John Ritchie

It’s turning into a long summer for Liverpool fans

With Liverpool missing out on their priority signings of the summer so far, John Ritchie discusses the club’s transfer policy and predicts a lack of big name signings to come.

The Kop

‘Calm down. It’s all over’.

Those words from Artur Petrosyan were the final nail in the coffin that was the potential transfer of Henrikh Mkhitaryan; the man so many Liverpool fans had placed their hope in; the man who we believed could take us from being a decent side, to an outstanding one.

The blistering pace, acceleration from a standing start, creativity, versatility and an eye for goal; there was nothing that didn’t excite the fans about Armenian midfielder, our number one target for the summer window has now fallen through.

Whilst rumours of a transfer badly handled by Liverpool continue to fly around (neither of which have yet been fully explained or substantiated yet), many Liverpool fans are now asking the questions which continue to haunt Fenway Sports Group (FSG).

Do we have enough footballing personnel in the management of Liverpool FC? Will they invest? What will they do now? The initial promise and hope this transfer window would be the best in years now seem to have completely gone…

The big question on everyone’s mind right is now is who next?  What’s the alternative? Are FSG going to walk away given their main targets are becoming harder to purchase than initially hoped?

When Liverpool withdrew their interest in Clint Dempsey on deadline day last summer, FSG made a statement of intent in ways many of us had not expected. In John W Henry’s open letter to fans he stated:

Spending is not merely about buying talent. Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years. Our emphasis will be on developing our own players using the skills of an increasingly impressive coaching team. Much thought and investment already have gone into developing a self-sustaining pool of youngsters imbued in the club’s traditions.

That ethos is to win. We will invest to succeed. But we will not mortgage the future with risky spending.

With Liverpool so far having failed to bring in Kyriakos Papadoplolous, Mhkitaryan having gone to Dortmund, and Suarez very likely to leave Anfield this summer, the rumour mill has gone quiet again with only Ilori and Jorginho still being talked about as a legitimate target this summer. Even Christian Eriksen is seemingly off the cardsc according to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo, which has left many fans puzzled by the lack of movement from the transfer committee many had placed great hope in since January.

Yet given what our owners have said as recently as last summer, this shouldn’t be a surprise. They have well and truly laid out their stall. We’ll pay top dollar if we can afford and believe in the talent that we’re buying; that much is clear with looking to pay up-to £25m for Mhkitaryan. But if the equivalent players aren’t there either in the market or come with an over inflated fee, it’s clear our owners won’t pay over the odds, even though a few million here or there could land the deal.

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool

Daniel Sturridge is an example when it comes to such a policy. Chelsea wanted £15m for the their bit part striker last summer, we wouldn’t budge even when that proved a costly decision last season; the eventual fee £12m signalling that even £3m is deemed gambling too much with no guarantee of success.

On one level, such a policy could be seen as frankly (to put it bluntly) stupid or even at best naive; yet this is businessmen using business logic. A million here and there to even the biggest and best run global corporation is seen and accounted for with the same rigour; only hefty uplifts in investment will do, justification an endless process of governance coupled with the persuasion of a skilled negotiator.

As football has grown and grown, some clubs, even more evident in this window, have used their extra cash with the gleeful joy of a kid with his first pay packet. West Ham, Norwich, Swansea and others have all spent and at times large sums of money. There’s no guarantee of success, there’s only hope this is enough to generate larger sums of revenue given the new premier league deal.

Put this in contrast to Liverpool who have spent small, bought wisely and continue to offload the deadwood around the squad.

Jonjo Shelvey has gone, with Stewart Downing and Jay Spearing likely to follow, Liverpool will be almost £7m in the black should all these deals come off. Even more if Tom Ince decides now is the time to move into the Premier League with offers on the table from a number of newly promoted clubs. How positive sell on clauses are when they actually deliver significant amounts of money back to a club who taught a player their trade.

LFC owner John Henry

Yet the last thing any fan wants to see right now is a positive number in a transfer window; especially off the back of the previous summer widely regarded as a disaster – neither is it likely to appease fans already suspicious of the never-present owners. FSG continue to play the long game, it seems now even more so that the game is going to get a little longer than we’d first hoped when the season finished on a sunny day an Anfield.

