The summer transfer window has now closed so we know what Liverpool’s squad will be – at least until January. Its been a record breaking transfer window and Liverpool have been one of the busiest – signing 9 players for the first team as well as acquiring a couple of players for the Academy. Most of their business was done early on and the last player incoming was signed a week before deadline day. However Liverpool were busy right up until the deadline with players leaving.
Its probably best if I start by talking about the players out first. Obviously Liverpool let 2 players who featured quite a bit in the last years squad return to their parent clubs following a loan spell – these of course being Moses and Sissoko. The big story of course was Luis Suarez moving to Barcelona although there is some query as to the fee of this move. Regardless of who Liverpool bought this will be a significant loss after the form he showed last year but after the world cup antics, Liverpool would have been without their star striker until the end of October anyway.
From last years squad, Daniel Agger left to go home to Brondby, Martin Kelly joined Crystal Palace, Iago Aspas joined Sevilla on loan (with the option to buy) and Luis Alberto joined Malaga on loan. A number of youngsters and fringe players also left on loan. Ibe (Derby), Teixeira (Brighton), Ilori (Bordeaux), Smith (Swindon), Paez (Bologna), Wisdom (WBA), Assaidi (Stoke), Coates (Sunderland). Also some youngsters and fringe players were sold Adorjan (Novara Calcio), Robinson (QPR), Petterson (FC Utrecht), Coady (Huddersfield) and Reina (Bayern Munich)
As I stated Liverpool signed 9 first team squad players although one of these was loaned straight out – Divock Origi. Liverpool signed 3 players from Southampton, acquiring Lambert, Lallana and Lovren. These 3 basically replace Aspas, Alberto and Agger. Moreno joined from Sevilla – effectively replacing Sissoko. Markovic was signed from Benfica replacing Moses. Like I said it was impossible to replace Suarez but Liverpool signed Balotelli to try and fill some of that void. Can was signed from Leverkusen and Manquillo joined from Atletico Madrid on a 2year loan with an option to buy.
As you can see from this, the majority of signings actually replace players going out. Last season, Liverpool had quite a small squad and lacked quality and options on the bench. This season sees Liverpool return to the Champions League and needed to reinforce in practically every position and add quality to the bench. Apart from swapping Suarez for Balotelli, I think they have succeeded.
Starting with Defence, Liverpool conceded a lot of goals last year so it was not much of surprise that reinforcements were bought in. Manquillo may not have had many chances at Atletico but has already impressed at RB and looks like he has secured that position. Lovren has come in at CB and played on both the left and right side of this position. He has settled in well and looks like he will definitely be the first choice option. Moreno may have had a tough time at Man City but statistically, he was still our best performing defender that day. At spurs he also proved why he is compared to Jordi Alba and his performance and goal showed why Liverpool spent much of the summer trying to sign him. All 3 of the defensive signings have so far shown that they are likely to be ‘starters’
In Midfield, Liverpool signed Can, Markovic and Lallana. Its difficult to assess whether these will be ‘starters’ in our strongest team as we already have some world class players. After Hendersons sending off and subsequent ban at the end of last year, it was apparent that we didn’t have a similar player to step in and fulfil the role he played. Can has that potential. Although not quite to the same standard yet, at 20 he has shown glimpses of the quality, work rate and energy he can bring – similar to Hendersons role. He is versatile too and able to play in a number of positions. Markovic, another 20 year old, also looks impressive. Skilful and pacey and certainly a step up from Moses. Lallana unfortunately hasn’t had opportunity to show what he will bring to Liverpool but his performances for Southampton last season earned him an international call up and if he plays like that, then he is definitely an improvement to Alberto and offers us another option.
With Origi returning to Lille on loan, we have added Balotelli and Lambert to this seasons squad. Balotelli is world class with strength and pace. Obviously not in the same league as Suarez but not many players are. People say that he is a ‘risk’ – mainly because of his history with managers like Mancini and Mourinho – neither of which have a reputation of being particularly easy to get on with. Balotelli made his debut against Spurs and although he didn’t score he showed a desire to put the effort in. His debut lasted an hour and it did look like he got tired but he only signed less than a week earlier and AC Milan (his previous team) hadn’t played a competitive match. I saw enough to think he will be a good addition. Brendan Rodgers (and his team mates) have all said that he is working hard in training and it did look like he was working well with Sturridge too. Lambert was never going to be a main striker but an impact player and offers Liverpool something different. I still prefer to see him on the bench than Aspas. Although he hasn’t scored, it was his header that led to Zabaleta’s own goal.
