A History of Liverpool’s January transfer window & an in-depth Analysis into why Liverpool fans can’t be angry at Jürgen Klopp for not making January signings.

Few days in the calendar year manipulate people to conform to an expectation set upon them. Black Friday is a perfect example, with consumers expecting cut-price deals and businesses expecting consumers to take advantage of this and spend money on their products. Transfer Deadline Day is another one of those days. Consumers (of news) spend hours glued to screens expecting their club to make signings and to entertain their imagination for what they can expect for the latter half of the season. For Liverpool, January is traditionally an exciting period, with signings in the past including Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Andy Carroll coming in, with 3 of those four being worth tenfold more than the price Liverpool bought them for.Under Jürgen Klopp this changed and with Klopp at the helm, we can expect dry January’s for years to come.

As mentioned earlier, January is typically a fruitful affair for Liverpool. Under Rafael Benítez in January, Liverpool signed the likes of Fernando Morientes, Daniel Agger, (re-signed) Robbie Fowler, Javier Mascherano and Martin Skrtel. Some came to Liverpool with a reputation and others gained a reputation. Following these signings it created an expectation amongst Liverpool fans that they will get a ‘marquee’ signing and for a few frustrated seasons, Liverpool fans didn’t get one. That was until the signings of Carroll, a target-man from Newcastle in a deal worth a reported £35m, and Luis Suárez, for a sum of around £22.4m from Ajax. These two players’ career have gone in polar opposite directions, with Carroll struggling with The Reds and eventually being offloaded to West Ham for a cut-price deal; and Suárez now a part of the world’s most prolific strike force ‘MSN’ at Barcelona (with Lionel Messi and Neymar), as well as being selected in the 2016 Team of The Year. The signings of Carroll and Suárez under Kenny Dalglish pleased Liverpool fans because it gave them a reason to get excited – their team was finally going to propel themselves to the top level once again; that never happened. The season after, with Brendan Rodgers in the job, he signed two more diamonds, very much in the rough. Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge came in for a combined total of around £20m from Inter Milan and Chelsea respectively. Coutinho was famed with potential seeping from his boots, after lighting up Brazil’s Youth Team alongside Neymar, however he struggled for form at Inter and on-loan at a Pochettino’s RCD Espanyol and Rodgers bought him for a bargain £8m, stealing him from Southampton (managed then by Pochettino). Sturridge was certainly a gamble, often played out on the wing at Chelsea, he didn’t succeed to his potential at Stamford Bridge and became a member of Chelsea’s infamous youth system in which prospects are loaned out for years and eventually sold. Homogeneous with Coutinho, Rodgers thought the pro’s outweighed the cons, and in both cases there was huge success, with both players contributing massively to the 13/14 season, when Liverpool were nearly crowned champions of England for the first time since 1990. Coutinho is now worth 4 times the amount Liverpool bought him for (figures from transfermarkt) and Sturridge is now worth nearly double the amount Liverpool bought him for. So for a few seasons, Liverpool’s January magic was back, and the fans loved it.

January is named January after the Greek god Janus, the god of choices. January is named after Janus because he symbolises two options – a new path with new beginnings – or the same path as the last time, with the same endings. Under Klopp January transfer windows have taken a new path; A path of desertion. Klopp has never been a fan of the January transfer window, buying 2 players in his last 5 years at Borussia Dortmund and in Germany, there is a winter break, allowing the player to properly gel into the side. There is the opposite in England, with more games than ever in January – Liverpool had 11 fixtures in 35 days. Therefore Liverpool should never have been expected to make any immediate signings. Last season, Liverpool signed only Marko Grujić in the January transfer window, and he was instantly loaned back to Red Star Belgrade. In February Liverpool announced the signature of Joel Matip on a free-transfer as he was out of contract, meaning he wouldn’t join Liverpool in January anyway, rather in summer alongside Grujić. Klopp was never going to make signings this transfer window – history proves that, this can justify Liverpool’s lack of action in the transfer window and therefore fans cannot be angry.

Sadio Mané has been a revelation this season for Liverpool, becoming top-scorer for The Reds with 9 goals. The summer-signing came in from Southampton for £34m (plus £2m of potential add-ons) after spending two years with the Saints. Mané added directness, pace and that finishing touch Liverpool missed since the departure of Suarez and the devolution of Sturridge. Upon Mané’s arrival it was assumed he would go to the African Cup of Nations – an annual cup in which African teams play against each other in a group come knockout tournament. When he left for AFCON (African Cup of Nations), Liverpool lost that quick, clinical edge. Liverpool’s win rate decreased from 71.4% to 33.3%. This sparked outrage from the Anfield faithful questioning Klopp and his transfer policies – why didn’t they have a back-up? Truth is, they had one all along, he was just injured. Danny Ings was a focal point of Liverpool’s pre-season tour and upon his injury in the U23’s, he has been out for the season. His pace, directness and finishing that was so clinical at Burnley was what Klopp needed but with him side-lined, Ings couldn’t have been an option. In January, Liverpool lost one game in the Premier League and drew three. Two of the draws were respectable, away against Manchester United and home to Chelsea, however the third was away to Sunderland; a match Liverpool should’ve won. The loss was at home to Swansea  (a 2-3 thriller) as Swansea were going through a honeymoon period with new manager Paul Clement. Liverpool also lost two games 1-0 both home and away to Southampton. Sadio Mané would have played in all of these 6 games (Klopp would never have played him in the FA Cup, he uses that time to give youngsters experience), can you really justify a signing that would play second fiddle all season to Mané, only to be played when he was away at AFCON? Klopp would much rather save the financial strain and give other players a chance – or even give one of the youngsters a run out – than buy a new player. Therefore, it is illogical for fans to get angry about not having a back-up player for Mané as we had an intentional back-up, because players who are currently used in midfield that could cover Mané going forward (Wijnaldum and Lallana) and to sign a player to have with the only intention being to act as a cover is illogical – much why like Marković joined Hull on loan.

