What is Going on With Liverpool’s Transfer Policy as Chelsea Sign Two of Their Targets?

Published on 18 August 2023 at 13:04

As Jurgen Klopp became the first and only Liverpool manager to win the Premier League title following a decimation of the opposition to lift the trophy on July 22, 2020, it is certain he did not expect three years down the line to be enduring a massive rebuild or struggling to convince players to sign for his squad. So how has Klopp found himself in this position as he desperately looks to sign midfield reinforcements, particularly a defence-minded individual for this position?


Klopp turned Liverpool into a title-winning team that would be consistently mentioned in debates amongst fans and pundits alike about their likelihood of winning a domestic cup, league, or European competition. Klopp achieved this within three seasons, as the club lost the Champions League final in 2018 to Real Madrid, but Liverpool was now a part of the elite conversation again.


Liverpool achieved this in part due to the club’s ability under Michael Edwards to unearth gems in the transfer market and Klopp’s ability to coach them into improving as players that perfectly fit his tactical system. Only one player started in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid that started in Klopp’s first game in charge of Liverpool, displaying the club’s willingness to sign players that would improve the starting line-up.


This policy brought about great success for Liverpool, and having lost this final, they would once again strengthen their starting eleven. Having identified goalkeeper as the position that required improvement, they signed Alisson. The next season, Liverpool would go on to win the Champions League and come agonisingly close to the Premier League title.


Yet since their Premier League crowning, the club has sat idle when it comes to improving the quality of the starting eleven. Thiago Alcântara is arguably the only signing that has been made since then that was a player that was guaranteed a starting place when fit; however, Thiago has struggled to be consistently available for selection.


The decision of the club to focus on buying young players with potential rather than signing players to compete for first team places brought about the reliance on ageing players, and this was exposed last season as the club finished fifth having had their tactics exposed badly, particularly the lack of legs in midfield.


Liverpool did act early in the summer to refresh their midfield and solve this problem as the club bid farewell to James Milner, Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, replacing them with Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai. However, the sudden decision to sell Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to sides in Saudi Arabia has left the club in turmoil, as the club’s only defensive-minded midfielder was 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic, a player who was carrying an injury into preseason.


Liverpool first identified Roméo Lavia as the solution; however, Liverpool failed to meet Southampton’s valuation of the player, and no deal could be done. Liverpool then shocked the footballing world as they tried to hijack Chelsea’s pursuit of Moisés Caicedo by outbidding the London club.


This action would ignite a sequence of events that would completely embarrass Liverpool and focus the public's attention on what they are doing when it comes to transfers. Caicedo would publicly state that he only wanted to join Chelsea, and once Liverpool turned their attention once again to Lavia, Chelsea would place an acceptable bid for the Southampton player while Liverpool’s improved offer was once again rejected.


This has left Liverpool in desperate need of a defensive midfielder, as evident from their performance against Chelsea in their opening game of the Premier League season. Liverpool have signed Japanese international Wataru Endo from Stuttgart as a quick fix for the problem. This signing has fans worried due to the rushed nature of it, reminiscent of the panicked signings of Arthur Melo and Ozan Kabak.


Endo was a key player in the Japan squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, starting every match except their defeat to Costa Rica. His performance to protect the Japanese defence and the energy output that he has will be the reason that he has been identified to fill the gap in the Liverpool midfield. Endo is clearly a talented player, but it remains to be seen if he is of the quality to have Liverpool challenge for silverware this season.


The rumour mill has been working overtime about who Liverpool will sign now that Chelsea have signed their two top targets for the position. It has been stated that Liverpool are linked with the likes of Abdoulaye Doucouré (Crystal Palace), Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina), and Ryan Gravenberch (Bayern Munich). It is almost certain that should Liverpool sign any of these players, they will have to pay above the odds.


What have we learned from this period about Liverpool?


It has been much publicised that Liverpool have had three sporting directors in a short time span and will be employing a fourth shortly. This leads many to believe that the hierarchy at the club is completely inept, not knowing what they are doing and lacking the stability to allow the club to once again compete at the highest domestic and European levels.


The Premier League is becoming ever more competitive for the honour of playing in the Champions League. Liverpool and other clubs have found themselves best placed to do this when everything within the club is stable and working in harmony. However, giants of football tend to struggle when there is not much stability; examples include Liverpool previously and Manchester United since Sir Alex Ferguson's exit.


For Liverpool to come out of this dark period, the owners must be more willing to invest in the correct players, players that will improve the first team at the correct time. The club must also put a long-term sporting director in place that will bring stability to the club and be able to work with Klopp or replace the German with a manager that can improve the team and bring Liverpool back into the yearly question about which team will win silverware.


Brendan Mc Gilligan

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