Will Liverpool make a “marquee” signing this summer? My guess is no. Their two main targets are now out of reach; one deal is not what we want and the other decided against a move to Merseyside. No new names are emerging, no stars seem to be heading this way.

Opportunity

If Liverpool wanted to pick a time to really make  a push for the top four, you could argue now is such a time; Chelsea, Manchester City and United all changing manager, you could be forgiven for thinking well now the irons hot, let’s strike! However is this nothing but a gamble, and in my opinion we won’t gamble, panic or jump before we need to before bringing in the finished article that as fans we all desire. The FSG logic seemingly being that even if it’s not this season, then OK so long as we continue to build, so long as we can see progress not just in league positions or points but also in the clubs on-going healing of past regimes and the current ones mistakes.

As John W Henry said:

It will not be easy, it will not be perfect, but there is a clear vision at work. 

We will build and grow from within, buy prudently and cleverly and never again waste resources on inflated transfer fees and unrealistic wages. We have no fear of spending and competing with the very best but we will not overpay for players.

We will never place this club in the precarious position that we found it in when we took over at Anfield. This club should never again run up debts that threaten its existence.

Most of all, we want to win. That ambition drives every decision. It is the Liverpool way. We can and will generate the revenues to achieve that aim. There will be short-term setbacks from time to time, but we believe we have the right people in place to bring more glory to Anfield.

With the signings of Sergi Canos, Yan Dandah and Herbie Kane all coming into the academy, Liverpool continue to stock one of the finest academies in the country with talent and promise. Luis Alberto is also a prospect signing in that he’s clearly ear-marked for first team duty, but he’s by no means the finished product, or guaranteed to be a success.

academy_header

So the long game continues, young players are bought in the hope one day will come good, yet that day is not today, nor this season or maybe (God forbid) the next… The longer we go without the star signings the more and more frustrated we as fans become. Long games are a risky business; even the safest of strategies are risky if you don’t have the right people to deliver the long term goal.

The longer Liverpool remains outside the Champions League the longer we as fans grow restless. Some of our global support may even become disillusioned as we see our rivals go from strength to strength. Playing poker with Liverpool fans isn’t the wisest move and the club would do well to come clean now if that’s the position having suffering our blows early this summer.

For us, the fans, we may well have to get used to being a very different club in the short term if we want to achieve our longer term objectives under the stewardship of FSG. ‘But we are Liverpool’ I hear you cry ‘we’re all about winning trophies’… Yes, I agree, but it not at any expense or without a long term plan in place to sustain the early victories achieved by stop gap signings.

Like most reading this I crave the success you do, we all do, we all want to see our club challenging back at the top but being a fan isn’t a thing we do for a season or two it’s a lifetime pact you make with the club. If we don’t fancy the second best alternative to the man we initially wanted, it looks as though we’ll walk away and this means waiting longer, like it or not.

So here’s my prediction for where we end up in September; we’ll probably sign a few more players, maybe two or three at a push. If we sell Suarez he’ll be replaced, but not through a marquee signing it will be through one or two very good players who can help to fill some of the void, but probably none of the individual genius we’ve witnessed from the troubled Uruguayan. Do not however expect big names.

Who knows what the coming season will bring, but be under no illusion Brendan Rodgers and FSG know as well as anyone what they’re doing and barring a complete disaster of a season then we’ll try again both in January and again next summer. Either way, weather I’m right or wrong, one thing is certain – It’s turning into a very long uncomfortable summer and I for one can’t wait until we can all calm down, because at least then it’ll all be over.

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  • John Edwards

    “The precarious position this club was in when we came” was not caused by player spending or wages it was caused by 2 cowboys borrowing money to buy a club they could not afford.

    • laguna07

      And also by expensive mediocre purchases before Rodgers arrived.

      • John Edwards

        no the statement made by JWH meant the point when they purchased the club from G & H, its nothing to do with the “blame Dalglish & Comolli” bullshit

        • steve button

          Too right. The “blame Dalglish”theme has many advocates…so many it’s obviously a contrived agenda…Werner, I have no doubt, will have encouraged that through his media connections.

          What proves this beyond any doubt is the ridiculous apologetics for the new manager…compare this to the flak Kenny took for having one of he most successful seasons in years…no surprise there. The main agenda was insuring Liverpool,under Dalglish and with a majority British playing staff, would not be successful. And Dalglish would have done. No doubt whatsoever.

