???️ Tom Beattie’s verdict on Liverpool’s transfer window so far

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In one of the more eventful transfer windows involving the Reds in recent times, one would be forgiven for thinking who’d be a Liverpool fan?! After sealing a return to Europe’s top table following a 3-0 win against relegated Middlesbrough on the final day of last season, seeing off Arsenal and Manchester United to finish in a respectable 4th place in the table, optimism for what was to follow for Jurgen Klopp’s rejuvenated Liverpool side was understandably gathering pace. Finally, it appeared, Liverpool would be able to compete with their rivals in the transfer market and, crucially, keep hold of their most prized assets, something that so often had eluded them during their years of exile from the UEFA Champions League. In the preceding years, Liverpool had witnessed the likes of Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling all depart Anfield for pastures new, the Reds seemingly powerless to the advances of clubs that could offer players more guarantees over Champions League football and silverware. A new 5 year deal for star man Phillipe Coutinho the previous January, however, had seemed to suggest that Liverpool had entered a new era with, refreshingly, no suggestion that their talisman would be plying his trade anywhere other than at Anfield come September. The Brazilian playmaker, who had arrived in England following an unsuccessful stint at Inter Milan had risen to become one of the most gifted players in world football in his position in his time on Merseyside and, to the delight of all Kopites declared, upon penning his new contract at Anfield, his contentment with life on Merseyside while rejecting any suggestions that he would entertain a move to Spain or China in coming seasons, instead pledging his future to Liverpool where he hoped to one day, in his own words I should add, “become a legend”.

Reds wantaway star Coutinho

We have, of course, been here before with a certain Fernando Torres who had during his time at Anfield made very similar declarations of loyalty to the club, only for him to eventually depart Anfield for rivals Chelsea in January 2011. This time, however, it felt different. Coutinho, who had arrived in 2013 at Liverpool with a point to prove following an underwhelming three years at the Giuseppe Meazza, had a lot to thank Liverpool for and his self-professed “love for the club and the city” seemed to suggest that the diminutive midfielder was here to stay. The Liverpool FC of today was a far cry from the Liverpool FC Fernando Torres departed six years previously and with manager Jurgen Klopp, the Reds had a world-class coach who would surely serve as an attraction for any prospective additions in himself, it seemed. This fact, when coupled with a reported ‘£200m warchest’, would serve to enable Liverpool to equip themselves for the season ahead with the necessary additions to make sure their return to Europe’s elite club competition would not prove to be a fleeting one. In the interim period between the end of the 2016/17 season and the start of the transfer window, the Reds conducted their business in private and managed to convince both Mohammed Salah of Roma and Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk, it transpired, to make the switch to Anfield. As two of Europe’s best performers during the 16/17 campaign, signs were there that Liverpool had at long last become an attractive destination again for the top performers on the continent. The Reds had, it seemed, taken a massive leap ahead of their Premier League rivals to secure some of the most in demand talents on the market, beating off competition from, in the case of van Dijk, Manchester City and Chelsea in what was to be a landmark statement of intent. However, it wouldn’t be wide of the mark to say that this represented the peak of a transfer window that some would suggest, quickly descended into chaos. Fast forward a week and the deal for van Dijk was off, with the South Coast outfit, now infamously, lodging a complaint to the Premier League over Liverpool’s approach for the highly rated Dutchman. The 26 year old, of course, remains a Saints player nearly two months on with Mauricio Pellegrino’s side purportedly still refusing to do business with Liverpool and with Manchester City and Chelsea now both, if reports are to be believed, in the driving seat for the unsettled centre-back who rocked Southampton two weeks ago by lodging a formal transfer request. A PR disaster for the Reds and a major blow in Jurgen Klopp’s plans for the upcoming season. Although we will perhaps not know the full details of quite what went wrong in Liverpool’s approach for the Dutch international, all we do know is that it did and that the Reds started the season with the same centre-back pairing that leaked more goals than any other in the top six last season, something that would have seemed unthinkable upon the conclusion of the previous campaign. Liverpool, have also, as has also seemingly descended into infamy, been frustrated in their attempts to lure RB Leipzig’s Naby Keita to Anfield with the German side playing hardball of the Guinean’s services. A deal for the midfielder appears to be dead, as does the prospect that we will see Virgil van Dijk in a red shirt anytime soon. Further to this, and to add insult to injury, Liverpool’s talisman Philippe Coutinho and, arguably their only truly world-class option wants out, the lure of the Nou Camp proving to much for the Brazilian. So, the question everyone is asking is, seemingly, where is Liverpool’s transfer market ???Plan B’? First of all I must make the point that I think frustrations towards the powers that be at Anfield that any ???Plan B’ does not seem to be forthcoming are understandable. For me, it seems inconceivable that Jurgen Klopp, or whoever makes the final decisions over Liverpool’s activity in the transfer market at Anfield, be it Michael Edwards or the owners, had not prepared for the eventuality that their top targets would prove elusive this summer. And, I should note, therefore, that the fact that it seems to have transpired that this was the case all summer has frustrated me also this summer. The approach in question smacks of complacency at best and, at worst, a complete dearth of ideas. Klopp, himself has made the point in the past week that his approach to the transfer window is simply “Plan A” or nothing but I can’t help but think this could come back and haunt the German. I think for most Liverpool fans, links with Nice’s Jean Michel Seri, despite no ???Plan B’ seemingly in place instead of Virgil van Dijk, have been refreshing but one must surely ask the question of why it has taken this long for Liverpool to consider other options following the break-down of talks over Naby Keita? This, for me, and I don’t think i’m saying anything particularly left-field here as I think every Liverpool fan has thought this at some point in the last week, has been a real frustration as a supporter and the fact that it seemingly took a 3-3 draw against Watford on the first day of the campaign for Anfield chiefs to wake up and smell the coffee over Liverpool’s frailties is disappointing to say the least. I, for one, by the way, understand that the addition of Seri, to use him as an example, probably, as Jamie Carragher pointed out quite convincingly at the weekend when referring to Virgil van Dijk, wouldn’t have necessarily prevented Liverpool from conceding three admittedly basic goals at the weekend but I think it is clear to every fan who watched the Reds at Vicarage Road that the side that started the game was not a side Liverpool fans would have believed we would ultimately start our inaugural game of the new season, amidst the optimism that surrounded Liverpool upon the conclusion of the previous campaign.