I would not totally dispel transfers completely however. Klopp looks for a bargain and is a believer in logic. As seen with Matip last season, Liverpool can sign players for free now because they may be running out of contract in the summer. There are lots of players which Liverpool have the opportunity to sign on a pre-contract basis – and one name comes to mind when looking at a position Liverpool fans seem to think desperately needs sorting out. Alberto Moreno has been inconsistent in his time at Liverpool since his move from Sevilla in 2014. Against Tottenham he tackled Andros Townsend (now at Crystal Palace via Newcastle), ran the ball from Liverpool’s half and slotted the ball neatly past Lloris. A brilliant solo goal, won by him, made by him and scored by him. Since then he has been at fault for a countless Liverpool goals conceded due to his attacking instincts and has this season been dropped in favour of James Milner. The makeshift left-back has taken to the position like a duck to water and is statistically the third best in Europe’s top 5 leagues. With Milner 31, unfortunately his time being able to play is being limited. Sead Kolasinac is a Bosnian left-back for Schalke and has this season proven his worth in Gelsenkirchen. Kolasinac has statistically (whoscored.com) been the best player in the Schalke side this season, with an average rating of 7.3. The 23 year-old has made 22 appearances at international level and has partaken in three free transfers in his career so far. This transfer is likely to happen because he fits Klopp’s play style and he is a logical signing. Kolasinac is quick and strong, meaning he can get up and down the flanks quickly. Should the transfer fall through, Liverpool could turn to PSV’s 22 year-old left-back Jetro Willems. Klopp could ask Wijnaldum, who played down the left-hand side with Willems at PSV and who interacts with him on social media, to persuade him to join The Reds. Whatever happens, Liverpool fans can remain happy because Liverpool will sort out an issue that is very present in their minds.

These points justify why fans cannot be angry with Klopp. However, fans can be angry at Klopp because of the poor performances in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. The EFL Cup is the third tier trophy for English teams, after the division title and the FA Cup, but the EFL Cup is still silverware and although it is not a trophy which is endeared, it is a trophy nonetheless and should be treated with respect. Liverpool has a great history, and that history is filled with silverware – Klopp should have acknowledged this and not treated it as a means to give Liverpool more games, tiring the players. In the semi-final, Klopp’s tactics were not good enough against Southampton on the first-leg so on the second, Liverpool had to chase the game until the final minutes which is what ultimately cost them as they conceded a late goal to lose 1-0 at home. Managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger pride themselves on bleeding young talent through the FA Cup and Klopp follows the same policy. Last year Klopp was lauded by pundits when he fielded Brad Smith, Pedro Chirivella, Kevin Stewart, Cameron Brannagan, Jerome Sinclair, João Teixeira and Connor Randall against Exeter in the FA Cup third round last year, and this year was no different. Klopp brought Gomez back after his injury and Ben Woodburn, Ovie Ejaria, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kevin Stewart followed the Englishman back into the starting line-up and even though there was a sketchy first-leg, they delivered in the second leg – barely. Klopp should’ve seen that beating Plymouth 1-0 over two legs was not enough to justify bringing back a similar starting line-up against a well-drilled Wolves side managed by former Premier League manager Paul Lambert. Klopp’s trust and faith in his youth meant Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup by Wolves and their quick, clinical counter-attacks. Klopp taking the blame damage’s his image but nothing more, Liverpool are still out of the EFL and FA Cup and although I am a fan of giving youngsters a chance to prove themselves, you still have to win games; hopefully Klopp will get the balance right next-year. Due to the cup antics (and a 3-2 loss to Swansea) meant Liverpool lost at home three times in a row, after going just over one year unbeaten at Anfield – what was once a castle is now a keep, and fans have every right to be angry at Klopp for that.

All taken into account, fans have every right to be mad at Klopp for the performances in the FA Cup and Premier league – but not in the transfer market. Klopp using the transfer market in January is not one of Klopp’s habit’s and it is illogical to sign a player just to use him as a back-up, especially when there already was one whom was untimely injured. Fans are calling for Klopp to be questioned and for his policies to be analysed, which I can agree with in some respects; however fans who call for the sack are ill-informed, think with their hearts over their heads and do not have faith in our big, Red, German – Jürgen Klopp.

 

Elliot Lee

 

 

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