          And so, Tom Werner, being a cosmopolitan kind do guy(as well as a good son) sacked the evil Anglo…

          No, you say? Alrighty…

          • John Edwards

            spot on Steve, it was terrible the way we were taken to wembley twice and KD had the cheek to beat teams above us in the league

      • steve button

        rubbish…

  • EBo Rises

    I hate the transfer window , this whole sub culture has developed between rival fans that has almost taken over the actual playing of the game were your awarded points for pulling off deals or acquiring marque targets ! And the funny thing is most of the time the sagas that dominate the windows never make much of an impact football wise ! And it’s the low key quick deals that actually pay off on the pitch .

    I am not stressing to much about L.F.C s business so far ! The MK situation was embarrassing not from the club but from the fans , We as L.F.C fans are the best in the world BUT we have developed this ‘ desperation ‘ mind set when it comes to a deal . MK was a perfect example , hand on heart who had watched him more than twice ? I had seen him once at Stamford Bridge last season , But once again we build this guy up to be the second coming of Christ ! No wonder we all feel down when it doesn’t come off ! At some point we just have to let go and put your faith in Rodgers , that’s what I am choosing to do , No player , No deal should be bigger than the manager ! And Rodgers has proven to me so far he has the coaching and man management skills to improve any player in a red shirt whatever the name on the back . YNWA

    • TheLastDon

      Great post! Too right mate.

      Us fans have become nuthuggers to the players. They will only go and disappoint you like FT, MO & now Luis Suarez. We are too worried about big names & who says that a marquee signing will be any good. Chelsea paid £50 mil for Torres, £30 mil for Shevchenko, we paid £35 mil for Carrol, Mancs paid £30 mil for Veron. The list goes on. Look at the bargain deals that have been amazing the past few seasons, Michu, Vermaelen, Santi Cazorla, Yohanne Cabaye, Jan Vertonghen, Kevin Mirallas. etc.

      In life there are no guarantees, let rival fans jibe us all they want, I want to see a bright crop of players like Coutinho, Sturridge, Luis Alberto, Aspas etc, emerge into one of the most vibrant teams in the world. I am with you that I put my faith in Brendan because he is doing things the right way.

      I am tired of these players like Suarez that think that they are doing us a favour by playing for us. Lets get everyone willing to die for the shirt, the club & the supporters! I don’t want these snot nosed brats thinking they are better than our club. When you have everyone heading in the right direction, you win things. Mes que un club is Barca’s motto. More than a club… Liverpool is more than a club it is a love affair! You are loved & you make people smile. You are there for each other & we all walk shoulder to shoulder.

      We’ve been stung too many times by these big time Charlies, there is only one Don & that is the club & the supporters… not any player!

    • imoff

      kudos m8 take a bow

  • laguna07

    FSG’s statement that we are building for the future and patience is required is a synonymous statement meaning they can’t afford to bring the club up to Champions League level. Those clubs above us will continue to strengthen, meanwhile, which only suggest that we’ll forever be chasing our own tail.

    • stoneleech

      They are making the club look good on the books, I’ve no doubt they will sell once they increase the stadium capacity.

    • Robin Crimes

      People with attitudes like yours are just naive. What is it we need? To go and spend £20m on Stewart Downing or £35m on Andy Carroll? No! That kind of attitude will just keep us mid table. Players aren’t willing to come to us so who do you suggest we spend spend spend on?

  • sideshow-bob

    It’s not necessarily about signing “stars”, but a few more players earmarked to go straight into the first team would be nice. A Big Sami style centreback and a bit more strength in midfield would be just the ticket, please Mr Rodgers.

  • TheLastDon

    LFC are taking the right approach… we are looking at things long term. Chelsea, PSG, Man City & Real Madrid are circus clubs… that is not what football is about, these are modern day, splash the cash on the latest fad & we demand success. This is the equivalent of a woman taking a man just because he is rich, you might have the cash to splash on the material things… but it’s not for the long term… there isn’t any life & soul within that relationship.

