Well, shit. The Premier League summer transfer window has slammed shut and Virgil Van Dijk remains in Southampton, Phillipe Coutinho remains resolute on leaving the club, and Naby Keita remains at Red Bull Leipzig until next summer. But should we dwell upon the negative? Nah. How about touching on the impact of these decisions but also chat about the success of the 2017/18 summer transfer window?
If you recall, the first signing of the summer was Dominic Solanke, a striker squirreled away on the Chelsea bench. A tall, target player with a nose for goal, Solanke has been nothing short of exceptional since joining the Reds. His positioning, aerial expertise, and vision are already quite polished and I feel as though Klopp is looking for another Robert Lewandowski clone — a BVB player who blossomed under Klopp’s tutelage into one of the most feared strikers in Europe. Perhaps Solanke can develop into a similar player? All in all, a solid addition to the depth of the squad.
Next signing was Mohamed Salah, a blazingly fast winger who played for Roma last season. Salah was a Chelsea player two years ago but just hadn’t sorted out the unique nuances of the Premier League game and thus was sold. This is Salah’s second opportunity and thus far, he has played across from Sadio Mane and the pair look shockingly good flying down the wings. As Klopp has said, it is very difficult to defend against speed — and Salah has speed in rich abundance. As a nice cherry, he can also score thus he remains a solid choice as starter on a weekly basis.
Third signing of the summer was Andrew Robertson from Hull (a relegated team from last season). Robertson plays the much needed LB position and is a natural left-footed player. With a tendency to go forward, Robertson is slightly better defensively than Moreno (the player he’s replacing) but seems more comfortable in that role. For the record, though Moreno has been playing in early season PL games, he continues to look horrendous defensively. Moreno tends to panic, lunges into tackles (in the box) and appears soft in defensive positioning and recognizing runs. We can only hope Robertson develops into a more well rounded LB. Time will tell.
The fourth signing was actually a name pushed around early in the window, Naby Keita, a box-to-box midfield player currently playing for the aforementioned, Red Bull Leipzig. Considered a very good midfield player with extremely high potential, Keita agreed to join Liverpool in the 2018/19 summer window, which is both shrewd and slightly disappointing. Supporters are required to wait before we see his skills on display at Anfield, but it also sends a clear message to the current midfield players that high-level effort is required or Keita will replace them. Don’t get me wrong, Keita will likely replace someone anyway but it doesn’t hurt the mindset of current players. Yes, it difficult waiting but at least it puts a positive spin on next season. I’ll take the future arrival of this highly sought after player as a sign of Liverpool FC intent.
The fifth significant signing of the window was the slightly surprising Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal. The “Ox,” as he’s been dubbed, has been playing a wing-back role on Arsenal but was vigorously pursued by Chelsea during the summer window. Interestingly, Ox declined the Chelsea interest in favor of Liverpool’s “project” (as Klopp calls it). Rumor has it, Klopp offered Ox a midfield role, a place where he prefers to play and thus he jumped at the chance. This signing is actually another excellent addition to the depth of the squad — with potential to positively impact the starting XI.
Enough of the positive, let’s wax negative for a second. There is no doubt the biggest problem for Liverpool is their inconsistent back line. After giving up the second most goals in the Premier League top-6 last season, it appeared to supporters this would be a likely area of focus during the summer window. Strangely, after the Virgil Van Dijk fiasco, the focus appears to have shifted off this priority. The Reds fan-base has been quite shocked by this decision and is concerned defensive liabilities will be exposed time and time again by patient teams. I hold a glimmer of hope Van Dijk will sign in the winter (January 2018) window but that is speculation rather than fact. Meanwhile, I can only hope the available depth of defensive players generally helps the defensive focus. Another, “we shall see.”
The second glaring issue for Liverpool supporters is our Little Brazilian Magician, Phillipe Coutinho. He dropped a transfer request on Liverpool management roughly 24 hours before the first game of the season (which didn’t endear himself to the faithful supporters) because he wanted to move to Barcelona. Honestly, one cannot blame him. When one of the best clubs on the planet want you, it’s hard to say no. Spain, sunshine, and did I mention one of the best domestic clubs on the planet?! Anyway, Liverpool saw fit to decline Coutinho’s transfer request despite being bombarded by high-value offers topping out above £100 million from Barca. Klopp went on record saying Liverpool aren’t a “selling club,” they keep their talent and bring in additional players to improve the quality of the club. Quite a refreshing message but now the transfer window in closed and Coutinho remains in LFC red, now what? Hopefully, Klopp can speak with Coutinho and bring his focus back to Liverpool for one more season. Truth be told, that is likely as good as it is going to get. Coutinho likely won’t be staying beyond the 2017/18 season, irrespective of what happens between now and next summer. Unfortunate but understandable. I know he’s getting a ton of grief from Liverpool supporters, and I should probably join in — but I won’t. I just hope Coutinho comes out and lets the supporters know he’s focused on Liverpool for one more season and looks forward to contributing to the team. That would go a long way to salve the wound created by his early season transfer request.
And thus, the Liverpool FC squad is set for the Premier League campaign from now until January 2018. It should be an interesting run, playing in the PL, the Champion’s League, and other concurrent (less important) championships. Not watching the Premier League? Don’t have a team to pull for? Why not check out Liverpool FC on NBCSN on Saturday or Sunday, see what all the fuss is about.