Liverpool should have looked to learn from Saints not Spurs
Liverpool (outsiders at 25/1 to win the Premier League) have underwhelmed significantly so far this season, winning just three games from seven in all competitions thus far.
The side who slumped to defeats against Aston Villa and West Ham United, whilst requiring a 30 spot kick shoot-out to squeeze past Championship club Middlesbrough, are a far cry from the entertainers who blitzed almost all before them last term.
An obvious change from last season’s swashbuckling set up is the strike force, with Luis Suarez having taken his one-man show on the road to Barcelona, and support act Daniel Sturridge sidelined with injury. However, it appears to be the additions, not just the departures, that have complicated what seemed to be a simple formula for success.
As Coral writers predicted, Brendan Rodgers’ chaotic, hit-and-miss approach to the summer transfer window has left Liverpool with more questions than answers. The Reds coach brought in 10 new recruits to boost his Anfield ranks, failing to see the warning signs of such a philosophy after Tottenham’s troubled attempts to replace Gareth Bale.
Suddenly, the squad who propelled the Merseysiders to second in the Premier League was to be supplemented by almost a full starting XI’s worth of new players. Like a budget shopper who finds £50 note on the floor, Rodgers seemed to want to snap up everything on the shelf.
Despite claiming the Anfield outfit were not following in the ill-advised footsteps of Spurs, who wasted their Bale money with a spending spree to rival any compulsive buyer, they appear to have done exactly that.
Perhaps Liverpool were fearful of putting all their eggs in one basket, opting to spread costs instead of stumping up record fees and extortionate wages.
Quality over quantity should always be the policy of top tier clubs, however, and just one of Cesc Fabregas, Radamel Falcao or Angel Di Maria could have helped fill the Suarez void. All three were available.
Southampton, meanwhile, suffered the fate of many a mid-table club who appear to be enjoying their moment in the sun, and became the victims of Liverpool’s newfound prosperity. The Reds used a significant wedge of the Suarez money to dismantle the Saints side, ripping out the spine of their team by snatching Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren.
Spurs also got in on the act, pinching then Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino and attempting to take Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez to White Hart Lane.
The policy has, for the most part, appeared to backfire. Rodgers, for example, has continued to field apparently unwanted forward Fabio Borini, whilst Lambert has made just one start for the club.
It is still early days for the duo of Lallana and Lovren, but the pair have not, as expected, lifted the Reds to the next level. If anything, the raft of changes has seen them move backwards.
The Saints, meanwhile, have actually excelled in the face of adversity and currently sit second in the Premier League, residing in Liverpool’s former spot.
Could the difference lie in their comparatively savvy and restrained transfer plan? With what was likely an unprecedented wad of cash in the St Mary’s coffers, Ronald Koeman resisted the urge to go on a buying bender, simply replacing what he had lost.
Toby Alderweireld and the solid if unspectacular Ryan Bertrand both arrived on loan to replace departed defenders Lovren and Shaw, and have impressed after being given the chance to play regularly.
Sadio Mane looks to be an exciting attacking prospect, whilst Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Fraser Forster look as though they may be able to best, not just replace, the likes of Lambert, Lallana and Artur Boruc respectively.
Koeman’s low-risk purchases have refreshed and replenished, whilst it would be a struggle to name Reds recruits who have made a similar impact in their new surroundings.
Mercurial £16m man Mario Balotelli has not yet settled in Liverpool’s system, whilst Spanish duo Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno are still to adapt to the Premier League. Youngsters Emre Can and Lazar Markovic, meanwhile, risk being labelled flops after making limited appearances in a struggling side.
If Divock Origi, who headed straight back out on loan to former club Lille, was too good to miss out on, then perhaps he could have contributed this term? If not, would the funds forked out for the Belgium World Cup starlet not have been better redistributed in a bid for a direct, ready-to-go Suarez replacement?
If reports are to be believed, the £10m Origi fee would have been enough to snare Falcao on loan.
Ahead of the January window, Rodgers now needs to learn from his, and Spurs’, mistakes, and look at what is really missing from his Reds jigsaw, instead of taking the pieces from someone else’s puzzle and forcing them to fit.