    Look @ the support the BVB fans had for their team in the semi final vs Real Madrid, they reminded me of our great fans. They were also in the doldrums & they decided to take the long term approach by Hiring an unproven, yet promising young manager & let him build a team of vibrant, exciting players. He bought Lewandowski €4.5 Million… not exactly a marquee signing, yet every football club worth their salt would jump @ the chance to sign him now. They took a strategy to plan for the long term, which paid off. It’s clear for all to see that LFC have taken a similar approach & I am happy that the club is going down the right path for the 1st time in decades.

    We need to rid ourselves of players thinking they are better than the club so that we all move forward together & not divided.

    YNWA mate!

  • Morten Sognli

    In BR atleast I trust! In my eyes we don’t need BIG names for HUUUGE transfer fee’s… We need players that fit in with Rodgers plans and playing style, and with winner mentality! Then they’ll make themselves big names that way! ;-)

  • Gabranth

    What I like about BR’s system is that it doesn’t require a ‘marquee name’ to be successful. Of course if we bring in a big name it’s a big bonus but given our recent run of games without LS, i think we’ll be alright.

    For the first time in a long while I really the style we play. Progress is visible enough for all to see and I expect us to challenge for top 4 this year.

    Besides, the current owners got burned BADLY when Comolli and Kenny invested in British talent so who can really blame them for their approach in the transfer market these days?

    • John Edwards

      They never got burned at all, do the sums and you will see FSG never actually dipped into their own pockets for the alleged £100 million spending spree of KD & DC. As for BRs “system” its really barcas system and although you dont need marquee signings having players like Messi in your team helps

  • Robin Crimes

    Good article for 2 reasons. One, it captures the feeling and mood of most Liverpool fans after a promising start to the transfer window and two, it has balance. I half expected you to run away with yourself and start making unfounded accusations.

    The problem is we all think we know best. Remember the collective outpouring of disappointment when we didn’t get Dempsey. Now that we’re thinking straight, who thinks Dempsey is either the short term or long term hope for LFC? I know I don’t.
    We have to have faith in our scouts to find the right players and if they do i’m in no doubt the club will fund them.

    Basically, we have to be a bit smarter than before. We all got carried away when Charlie Adam said he wanted to come to LFC and no one else (hardly surprising since he’s barely good enough for Stoke). We, as fans almost demanded he was bought. The point i want to make is if we buy for the sake of buying we’ll stay 7th in the table. We have to be smarter than we’ve been in the past. We can’t lure the top players anymore and hopefully we won’t be offering £100k a week for the next tier down. We got no return for it with Cole, Aquilani and Jovanovic. It’s not about what you spend but what you buy.

    I certainly have faith in both FSG and Brendan Rodgers and I belief the scouting team know what they’re doing. So, whatever happens by the close of the window I’ll try and look at it with an open mind. If I feel a bit gutted i’ll remember all those useless players we’ve had over the past few years and take solace from the fact that someone at the club has a strategy to improve us.

  • Tariq

    I pretty much agree with what you said. I just can’t help but wonder how different everything would have been had Kenny and Comoli spent the money given to them a little more wisely. Seems like Suarez was the only good buy from that regime.

    If you think about THAT particular transfer window it was all good and dandy, dreaming about Carroll thumping in headers left right and centre from Charlie Adam’s set piece deliveries or Downing’s crosses.. On paper it was supposed to be so so beautiful but it didn’t quite work out that way did it?

    Perhaps it would have all been very different had the referree allowed the Andy Carroll goal to stand in the FA cup final. Maybe these players would have improved in their 2nd season under Kenny.

    It is sad to see us take a £20m hit on Carroll, sad to see Shelvey go, extremely sad to see Reina go (although had Liverpool been a CL club his wages would not have been an issue). But I won’t be sad to see Spearing go though, or even Downing.

    While on the other hand its good to see four players join the club I feel they are all of ‘squad-player’ quality and will not really take the club to any heights this next season.

    If Suarez does go then that I can see every single attack going through Coutinho and if he gets injured we are well and truly shafted so to say.

    Rodgers is the guy to take us forward, especially now we are thumping teams that we were struggling against for a draw. I was really enjoying the football and we were getting the results (so to say).

    Lets hope there will be one or two big signings to generate some excitement around the squad and in the stands. There’s still time, although probably not that many options.

    And hope that there is some improvement on last seasons displays.

    YNWA