Opportunity knocks..for the Reds
As the window closed at 5pm on Thursday 9th August, almost 3 weeks earlier than in most years, there was a sense of calm, in an office at Melwood, where unlike some of the other managers in the league, Jurgen Klopp could enjoy a relaxing day with an afternoon training session and no smacks of desperation like a certain moaning manager at the opposite end of the East Lancs.
For Jurgen Klopp, it was all about obtaining the right players and having already secured Naby Keita last year, the 1st addition to the squad was Fabinho from Monaco before the end of May, just days after the heartbreak in Kiev. Rumours before the World Cup that Xherdan Shaqiri would sign were confirmed in mid-July just days before the arrival of Brazilian goalkepper Alisson Becker. There was the possibility of Nabil Fekir with a leaked picture of his 1st interview circulating online and sections of the Liverpool support hoping for a surprise arrival of the frenchman on deadline day but due to concerns over a medical and the structure of the transfer deal amendments not being to the liking of Mr Aulas of Lyon, that deal hasn’t happened and similarly to Virgil Van Dijk last summer, Liverpool chose not to consider a second option.
In terms of exits, the most high profile of permanent departures was Danny Ward to Leicester who some, prior to the arrival of Alisson, may have hoped would finally have his opportunity to shine as he was left to sit out all season as Klopp alternated between Mignolet and Karius. Emre Can was always destined for Juventus, even over a year ago as his contract ticked down. Danny Ings was linked with a move to Southampton, Cardiff City or Crystal Palace on deadline day but as the day wore on, it seemed likely that the man who returned to pre season action on Tuesday night would remain at Liverpool although the current rumours suggest that Southampton are trying to get the paperwork finalised by 7pm tonight which will see him leave on a loan basis as he tries to finally put his prolonged injury spells behind him. It is still expected some players will move to European leagues in the coming weeks with Simon Mignolet, Divock Origi and Lazar Markovic among the names of those expected to be offloaded to the continent.
Chelsea’s delay in appointing Maurizio Sarri as their new coach in place of Antonio Conte until a few days into their pre season preparations and speculation regarding the long term future of Courtois that saw them yesterday spend a world record on a goalkeeper in the shape of Kepa from Bilbao as Real Madrid finally secured the Belgian keeper, formerly of their city rivals Atletico. As part of that deal, they recruited another midfielder in Kovacic on loan to accompany Sarri’s 1st signing of Jorginho who had been linked with strengthening the title winners Manchester City.
On paper, Liverpool have had a great window, with the quality added as well as ensuring there are quality back up options in the event of injury or rotation and pose the best threat to Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title, with the additional signings as well as the resurgence of form for Daniel Sturridge. Football isn’t played on paper but it is wonderful to have such a positive feeling and mood around the club and it is hoped that expectations can be met. If you are to look across the rest of the so called top 6, Manchester City’s main acquisition was the record fee paid for Mahrez from Leicester for a position where City already have a wealth of attacking options on their books. Arsenal have made a few signings including Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno for the first season in over 2 decades without Arsene Wenger as their manager and whilst it is hoped by their supporters that Unai Emery can come in and get the job done with a minimum expectation of top 4, there will be an inevitable transition, similar to the one experienced when Alex Ferguson departed Manchester United.
Speaking of Manchester United, this summer has seen Mourinho start his 3rd season syndrome significantly early with ironic rants about Klopp’s spending and players attending their children’s birth or enjoying themselves too much on holiday as well as having digs at the board for not getting him his 5 targets. They have added Fred in a move, similar to their addition of Matic last summer to try and allow Paul Pogba to play further up the pitch and try to have an effect. There is no doubt that even without the number of signings that Jose had hoped for, they are a side that could surprise but a lot will depend on whether the players want to continue performing for that manager and it is hardly surprising that some football supporters doubt if Mourinho will still be in charge by christmas, let alone the end of the May especially as his search for a centre back verged on desperation moving from Harry Maguire to Toby Aldeweireld, losing out on Mina to Everton to being rebuffed by Diego Godin as well as former City defender Jerome Boating. Tottenham chose not to add anybody, which has led to some nervousness amongst their support as to whether they can be successful or even finish in the top 4 relying on the likes of Son and Kane to do the business again.
The transfer window itself is bizarre this year. The deadline was imposed by the Premier League because of manager’s continually commenting year after year about players playing for them as the season started or refusing to play and then being able to move until the end of August, where they would reluctantly return for selection if their move hadn’t happened and while in principle the deadline of 9th August was good, it was flawed by the fact that other markets are open until the end of the month, opting not to follow England’s lead. Italy have imposed a deadline of next Friday (17th) but other major leagues including La Liga will have until 31st August to conclude their business which means that star players of Premier League teams could yet depart for pastures new but without their sides being able to replace them. Fifa probably will look into the timing of the window and make changes for next year as a collective but there were many logistical issues this year including the World Cup and a later start to pre season for a large number of players at the elite European clubs, with those going to the latter stages only returning to training this week, days before the season started, which itself seems significantly earlier than usual following an international tournament. That is likely to play a big part in the early weeks of the season, as players fitness issues provoke tough decisions from managers on who starts, who rests, at least until the international break in September.
With everything that has occurred at the other title challengers, this really is a huge opportunity for Liverpool to challenge for the Premier League title and getting a good start from the 4 games they open the season with (West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester), would certainly be a great platform to build from. It’s time to strap yourselves in for another rollercoaster of a season and for the 1st time in years the optimism is high, the hope that this is the year Liverpool win their 1st league title since 1990 lingers around with even the most pessimistic of supporters having to find it hard to argue that Liverpool’s chances of the title are realistic as opposed to a pipe dream.