We are now into July, and the transfer window is officially open. Of course, that has not stopped clubs from buying and selling players already, but the next two months will in all likelihood witness an unprecedented number of deals, with football’s enormous financial growth showing no signs of slowing.
Liverpool have already begun shaping their squad for the upcoming season with two confirmed signings. Dominic Solanke has joined from Premier League rivals Chelsea, the fee expected to be decided by an independent tribunal.
The 19-year-old impressed greatly at the recent Under-20 World Cup – with England finally victorious in an international tournament post-1966 – and was recognised as the player of the tournament with the Golden Ball award.
Solanke is primarily for the future, but offers additional depth to a strike-force that includes Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings.
Liverpool’s second arrival was Mohamed Salah from Roma in a deal which may or may not be the club’s record signing, depending on who you believe, as Liverpool themselves have kept the fee disclosed. Roma claim the price was £39 million, but media outlets such as Sky Sports and BBC Sport believe the Reds paid £34 million meaning Andy Carroll’s infamous record hangs in the balance.
Salah brings electric pace to Jürgen Klopp’s side, lessening the reliance on Sadio Mané’s speed, and Liverpool fans are especially excited at the thought of the duo terrorising defences on the wings.
Liverpool always performed better with Mané in the side last season, with the counter-attack more effective, while the likes of Firmino and Philippe Coutinho had more space to operate in, so Salah’s arrival will only enhance Liverpool’s devastating ability in the final third.
Two down then, but how many more to go?
Reds still have much work to do
The majority of Liverpool’s squad begin their pre-season training on Wednesday, but a few more additions are needed before the transfer window slams shut in September.
Furthermore, Liverpool need to work quickly in order to secure Klopp’s remaining targets as soon as possible. The German always prefers to bed in his entire squad before the start of the official season, which for Liverpool begins on August 12th, away to Watford in the Premier League.
Given the need for a larger squad with the heavier fixture list next season, Klopp will want to spend as much time as possible ensuring every member is up to speed and ready to hit the ground running at Vicarage Road, all perfectly in tune with each other and Klopp’s demands.
The large number of friendlies lined up for the Reds emphasises Klopp’s desire to weigh up various formations, starting XIs and whether certain squad members have a future at Anfield, or should be moved on temporarily or permanently.
Signing players late on into this process disrupts the momentum Klopp will attempt to build-up through the intense pre-season work – he will especially not want to see his main targets having to be caught up so late ahead of the new season.
The transfer market has admittedly never been more hectic, with the ridiculous amount of finances complicating the majority of transfers. Yet Liverpool must attempt to return to the not-so-long-ago days of wrapping up transfers quickly and without fuss, even if the cost increases slightly.
Signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton on the final day of August for £50 million instead of £70 million may represent ideal financial sense, but the Dutchman’s entire debut season at Anfield could be undermined with a late arrival.
Van Dijk would need time to adapt to Klopp’s system, which would leave the centre-back at a disadvantage to the rest of the team, with perhaps fatal consequences on results.
Spending wisely is valuable, but not at the expense of the right time to sign your most important summer targets. If Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owners, are serious about backing their ideal manager, then there should be no delay and no qualms about transfer fees.
Regarding Klopp’s primary targets, speculation and media reports appear to suggest van Dijk and RB Leipzig’s Naby Keïta are his two priority signings for the upcoming campaign. Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also admired by Klopp for his versatility in midfield and out wide, with Liverpool requiring depth behind Mané and Salah.
Left-back another area of importance
Finally, a young left-back appears likely to replace Alberto Moreno, with Hull City’s Andrew Robertson the current favourite.
Pulling all four deals off would be quite a coup for Liverpool, given the level of interest from other clubs, especially for van Dijk, and the difficulty of dealing with the potential selling clubs, again with notable reference to Southampton and the van Dijk apology fiasco.
Nevertheless, should the Reds sign these four players above, would that be enough for the new season alongside Salah and Solanke? Concern could surround the lack of an elite goalscorer, with Firmino not a natural No.9 and Sturridge unfortunately unreliable in recent years due to injuries.
Robertson’s arrival would only be as competition to first-choice James Milner, overworked last season due to Moreno’s decline at Anfield. Milner impressed at left-back but is a midfielder by trade, and many Liverpool fans have been desperate to see the arrival of a consistent, top-class left-back since at least the days of John Arne Riise, if not longer.
Simon Mignolet enjoyed his best season at Anfield to date, but do the Reds still need an upgrade in goal in order to compete for major honours? The reality is Klopp and Liverpool can only do so much in one summer and the Reds remain a work in progress. However, the club is a project that Klopp remains firmly committed to.
In Klopp’s first two seasons, Liverpool reached two cup finals and secured a top four finish. Their next aim should be establishing themselves as a consistent top four side once again – albeit in a more competitive environment compared with the Rafael Benítez era, who did not have to compete with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City – and winning a trophy.
This could be the Premier League title, a dream scenario for Liverpool fans given the current 27-year drought, or, more realistically, success in the cups.
Liverpool have only won one major trophy in eleven years, the 2012 League Cup, which is not good enough for a club of Liverpool’s stature. Establish that winning mentality, finish the jigsaw next summer, and then win the title – Liverpool must progress every year in their step-by-step route towards success once again.
Should Liverpool sign van Dijk, Keïta and whoever else Klopp wants this summer, in good time, then there will be no disputing the continued progress being made at Anfield.