The Winter Window: Liverpool Must Remember Past Errors
For the third time in the history of the Premier League, Liverpool managed to lead the rankings at Christmas. The verdict is pretty unanimous that this current crop of Reds is the finest assembled since 1990. The results have been superb and the performances increasingly impressive as Liverpool have remained unbeaten in the league.
A seven point lead has got so many fans jumping for joy and daring to dream, however the position must not be taken for granted by anyone at the club. In fact, Liverpool can actually look to their previous two genuine title challenges and take a sobering note. In 2009 and 2014 we failed to strengthen in the winter window, and at the real business end of those seasons, we were left tellingly short of the required quality.
While it remains a fact that that this season’s squad is stronger than either of those previous title challenging teams, the brutal reality is, you fail to strengthen at your own peril. The January transfer is open and despite the wonderful success enjoyed so far, the club should be looking to invest in its playing staff.
No signs of deficiency
The Premier League is up there with the most difficult competitions to win in world football. Liverpool fans know all too well how painful it can be to come up short. The point to take from the club’s tales of those oh-so-near campaigns is quite simple. If your squad is weak or injuries bite hard, you are ruthlessly exposed in the race.
Liverpool’s current squad is at a level many of us were crying out for, for so long. There is world class talent and excellent support players right the way through the ranks. It does beg the question as to whether the club needs to be heading into a window that is so notoriously tricky to bring about value for money acquisitions. However good the current squad is though, you must always account for injury, fatigue and form. Liverpool’s need to invest this January does not come from a dire deficiency of quality. The need is more to reinforce an already solid base and to insure no deadly cracks can emerge and topple our ambition once more.
Third time lucky
The team assembled by Benitez in 2008/09 was a wonderful collection of world class talent, supported by some very handy squad players. Sound familiar? However, we all know the dark story of January 2009 which served as a bitter aperitif for the chaos and neglect behind the scenes. The squad was left depleted meaning the likes of Jay Spearing, David N’gog and Ryan Babel were genuinely in the mix for first team minutes and title winning quality was spread too thin.
Fast forward to 2014 and a team nowhere near as whole as Rafa’s was in 2009 was gathering momentum thanks to the relentless attacking talent of Suarez and Sturridge. The level of strain on the first XI was not as severe, as Europe was left of the equation that season, but there was clearly a lack of depth and quality.
A defence as leaky as any in the club’s recent history had somehow been left neglected. And an inexperienced midfield was left depleted to the point where some actually believed an aging and visibly slowing Steven Gerrard could operate as a number six. As in 2009, not a single player arrived and the squad was left with the same weaknesses.
Two winter windows of near criminal neglect, left tales of hard luck and despair as May came and went without a league title yet again. Liverpool must use the opportunity at their disposal this time round, if they are to make it third time lucky and avoid those errors.
At no other time since 1990, has the club been so attractive to the game’s top talent. Liverpool are top of the table, playing stellar football, with one of the most magnetic and infectious managers of his generation in charge of proceedings. There are top players to gel with and money to spend, with the allure of trophies so tangible for the first time in years. With the exception of the cynical and greedy few at PSG, Barca and Real; who wouldn’t want to come and be a part of this?
Liverpool must play on that strength and recruit some genuine talent to provide competition and quality. At its edges, the depth we all purr over is not at solid as we’d like. Lallana has lost a step, Ox is back in training but will need time to recapture his form, while the defence has also been hit with injury. Matip, Lovren and Gomez have all got abysmal fitness records which could come back and hurt us if not adequately addressed. The recent transfer activity under Edwards and Klopp has been outstanding, and that standard must remain as they look for future additions.
A couple of extra recruits of suitable talent will really bolster the squad and strengthen our hand in the second half of the season. While the need to sign players this January is not as prominent as in previous years; the consequences of once again, failing to capitalize on a position of strength could be dire. The club must not take their strength for granted as the window slides open once again.