Opinion: A mixed summer for Liverpool in the transfer window
Sadio Mane has hit the ground running since signing for Liverpool from Southampton (Picture: Liverpool Echo)

Opinion: A mixed summer for Liverpool in the transfer window

The transfer window has been up and down for Liverpool ahead of Jurgen Klopp's first full season at the club. Arguably the 'outs' have been more impressive than the 'ins', yet there have been some shrewd acquisitions

Ben Lockett

Always manic is Transfer Deadline Day.

There is nothing quite like it, as clubs, players and agents scramble to get the moves they want before the transfer window slams shut for months and months.

Yet, it is all quiet on the western front at Liverpool, and the Reds are not known for making late dashes into the market. Certainly, under Jürgen Klopp, the club seem content that their business is done for the summer, with the focus only on outgoings.

Whilst many football fans enjoy the entertainment of Deadline Day, most prefer to see their clubs sort out their transfers early in the summer, so they are as well-prepared as possible going into the new season, with no distractions and a greater chance of enjoying success in the campaign ahead.

Few deals completed this late turn out to be roaring triumphs, so in that sense Liverpool fans will be happy that they can sit back and relax, not having to worry about whether a new player will sign ahead of the deadline.

However, when there are positions still to be addressed, it still is preferable to strengthen on the final day of the window then not strengthen at all. For Liverpool, that definitely is the case.

Liverpool still lacking in certain positions?

Left-back and defensive midfield were pointed out as weaknesses to be addressed over the summer. Despite signing seven players, none for these two positions above.

Klopp is aware of the need for extra quality in these two areas, having expressed interest in Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Mahmoud Dahoud, but both deals fell through.

Nevertheless, Dahoud remains a long-term target for Liverpool’s manager, and the German may bring Dahoud to Anfield in a year’s time.

Undoubtedly, Klopp is prepared to wait for his perfect targets, hence the lack of activity in these final weeks of August.

Alberto Moreno has a myriad of issues to overcome if he is to become a top-class left-back, but Klopp seems confident that he can mentor Moreno to that level, while he is equally optimistic over James Milner’s ability to add yet another feather to his bow, with the Englishman now capable of playing almost everywhere on the pitch.

Milner did impress against Tottenham last weekend, but it surely cannot be an ideal scenario for Klopp, while Jordan Henderson offers work-rate in the defensive midfield role, but still appears uncomfortable, as his natural instinct is to play further forward.  

Whether Klopp is being sincere in public is up for debate, but it appears there will be a significant reliance on Emre Can’s fitness and Milner’s adaptability in these two priority positions for this season.

However, looking instead at those who have actually arrived at Liverpool this summer, in the main Klopp has spent wisely on the new additions, and whilst left-back and defensive midfield remain questionable, other key signings have been made.

In particular, Sadio Mane provides pace out wide, which was sorely needed last season, as whilst Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana can harass and provide trickery in abundance, they lack lighting speed. Consequently, play often becomes too narrow, especially against the ‘lesser’ teams who sit back and wait for Liverpool to break them down.

Reds have done well with their six summer signings 

Mane provides something different to the trio of ‘number 10s’, and, despite the high fee of £30 million to sign the 24-year-old from Southampton, the Senegalese has been direct and devastating for Liverpool, even this early into the season.

Already, it appears money well spent, and Mane has immediately become a key player for the Reds, as his absence in the 2-0 loss to Burnley proved.

Joel Matip signed on a pre-contract agreement back in January from long-time club FC Schalke, which was a coup for Klopp, as Liverpool were securing a top Bundesliga defender on a free transfer.

The 25-year-old has only made a couple of appearances for the Reds because of injury but the potential is there to form a successful partnership with Dejan Lovren, who also needs to continue his progression after an encouraging turnaround in his form last season.

Meanwhile, Ragnar Klavan has joined from Augsburg for over £4m, replacing Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure, who departed for Fenerbahce and Celtic respectively.

