Klopp’s Reds have become mediocre and must spend on top talent, says RABBIL SIKDAR
LIVERPOOL are a massive club. That has not changed. But everything else around them is changing and they are being caught out.
It is not difficult to understand Liverpool’s decline. They are like an older generation unable to keep up with technology and its relentless infinite progress.
Or maybe it’s simpler than that.
To think this was all because Xabi Alonso left. But that was six years ago and Liverpool haven’t looked up since. A lucky title assault built on the combined creativity of a majestic quartet in 2014, of which two are gone and one might as well be, has come in between seasons of utter mediocrity.
Even bringing in Jurgen Klopp, the embodiment of energy, character, intensity and passion, doesn’t mean anything if you have to transmit all that brilliance he brings through the mundane Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and Dejan Lovren.
Flitting in between sixth and eighth place has become a grim reality for Liverpool fans. And it’s not for a lack of spending.
Every season, Liverpool have thrown money at their troubles, only to learn that signing mediocre players will only bring you mediocre results. Football has moved on from the days when, under Rafael Benitez, they could storm Europe with an industrious, hard-working team built around a handful of stars.
Every player in the team now has to be an A-grade star in that role. Otherwise they’re a crippling liability. Names attract, but ambition holds greater sway. Liverpool spent big on substandard players and found fewer players of true polished quality in their orbit.
In an era where idealism is increasingly deemed dangerous, Liverpool cling to the vision of a youthful, British-based team that can inspire brilliance and bring back the good old days. But even in the good old days you had to spend.
It’s debatable whether Liverpool’s current owners are interested in building a truly successful club. They seem more interested in maintaining nice profits and keeping in line with the financial rules.
They have spent poorly, on players who are maybes and distant tomorrows, instead of competing relentlessly for proven stars. They made the decision to take that path through fear of the economic ramifications of spending big. Even Arsenal, maligned for their refusal to spend, have signed Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez and Petr Cech in recent years.
Like them or not, Manchester City are where title-winning football is at and where Liverpool need to be.
Yes, their success is owed to their owners’ wealth and not years of hard graft, but Liverpool are fighting odds stacked against them.
Clubs who can offer better fees and wages will take the best players. That doesn’t mean Liverpool don’t have money, because the reality is that they have spent more than Arsenal and Manchester United. But they haven’t offered what they should have and haven’t gone for those they should have. Instead, they have plumped for paying heavily for mid-table stars like Andy Carroll, Allen, Lallana, Firmino, James Milner, Christian Benteke, Danny Ings and Mario Balotelli.
Meanwhile, Man City plucked star man Raheem Sterling from them and signed European stars Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jesus Navas to take their place in a constellation of stellar names. It won them two league titles. Liverpool have spent big but achieved little.
The easy defence would be that Liverpool without Champions League football cannot attract those names. Except United signed Di Maria in a season when they couldn’t offer Europe. During that same summer, Liverpool sold their star striker Luis Suarez and replaced him with the epitome of ordinary in Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Benteke.
Even if the market is now gravitating towards bigger clubs, Liverpool’s habit of selling their best and refusing to explore the high-flying Spanish and German markets has cost them. And it was Liverpool under Benitez who opened the floodgates to Spanish acquisitions. Liverpool forged a link with Spanish football.
Why weren’t the likes of Silva, Juan Mata, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and others from that league playing in front of the Kop every week? Liverpool had the money and spent it. So why didn’t they make determined efforts for those players?
Right now the current transfer policy at Liverpool is at odds with where football is at. Spending heavily on players with glimpses of talent is no longer safe. Selling your best players conveys an awful message. Liverpool have fallen behind, competing now with the likes of Tottenham, Everton and Crystal Palace in being the best of a slightly above-ordinary crop of teams.
Right now, the Liverpool squad is ordinary. There are a few players who flit between decent and good. In defence, Nathaniel Clyne and Mamadou Sakho are good, but Alberto Moreno and Lovren are shockingly inconsistent. Sakho clearly needs a better partner, in the mould of Jamie Carragher, who can drive him.
Simon Mignolet is always one bad error away from sliding into meltdown.
The midfield are ordinary. Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are a decent partnership but they need better quality than the expired talents of Lucas Leiva and James Milner. Allen is the most regressive, uninventive passer of the ball. Welsh Xavi? Welsh football can do so much better.
Lallana is a creator who just doesn’t create. Firmino was signed by the transfer committee for creativity but someone clearly forgot to tell Firmino that. Philippe Coutinho, who has shown flashes of brilliance, is inconsistent and not a player for big games, or well any game which involves a bit of hassling. Daniel Sturridge is the only truly great forward there, only he’s never there. Ings is also ruled out due to injury and Benteke might as well not be there either.
There’s a special talent in Divock Origi but he needs nurturing.
Of that bunch, you see only Can, Henderson, Coutinho, Origi, Clyne, Moreno and Sakho as worth keeping, but even then not necessarily as starters. Sturridge too, if he can regain and maintain fitness.
But Liverpool need to begin raiding the European market. The Spanish and German leagues are ripe with quality. Spanish football has developed an affinity for Liverpool because of the Benitez era. Klopp has the German connection. In a utopian world Liverpool would find the money to sign Koke, Sven Bender, Neven Subotic and a decent goalkeeper.
But this isn’t a utopian world. This is a world Liverpool haven’t kept up with. They need to start seriously examining their ambitions and whether they have really backed them up. And if they decide that fighting for Europe is a worthy cause, then they will find good players willing enough to join them.