Brendan Rodgers has made a number of signings during this transfer window, but is he playing with fire by targeting young, unproven players? Stephen Twomey discusses.
With the World Cup our sole purpose for living as football fans over the past month, one would be forgiven for ignoring the business the football clubs we support – for the other 11 months of the year – have been doing since the beginning of June.
All the major clubs have been quick off the bait in terms of transfer dealings and none more so than Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers, after finishing second and qualifying for the Champions League, can now make a compelling case to prospective targets that Liverpool is far from just a dormant giant with a great history.
The loss of Luis Suarez is a massive blow – leaving aside what you think of the man personally – but surely that transfer money can still be reinvested in acquiring quality players and building a real squad?
Make no mistake about it, Rodgers’ Liverpool vintage of 2013/14 was a triumph of serendipity in terms of a lack of injuries and fixture convenience. Without any European football distractions and knocked out of the domestic cup competitions early on, Rodgers could depend on the same 13/14 players without ever having to face ‘squad rotation’ or attempting to bed in any of the acquisitions of summer 2013.
As Liverpool eagerly ship out perceived failures such as Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas, one looks at the quantity and quality of players coming in and wonders what precise vision Rodgers has in terms of ensuring Liverpool can retain their status as championship winners in waiting?
Making an assessment based on players already arrived and due to arrive in the coming weeks, Rodgers and Liverpool are dividing their signings based on easily acquirable players from mid-level Premier League clubs and young European players who may fall under the radar of the existing European giants and who have excellent potential sell-on value if they fulfil their potential.
Let’s take a look at the Liverpool signings in a little more detail:
Rickie Lambert’s rise up the leagues has been a truly heartwarming story but it still remains a strange signing by Rodgers given his ongoing heavy expenditure on other forwards and Lambert’s age profile.
Adam Lallana would seem a decent signing based on his outstanding form last season but he’s also an over-inflated outlay that’ll be scrutinised if he flops. Lallana is now a smaller fish in a bigger pond after spending his entire career as the main man at Southampton which will undoubtedly be a challenging adjustment.
Loic Remy is a quality forward who carried Newcastle on his back last season. The £8.5m reported fee is a no-brainer given the fees that goal-scoring forwards can now command (Ross McCormack take a bow). But again the same question remains on whether he can step up at a higher level?
Dejan Lovren is a decent centre-half but one struggles to see what additional qualities he would bring to the Liverpool cause that they don’t already have in their options for that position.
Having not seen a great deal of Emre Can or Lazar Markovic before they make their Premier League debuts, it’s unfair to make broad assessments on either player but their age profile alone contains inherent risks. Both have excelled for Bayer Leverkusen and Benfica respectively but they are still in development stage at 20 years of age and are relatively unproven at the highest level.
One need only look at the fanfare that greeted fellow 20-year-old Ryan Babel when he arrived at Anfield for £10m as the next Ajax superstar only to flop spectacularly. How about the £11m spent on a 21-year-old El Hadji Diouf after his superb performances at the 2002 World Cup with Senegal only to end up being a total misfit.
Young players evolve in different ways and at different rates with some fulfilling their potential and others inevitably under-achieving. But that’s the risk Rodgers has perhaps had to take.
Liverpool are aware of the inherent challenges they face in this European football arms race. They’ve been linked with top quality proven players such as Marco Reus but inevitably the fee involved and the bidding war that would ensue amongst top European clubs would be time, money and effort probably wasted. Liverpool neither have the endless monies or the business model to compete with oligarch types such as PSG or super-clubs like Real Madrid in terms of fees or wages.
Despite the delusion amongst certain levels of their support, Liverpool also doesn’t have the high profile to attract certain players even when money isn’t an issue as was demonstrated in the Alexis Sanchez deal to London-based and Champions League regulars Arsenal.
Therefore, in spite of the endless optimism from fans that Liverpool would compete at the top tier of the transfer window, they simply aren’t in a position to do so. Rodgers is being realistic in his dealings but inevitably that brings potential risk and future backlash if it all ends up in the Spurs style mess of last season.
Rodgers will certainly have a squad to compete more effectively on all fronts but whether that squad has the requisite quality to compete with rivals simultaneously strengthening their squads remains to be seen.
None of these rivals will be losing as irreplaceable a player as Suarez from their ranks. The price paid for Suarez by Barcelona was £75m but his real value may only become apparent during the season and no amount of squad building can hide that fact.
Stephen Twomey, Pundit Arena.