As far as our signings go we can nearly put out a full team
Manquillo, CB, Lovren, Moreno
Markovic, CM, Can, Lallana
Its not like we need another CB (we sent at least 2 out on loan and sold one too) We also have quite a number of Midfielders too – including Suso who has returned from his loan so you could put Suso into the team above.
The one area I had hoped to reinforce was the Goalkeeping position. There is still a possibility that this could be done before January as Liverpool have been linked with ex-Barcelona and Spanish Goalkeeper Victor Valdes who is now a free agent but is still recovering from a Cruciate Ligament injury but unlikely to be available until November/December because of this.
Despite offers and rumours, both Lucas and Borini are remaining at Liverpool. Lucas I do expect may feature in some matches but unless he recovers some of the form he showed before injury, I can’t see him getting many opportunities. Borini is another I don’t see getting many, if any opportunity.
So what do I make of the transfer window for Liverpool?
Generally I think Liverpool bought well. I still think Lallana was very over-priced but if he steps up to the challenge then he may not seem so expensive. He was of course our most expensive signing. Lambert was a surprise but a dream move for him and lets not forget he is an international and I much prefer to see him playing for us than Aspas. I think he offers us a different dimension too. All of the signings (apart from Lambert) are young too. Lovren has looked composed and settled and a natural successor to Agger. Talking of Agger, I am of course sad to see him leave but understand the opportunity to return home was to big for him to pass up. I do think that he was finding it hard to keep up with the pace of the EPL now – especially with a succession of injuries but never the less it is still sad to see him go. The biggest surprise for me though has been Manquillo. I know he has represented Spain at all junior levels but as he had not featured much for Atletico, I hadn’t seen him play and knew very little about him. However his performances have been excellent so far. I knew what Moreno was like having watched a number of Sevillas matches – both in Europe and in La Liga. He reminds me a bit of Riise (when he played for LFC) as well as Barcelona’s Jordi Alba. At 22 he also looks like he will have a very good future. Can, at 20, also shows a lot of potential and although likely to get opportunities, is a signing with the long term in mind. Markovic (also 20) is a great buy. He has pace and is skilful with it too. Certainly a big step up from Moses. Many people that have worked with him reckon he will become a big star and its easy to see why. He has a lot of league winners medals and a major reason why Benfica reached the Europa league final last season. Still a bit raw round the edges but the potential is huge and with Brendan Rodgers ability with youngsters, a very bright future. I have left Balotelli to last but at 24 and only £16m for an international striker with numerous medals (CL winner, EPL winner, FA cup winner, 4 Serie A winner) a bargain. I know he may have ‘baggage’ but as I pointed out earlier, most of that was in his early career with notoriously difficult managers. He was also the most impressive AC Milan player last season. Some of that price maybe due to reputation but a lot was Milans need to sell for financial reasons too.
Overall I think it has been a good window. I would have preferred to have kept Suarez but after the World Cup incident that was unlikely. Balotelli may not replace him but can still add to the squad and go some way to filling that void. It would of course be nigh on impossible to replace Suarez anyway. I would have liked to see a back-up goalkeeper too. Mignolet has no real competition and therefore no adequate replacement if needed. We definitely have more realistic options now and a lot more strength in depth so from that perspective the transfer window has been a success. The majority of our signings have also been young so that looks good for the future too. Of those signed and available, their performances have in general been very positive – especially considering some are new to the EPL. Do I think we can win the EPL with our squad? I think we have a chance. I also think we have a chance of additional silverware. I know other teams have invested too but I can still see them as beatable. At this stage of the season though, I just hope we stay in contention, work hard and stay focussed – Brendan Rodgers no doubt will ensure this happens. Rodgers has a good track record of getting the best out of so called problem players, giving youngsters an opportunity and improving their game so that makes our signings even more exciting. We have a better overall squad and therefore have a better chance. Regardless though we have a long season ahead and of course the Champions League to look forward to.
The future is Bright, the future is RED!!!