There are few things to enjoy about transfer windows. In many ways, I think social media has killed any of the excitement or intrigue that used to be generated by the incomings and outgoings at any football club, particularly Liverpool.
It’s difficult not to long for the days when deals were done predominantly behind the scenes, when we were not all so preoccupied with terms like ‘net spend’ and ‘marquee signings’, when things just seemed to get done quickly without months and months of gossip and rumour-mongering.
An almost toxic impatience lingers over football at this time of year. Names are leaked months in advance of the window opening and so when the time arrives that the wheels of Liverpool’s recruitment drive can begin turning, we all know exactly who the club wants and any constructive debate over whether those players are the right or wrongs one has long been exhausted.
— Mohamed Salah (@22mosalah) June 22, 2017
What we’re then left is a rampant desire for step-by-step news of any negotiations, an incessant search for someone who will be able to offer anything that might quench supporters’ thirst for news.
When we’re close to actually signing a player, like Mohamed Salah, it is easy to get caught up in the countdown to the unveiling, to the sight of a new player wearing the famous red shirt of Liverpool; then you can forget about the preceding weeks of gossip that had accompanied the negotiations between Liverpool and Roma, negotiations that ultimately proved successful and added further quality to Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
There’s just so little perspective to be found anywhere at this time of year; the sky seems to be falling at Liverpool because we haven’t completed our business but in comparison to the other top six clubs, we’re at no real disadvantage.
Transfers are complicated affairs and yet the expectation amongst many seems to be that they should be completed at the drop of a hat, that Liverpool are doing something wrong while our closest rivals in the Premier League are all steaming ahead of us in shaping their squad for next season.
The easiest way to endure a transfer window is to detach yourself from the madness. So the return to actual football this week with the commencement of Liverpool’s pre-season programme has come as a welcome relief.
Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers was an enjoyable way to ease ourselves into preparations for next season and those preparations will continue in earnest when Liverpool venture to Asia this weekend for the club’s annual international tour.
It feels like a lot longer than the two months it’s been since we last saw Liverpool play. And it is only when you see the players back at Melwood and lining up for the first friendly of the summer that excitement for the upcoming season really kicks in.
There will no doubt be plenty of movement both in and out of Liverpool in the coming weeks. In an ideal world we have gotten more of our business done by now and I’d like to think that the majority of will have been completed by the time we start the season away at August; I think it is important that we have Klopp’s strongest starting eleven in place, injuries withstanding, by the time of the vital Champions League qualifier playoffs next month.
I’m sceptical that Naby Keita will be in that team. A deal for him was always going to be difficult to get done and I’m not as convinced as others are that Leipzig’s refusal to countenance his sale is posturing on their part.
Seems like this one is edging closer, the feeling is a deal will eventually get done. 🙏https://t.co/hU2oO5WuMl
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) July 14, 2017
German clubs are difficult ones to deal with, we found that out last summer when Borussia Monchenlgadbach refused to sell Mahmoud Dahoud to Liverpool, preferring to lose him to Borussia Dortmund this year when a release clause came into effect. As things stand, I think it’s more likely that he will be a Leipzig player next season than a Liverpool one.
Whether we can recruit the rest of our targets, the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Andrew Robertson, remains to be seen but I’d say the likelihood of any or all of those three heading to Anfield this summer is far greater than that of Keita.
But away from all of the transfer madness, there are several intriguing questions about the existing squad of players at Klopp’ disposal that might be resolved over the course of pre-season.
One will be in goal. Given his strong showing after being restored to the starting line-up last winter, you would assume that Simon Mignolet will start the season as Liverpool’s number one. But Klopp has been non-committal on the matter and has said that all three of the club’s first-team goalkeepers will get an opportunity to stake a claim for the position in the coming weeks.
That opens the door to Loris Karius and Danny Ward; the former struggled upon being installed as the club’s number one following his arrival from Mainz last summer while the latter enjoyed a very successful season on loan at Huddersfield Town and was integral in their promotion to the Premier League. Of the two, I think Karius is the more likely to challenge for a starting place but it will be interesting to see how Ward performs over the coming weeks.
