The sinking feeling that affected every Liverpool fan as The Reds fell at the final hurdle in their quest for Premier League title success in the 2013-2014 season was one that didn’t disappear for much of that summer.
Liverpool had gone so close to lifting their first English League Title for over 20 years but it was destined not to be as a Steven Gerrard slip and a capitulation at Crystal Palace saw Brendan Rodgers team finish runners up to Manchester City.
It was a summer though that should have been full of optimism and hope. A time to look forward to next season and build on what had been a gigantic step in the right direction for the club.
A return to Champions League football was one reason to celebrate and the opportunity to go up against Europe’s elite was a mouth-watering proposition and with Luis Suárez leading Liverpool it may have been only a matter of time before Liverpool did win their first Premier League title.
The events that followed Liverpool’s 2-1 home victory over Newcastle on the final day of the campaign were a lesson in how not to go about trying to build on the success of the season before.
The 2014 World Cup set the tone with Suarez baring his teeth and getting himself banned after his bite on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini which paved the way for his eventually move to Barcelona for a fee in excess of £65m.
In a similar fashion to what Tottenham had done the year before after selling Gareth Bale, Liverpool decided to use the money for quantity over quality as Liverpool brought in nine players looking to maintain the standards they had set the previous year even with the loss of Suarez.
Excitement at what Liverpool could do in the transfer market had been high especially with the additional money from the sale of Suarez and Champions League football to offer but Liverpool missed out on some of their big name main targets and paid the consequences because of that.
Arguably Liverpool’s first downfall was the decision to recruit players yet to establish themselves and investing a lot of money in youth. Divock Origi, 19, Lazar Marković, 20, Alberto Moreno, 22, Javier Manquillo, 20, and Emre Can, 20, all arrived in that summer. In a window where Liverpool needed to add proven first-team quality to what they already had, ploughing so much money into the development of young players was questionable.
There was clearly a strategy in place when identifying targets but it meant Liverpool didn’t fully address the most pressing issue which was to replace the goals of Suárez.
Edinson Cavani, Radamel Falcao and Wilfried Bony were identified but nothing ever came of it. Instead Liverpool had to gamble and settle for second best with the maverick Mario Balotelli, a player Rodgers didn’t want and arguably a transfer always destined to fail.
Southampton were visited three times during the transfer window with Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren arriving on Merseyside but all three of them struggled to settle at Anfield in their first season.
Rodgers’ Liverpool ended the season sixth in the league, back outside the top four places and eight points behind fourth-place Manchester United. Defeat in the semi-final of both domestic cups whilst they failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage before defeat to Besiktas ended their short Europa League campaign.
Nine players were signed. None of them had proven that they could take Liverpool to the next level or even maintain the same level that they had obtained last season in terms of league position.
So what lessons can be learned?
Looking back now, not all of the signings made can be labelled as failures of course with Can, Lallana and Lovren eventually establishing themselves as first-team regulars (mainly under Jürgen Klopp) but that took just under two seasons for the players to fully settle in.
Liverpool can’t afford to have that same length of settling in period for the signings they plan to make this summer. Players brought in from foreign leagues will of course take some time to adapt to the rigors of the Premier League but Liverpool have to hit the ground running at the beginning of next season, especially with the Champions League qualifier in August.
If Klopp is to be believed transfer negotiations or at least plans are already ongoing and signing players before the beginning of pre-season is something that Klopp deems to be important to allow the players to settle in.
The club have the advantage of no uncertainty surrounding their key players this summer with all the key components in Klopp's system looking like they will be sticking around so Liverpool can focus on adding quality instead of necessarily replacing it.
Liverpool stretched out their business during the 2014 summer window and in the end left themselves panicking at the end of the window with Balotelli becoming the only striking option. Klopp will be inclined to move quickly to secure his signings and if they are unfortunate enough to miss out on certain targets the club will have plenty of time to look at possible alternatives.
Liverpool must also have adding first team quality at the top of the agenda. They need players who are ready for the first team straightway and can either step into the line-up if certain players are missing, or are better than the players Liverpool already have at their disposal.
Players like Virgil van Dijk, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all rumoured targets for Klopp and all three would significantly increase the quality of the squad and threaten the players currently in the squad for their first-team places.
The squad depth was almost non-existent for Liverpool at times this season and adding strength in depth is a necessity. Despite the number of signings made in 2014, Liverpool’s squad didn’t improve but if Liverpool can get the targets that they want then they would prove to be a significant difference and give Liverpool more options for the increased fixture list Liverpool will face next season.
The upcoming transfer window has the potential to be the best window in some time for Liverpool. With money available and Champions League football to offer players will be enticed to work with Klopp and see that Liverpool are moving in the correct direction.
Liverpool have to get it right. Rivals will spend. They will spend big. The Reds need more players but they need them to be of a certain quality. It is important the club don’t panic whilst trying everything they can to secure their main targets and hope that the players they bring in, increase the squad quality and propel them forwards so that Liverpool can reflect fondly on the summer of 2017.