Nice midfielder Seri

This said, it is what it is and the addition of Mohamed Salah, who impressed in pre-season and looked a real handful against the Hornets last weekend will fill Reds fans with some confidence. The Egyptian, after a nervy first half, grew into the game and looked a different player after half-time, grabbing a goal and offering a real outlet for the Reds. Furthermore, I defy anybody to not feel a sense of excitement over Liverpool’s front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah that one could conceive will prove unplayable at times this season if we can keep them all fit. Clearly, Liverpool are blessed with attacking options that would rival any of the top clubs in Europe and Liverpool’s performance against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and in the second half of the game at Vicarage Road are sure to still linger in the minds of all defenders that will come to face in the first few weeks of the season. For me, however, despite the positives, one cannot deny that Liverpool looked shot for ideas at Vicarage Road and the absence of Phillipe Coutinho be it through injury or perhaps permanently in the long-term, looked a huge miss. If Coutinho is to go, I think it is conceivable to think that the Reds would struggle, upon reflection, to match the teams around them. With him however, and I do I would point out believe that Coutinho will at Anfield this season, as the owners have insisted stay, Liverpool can be a force. This said, there was a massive Coutinho sized void in that side that started at the weekend and it showed. At times, it seemed as though Liverpool lacked a certain ingenuity and looked out of ideas, something the 25 year-old clearly brings to the side in abundance. Why else would Barcelona be willing to shell out some £100m for his services? Thankfully, as people have pointed out, it is a World Cup year and it will be in the Brazilian’s interests to knuckle down once the interest from Catalonia dies down come the end of the window if the Reds continue to spurn their advances. The real elephant in the room, however, remains Liverpool’s obvious frailties at the back. To ship three goals, and three silly goals at that against a Watford side that one would presume will be fighting a relegation battle this season with all due respect to them, is unacceptable for a side expecting to challenge for major honours. Blame whoever you like for the goals Liverpool conceded at the weekend be it any one of the back four, Jurgen Klopp, or even the ownership but the unchangeable fact is that Liverpool are simply not good enough at the back. Simple as that. I’d go as far as to say that the only player in the back four who started the game who would even get in the squad of one of Liverpool’s rivals is Joel Matip, which is an alarming reality for the Reds to say the least. Concerning, for me, is the fact that one of the Reds’ new signings, Andrew Robertson, despite being fit failed to make the squad for the game. I concede that Robertson, as Klopp has offered previously, is viewed as an option for the future but few would deny that it is concerning that the void at left-back seemingly remains unfilled. For all his “improvements”, Alberto Moreno isn’t the answer for me and the position should’ve been rectified this summer. For what it’s worth, I agree with Klopp that Alberto Moreno, who has had a roller-coaster ride of a career in England to date, did look vastly improved compared with the player that started against Arsenal last season on the opening day. That said, for me he was at leas partially at fault for Watford’s second goal at the weekend and to dress the Spaniard and James Milner, who it appears will return as a midfield option this season, up as “new signings” is disappointing. Liverpool have two weeks to bite the bullet and take the bull by the horns in what remains of the transfer window. As Jurgen Klopp would say himself, it is either “boom” for his Reds side or, frankly, bust. The Reds are now playing catch up for me and the next two weeks will undoubtedly prove crucial to Liverpool’s fortunes this campaign. Thankfully, Chelsea seem to be in a similar quandary to the Reds at the moment but you can bank on them adding the options they require before the window shuts, and what’s more, it’s about time the Reds do the same, and fast, or risk being left behind. By Tom Beattie
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