Klavan will compete with Lovren and Matip at centre-back, ahead of Lucas Leiva and Joe Gomez, while also providing emergency cover at left-back, and Klopp has maintained that the 30-year-old is more than simply a squad player. Klavan did impress in pre-season and in the 4-3 win over Arsenal, but was poor against Burnley so it is still too early to judge the Estonian international.

In goal, Simon Mignolet’s days as an undisputed starter are over with the arrival of Loris Karius for almost £5 million. Despite his broken hand, Karius is not far off from making his first-team debut and was highly rated in the Bundesliga, so hopefully Liverpool have solved their goalkeeping issues with the 23-year-old’s signature.

Moreover, 39-year-old veteran Alex Manninger has been signed on a short-term deal to offer an experienced third option behind Karius and Mignolet.  

Finally, in central midfield, Klopp has added Marko Grujic and Georginio Wijnaldum from Red Star Belgrade and Newcastle United respectively for around £30 million combined.

Grujic, along with Kevin Stewart, will provide youthful squad options behind Can and Henderson. In contrast, Wijnaldum’s position in the team is less clear.

Currently, Klopp has begun the season with Wijnaldum and Lallana in a midfield three, just ahead of Henderson, but the 25-year-old Dutch international has been largely anonymous.

Again, as with most of Liverpool’s midfielders, Wijnaldum would prefer a completely attacking role, but at times with PSV Eindhoven he proved his ability to play box-to-box with his passing and stamina.

However, once Can returns into the side, Klopp’s formation may change to a 4-2-3-1, and both Wijnaldum and Lallana may find their places under threat, although Klopp does love Lallana’s relentless energy.

Overall, Liverpool have been smart with the majority of their signings, and Matip, Karius and Mane especially seem exciting additions. The only question marks surround the placing of Wijnaldum and the lack of strengthening at left-back and defensive midfield.

Reds smart with their outgoing business

Regarding departures, Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive in who they have managed to move out of the club, especially given the fees they have received.

Christian Benteke’s sale to Crystal Palace ended a long-running transfer saga, and meant the Reds effectively made their money back on the Belgian’s £32 million transfer from Aston Villa a year ago. He clearly did not suit Liverpool, despite his obvious quality, so to ship out a player with no future at the club at no financial loss is hugely commendable for the Reds.

Martin Skrtel was another impressive sale, as his time at Anfield had undeniably come to an end, and a £5 million departure to Fenerbahce was a good deal all round.

Joe Allen was hugely impressive for Wales at Euro 2016 which, combined with his improved form in 2016 generally, meant Liverpool were able to sell the 26-year-old to Stoke City for only a minimal loss.

Given the Reds would have done well to pocket £5 million for Allen before 2016, his exit was another success, even if some Liverpool fans believed he had more to offer the club.

Additionally, Luis Alberto has joined Lazio on Deadline Day and others including Toure and Jerome Sinclair left Anfield this summer as their contracts expired.

Furthermore, Andre Wisdom has joined Red Bull Salzburg on loan, and Mario Balotelli has finally ended his Anfield nightmare with a free transfer to French side Nice.

Finally, Liverpool have followed the path of Barcelona and Real Madrid by installing numerous buy-back clauses into the sales of some of their younger talents.

Jordon Ibe is one example, following his £15 million move to Bournemouth, while 22-year-old left-back Brad Smith joined the same club with similar clauses, and Sergi Canos’s transfer to Norwich City also contains options to re-sign the Spaniard for the Reds.

In total, Liverpool’s squad has been trimmed down ahead of a season with no Europe, although not everyone Klopp wanted out managed to make it through the Anfield exit door.

Nevertheless, Liverpool brought in well over £70 million from player sales, a fantastic achievement given the players on the departure list.

It has not been a perfect transfer window, but few clubs are able to sort out all of their weaknesses in one window, so Klopp has to be given time and faith.

Given his quality as a manager, he will likely sort out the defensive midfield and left-back issues either internally or through his ideal reinforcements in January or next summer.

It is a long-term project for Klopp at Anfield, and many of the steps forward have already been made as his first summer window draws to a close.