’re unlikely to be making any major signings this summer, I’m going to take a look at the thinking behind this and the pros and cons of standing still in this summer’s transfer market.

Tumbleweed

Pros and cons 

The obvious negative is that we’re standing still, while others around us are getting stronger. Is that really true though? We still have a relatively young squad and I think there can be no doubt that a number of our players took their game to the next level last season - namely Trent, Mane and to a lesser degree, Origi.

Origi polarises fan opinion but I think even Origi’s biggest critics must acknowledge the huge impact the player had on our success last season, both in the league and Champions League. He could have done no more in regards to what was asked of him and exceeded expectations for the most part. Even those who still doubt the player, must have more faith in him than they did at this time last season.

We then have Brewster to consider. I shall look at him in more depth later in the article but he’s another player we didn’t have last season. Granted he’s taking the place in the squad of a far more established player in Sturridge but how much did Sturridge really contribute last season? Memorable goal against Chelsea and a couple of others but the answer is not very much.

We then look at our midfield. I’ve been a vociferous critic of our midfield at times last season and six months ago, I wouldn’t be believing I would be saying this but do we really need a new addition to midfield? Prior to Hendo moving forward, I was screaming out for a more attack minded midfielder but our skipper was a revelation in the more advanced midfield position and the rise of Fabinho, means he’ll likely play there a lot more moving forward.

Fabinho is another player we effectively didn’t have for the first half of last season, due to his period of adjustment into the team. By the end of the season however, he was one of our finest players and a fairly nailed on starter, so already our midfield takes on a different perspective to the one that started last season. Add the return of Ox and hopefully a more settled and consistent Keita and our midfield looks a whole lot stronger than it did this time last year. Whisper it quietly but even Lallana is fit!

Saying all that, there are some serious questions that fans are right to ask? What happens if Mane or Salah pick up an injury that keeps them out for a sustained period, or even worse, whisper it really quietly, OH GOD PLEASE NO something were to happen to Robbo!!! This kind of nightmare scenario brings me on to the next part we need to look at.

The Unknowns

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So this is the gamble the club are effectively taking if we don’t strengthen. The players with question marks over them - primarily Brewster, Harry Wilson, Ox and Keita.

It seems Klopp rates Brewster so highly that he is prepared to fast track him to the first team and despite missing a year through injury, Jurgen has no intention of signing a player that will block his path to the first team. Firstly, assuming he knows what he’s doing - and we’ve no reason to think he doesn’t, Klopp should be applauded for this. Fans always cry out for young talent to be given a chance so here it is, this is what it looks like. You don’t sign a player that is going to block the youngsters path. It’s big pressure for the lad though, especially as he’s been out injured so long. Ultimately however, we mock City for losing Jadon Sancho and it looks like Chelsea will lose Hudson-Odoi to Bayern sooner or later. If we didn’t want to be in the same boat with Brewster, this is the course of action the club had to take. Time will tell whether it’s the correct decision.

Our next young starlet Harry Wilson is another to consider, except he has a lot more credit in the bank than Brewster and many - myself included, have been crying out for him to be given a chance in the first team. For me he should be coached to play the Firmino role and be used to rotate Bobby. Playing that position would negate his only weakness which is a lack of pace, as it has done with Firmino himself, who also isn’t the quickest.

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Wilson has excelled at every single stage of his Liverpool career. He destroyed youth football and effortlessly made the step up to Championship level, first with Hull and then Derby, almost immediately establishing himself as one of the best players in the division. He’s also taken to international football like a duck to water so his history suggests he can both step up a level and adapt to new surroundings very quickly. This kid deserves a chance and I think it sends out the wrong message to the academy if he isn’t given one so to that end, I have no problem with us not signing anyone in that position to allow Harry Wilson his shot. He’s earned it.

The final two unknown quantities going into next season are Ox and Keita. Ox was arguably in the form of his career when he was tragically struck down with probably the worst injury a footballer could get. We have no idea if he is still going to be the same player after that or what his injuries will be like in the short-medium term. An injury like that means for a period of six to nine months, your gait, the way you walk and move and sleep will all have been different from what you’ve done all your life. This often leads to other niggling injuries once you start training again - mainly hamstring and back problems. If Ox is the same player and can stay fit then we’ve got a really exciting addition returning to our team but it’s a big if and with players like Bruno Fernandes available, would it perhaps be more prudent to have made a signing just in case?

Regarding Keita, I scored him a 6/10 in the season’s ratings article and I think that was actually quite generous. Stop start season through injury, showed flashes of what he can do but nowhere near consistently enough. I was really heartened by the performances he was putting in latterly however, before once again succumbing to injury. If he wasn’t currently being abused by his nation at AFCON when clearly not fit, I would be feeling a lot more positive about his input next season but I have the horrible feeling he’s going to return crocked, miss pre-season and have another stop start campaign like he had last year. Once again, perhaps a Bruno Fernandes or Fekir on the cheap, might have been a prudent move.

The fullback conundrum 

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Lastly, given our heavy reliance last season on the creativity of Robbo and Trent, what happens if one is out for a sustained period? Milner and Gomez are able deputies but they’re not the marauding, crossing nightmares for opposing teams that Trent and Robbo are. The beauty of this squad however is that we’re tactically flexible enough to change tactics to compensate for that.

We can easily switch to a 4-2-3-1 and play with a more reserved back four while playing our usual front three behind Brewster or Origi to create a front four with assistance from one of our holding midfielders, or Bobby up top with Shaqiri, Ox or Keita operating as a number ten.

Alternatively against lesser opposition we could keep our usual 4-3-3 but play Ox and Keita in the more advanced midfield positions to give us more of an attacking threat from through the middle and have Mane and Salah play as more traditional wingers to give us width. Unfortunately that brings us back to ‘The Unknowns’ section of the article because that’s assuming Ox and Keita are fit enough to kick their own backsides.

There may also be a surprise in the fullback role from the academy. Perhaps Hoever will shine as a right back or perhaps our new ginger-ninja Sepp. Adam Lewis is well thought of at the academy so he may have a breakout season in the cups. All big ‘maybes’ though and personally when I heard Dani Alves was leaving PSG, I thought we should have moved heaven and earth to try and get him to Anfield. He’d have provided cover for both fullback positions and can you imagine what Robbo and Trent could have learned from the best fullback of his generation? I may be wrong in this but I also believe Dani Alves is the most decorated player of all time in terms of the number of trophies he’s won. Players like that are invaluable on the training pitch and in the dressing room.

Conclusion 

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To conclude then, would I like a signing or two in the transfer window? Yes. But do we really need any? The answer to that is probably no. Contradicting myself however, I think we should have made at least one signing. Our stock has never been higher in the Premier League era and we’re currently swimming with cash so we can afford to make a luxury signing or two.

The final possibility (for the more optimistic amongst us) is that it’s tactical, perhaps ahead of something we don’t yet know that will be happening next year. Salah was recently quoted as saying he would be staying with us this season but would reassess his situation next summer. Let’s say for example, Salah has told the club that he wants to stay for one more season and then fancies trying his hand in Spain. It may be that by spending nothing this season and using the sale of Salah as well, that we could be able to put the financial package together to bring the likes of Mbappe to the club. Like I said, one to ponder for the more optimistic fans amongst us.

That’s it then folks. My take on this summer’s transfer activity, look forward to reading everyone else’s. Walk on.
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