It’s a good problem for Klopp to have and an unfamiliar scenario for Liverpool, having three good goalkeepers competing for a starting place; it is a far cry from only a couple of years ago when we were depending on the likes of Brad Jones and Adam Bogdan to solely provide cover as they didn’t possess the quality to challenge for a starting place.
I’d like to see Karius get another opportunity in the Premier League as I feel, from watching him in the Bundesliga, that he does have the quality to be our number one for the long-term, in spite of the setbacks he endured last season; hopefully those will stand him in good stead psychologically as he goes about the task of taking back a starting place from Mignolet, which will be easier said than done if the Belgian maintains the level of form he performed at last season.
Another interesting subplot in pre-season will be at right-back.
Twelve months ago, Trent Alexander-Arnold had impressed sufficiently enough in the under-18 squad that he effectively bypassed the under-23 setup and was elevated into the first-team. Now a permanent fixture in the first-team, and with a mightily impressive performance in his first Premier League start away at Manchester United under his belt, he’s just signed a new five-year contract at the club and will now look to displace Nathaniel Clyne in the starting eleven.
I am a big fan of Clyne but he has come in for considerable criticism from some quarters for his performances in the second half of last season. Some of that has been unwarranted in my opinion but nonetheless, I do think that Clyne could find himself under real pressure if Alexander-Arnold continues to develop as he has under Klopp over the last year.
He is going to be our right-back for the long-term, I have no doubt about that. He has all of the raw attributes in his games and, just as importantly, the right attitude to fulfil his considerable potential. And having impressed enough in pre-season last year to earn a place in the first-team squad, what is there to stop him impressing enough this summer to earn a starting place?
Then there are the questions that surround the focal point of our attack.
Even before he took the number nine shirt this summer, Roberto Firmino was always going to start there for us next season. It’s why I never expected us to be interested in the likes of Alexandre Lacazetter or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang while other supporters thought it was madness that we were not; Firmino is arguably the first name on the team sheet and we were never going to replace him, while the likes of Lacazette and Aubameyang are players you recruit to start from the off, not compete for a starting place.
In terms of the players who will be looked at to cover and, hopefully, push Firmino for his place in the starting eleven, it is going to be an interesting battle between Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge.
In spite of all of the speculation surrounding his future leading into the summer, there are no signs of Sturridge departing Anfield during this transfer window and we can only hope that he will remain fit enough to play a more prominent role in 2017/2018 than he has so far in Klopp’s tenure as manager.
Origi has been our chief fallback option in attack whenever one of Firmino, Philippe Coutinho or Sadio Mane have been unavailable and the Belgian had something of an indifferent campaign last season, enjoying a goalscoring run in the winter but then struggling following Christmas.
He is another that I think has a big part to play for Klopp and with hopefully a lot more games ahead of us next, he should be granted more opportunities to play. When they come, Origi really needs to grab them with both hands at this stage of his career if he is to push for a regular starting role.
It will also be interesting to see whether any of our young players take advantage of any first-team opportunities that are granted to them by Klopp over the course of pre-season. Last year, Alexander-Arnold, Ovie Ejaria and Ben Woodburn all did just that, could someone else follow suit this summer?
The likes of Dominic Solanke, Ryan Kent and Pedro Chirivella will all be hoping to do just that, with Kent in particular impressing on Wednesday. Having enjoyed a productive loan spell at Barnsley last season, perhaps he is one who might be in a position to push on in his development and provide us with another option in an area of the squad where we’re arguably still short of depth and quality, in spite of Salah’s arrival.
So away from the madness that is the summer transfer window, there is plenty to focus on and consider as we move into pre-season. Whether you are concerned about the club’s lack of activity in the transfer market so far or not, there remains plenty of time left for Klopp to address the areas he wants to strengthen in ahead of next reason and there is no reason not to think that he won’t.
In the meantime, it’s nice simply to have football to watch and enjoy again as the clock ticks ever closer to what will hopefully be a successful season for Liverpool.