All things considered, these last two transfer windows will go down as a success for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool.
Fans’ demand for instant gratification and somewhat unhealthy levels of interest in Sky Sports News’ yellow transfer ticker have, to some extent, placed the narrative and sense of drama that follows football around like a shadow at the same levels of importance as the on-pitch action itself.
So as the hours dwindled away on transfer deadline day, many Liverpool fans were aghast at what they were witnessing. Mohamed Salah had been signed too early in the summer to still be excited about, while the potential legal ramifications of pursuing Virgil van Dijk were no match for the screeching calls for the FSG to bulldoze their way into St. Mary”s and demand that they part with their defender immediately.
There had also been contact with Monaco for Thomas Lemar over a potential move, and while a large chunk of fans weren’t quite sure where the French international would be playing, they just knew they wanted that fancy new £75m signing right away, because drama. And transfers. And drama.
In all of the hysteria about whom Liverpool were not buying on transfer deadline day, it was largely forgotten that the club had spent £35m on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Granted, that might not seem like an awful lot of money in what has become a ridiculous market, but prior to last summer that fee would have matched the Reds’ transfer record.
The £8m capture of Andrew Robertson from Hull in July, meanwhile, barely caused a ripple in either financial terms or excitement levels.
By the end of Liverpool’s thrilling 4-3 victory over hitherto unbeaten Manchester City on Sunday, however, those two signings in particular had repaid Jurgen Klopps’s faith in them, and then some. Both had huge roles in inflicting the first Premier League defeat of the season on the champions-elect, and in turn have shown that they are more than ready to nail down starting eleven spots in this team.
Robertson, in particular, has had to be patient this season. With James Milner determined to move back into midfield last summer, the Scottish international must have fancied his chances of overtaking Alberto Moreno immediately in the left-back role. It must, therefore, have been a big surprise to him (as it seemingly was to Klopp) that the Spaniard chose that moment to begin his resurgence and began playing like the player that Liverpool had spent £12m on in 2014.
Injury to Moreno opened the door for Robertson, however, and the 23-year-old has grabbed it with both hands. Given the unenviable task of keeping Raheem Sterling quiet at Anfield on Sunday, Robertson more than rose to the occasion by shutting down almost everything that came his way. No other player on the pitch, for example, made as many tackles or clearances as Robertson did (seven for both).
The Kop are bellowing Andy Robertson’s name and with good reason. His performance has been exceptional, caused Raheem Sterling to shortcircuit. He may have just made the left-back position his own.
— Dominic King (@DominicKing_DM) January 14, 2018
Left-back has been a problem position for Liverpool for around a decade, ever since John Arne Riise’s departure. It’s early days yet but the signs around Robertson are extremely encouraging.
So too are those around Oxlade-Chamberlain. Though at 24 he is only a year older than Robertson, the crushing English hype and criticism cycle of English football was all ready to give up on him. Indeed, his early performances for Liverpool were so worrying that they cost him his place in the England squad.
Klopp, though, refused to panic. He saw potential in the player and has worked with him – the results of which are coming to fruition just as a £142m-shaped spot has opened up in the midfield.
The player himself has already hailed Klopp’s influence on his game, and as Theo Walcott prepares to leave Arsenal for Everton in a career that hasn’t even come close to living up to his potential, Oxlade-Chamberlain -who was on the same road as his former teammate albeit five years behind him – is set to lay bare the merits of moving out of his comfort zone to a club and manager that will provide him with greater challenges with bigger rewards.
Oxlade-Chamberlain left Arsenal partly down to the fact that he wanted to play in central midfield and he felt Arsene Wenger was never going to agree to that request. He Chelsea down for the same reason, and it was only after assurances from Klopp that he would get match time in the centre that he agreed to move to Merseyside.
The way in which the former Southampton man barged past Fernandinho as if he wasnt’t there on the way to driving the ball past Ederson for the first goal, that was a mdfielder’s strike. That’s what he has always felt he can do and the remainder of the season could be massive for Oxlade-Chamberlain, both at Liverpool and at the World Cup with England.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s contribution for @lfc today
67 touches (most for Liverpool)
39 passes, 31 completed
8 crosses (most for Liverpool)
3 chances created, 1 assist
2 shots, both on target
3rd PL goal this season – best scoring season in PL of career pic.twitter.com/mMe8JUOYeP
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 14, 2018
This has always been Klopp’s way. Project players like the two above are his raison d’etre
Players like Salah, Van Dijk or Naby Keita will always grab the limelight – the higher-profile signings always do – but it’s important to remember that this is a squad game. Not every transfer will be a £50m barnstormer – nor should it be – and, as Klopp himself has said, the transfer fee is the last thing that fans should be looking at when the club buys a new player.
Players like Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain are, when it comes to the system, as important to the overall aim of what Klopp is trying to achieve at Anfield.