Progress Report and Grades for Liverpool's 8 Summer Transfer Signings
Liverpool spent over £50 million during the summer transfer window, signing six new players and adding a further two new signings on loan, with Brendan Rodgers continuing to reshape his squad for a Champions League charge.
With over a quarter of the season now played and the latest international break meaning a respite from domestic action, it's worth looking at how those newcomers have settled into the Reds' squad and grade their contribution so far.
As should be the case, the players are graded against the expectations each of them carried, not against each other—so a guaranteed first-choice starter wouldn't face the same criteria as a young prospect.
Starting at the bottom and working up to the best newcomer, here are Liverpool's eight newest faces at the start of their Anfield careers.
Tiago Ilori: No Rating
Liverpool's 20-year-old Portuguese centre-back Tiago Ilori has not yet featured for the first-team, and judging by the strength in depth that the team has in that position, he could see no action at all until next term.
Thus far, Ilori has been restricted to performing at under-21 level, while also making the bench for two league games so far.
As such, he will not be graded on his time on Merseyside yet.
Aly Cissokho: D+
Valencia's Aly Cissokho is spending the campaign on loan at Liverpool as cover and competition for the left-back area.
Unfortunately, things haven't quite gone to plan for the French defender, who suffered an injury soon after arriving at the club and has only made two full 90-minute appearances since.
Still searching for full fitness, he is clearly some way from being at his optimum performance level and, as such, his first-touch and technique are suffering considerably. Cissokho is capable of being a pacey outlet down the left flank and, though not the most creative or technical of attacking full-backs, can help stretch opposition defences and create space for others.
It's basic technique and probably a lack of tactical understanding with the rest of the team at this point which lets him down though.
He needs more time to recapture his best level, but time is something Rodgers can't afford to under-performing players.
Iago Aspas: C
Iago Aspas arrived for around £7 million from Celta Vigo to add support to forwards Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez and had a good start in his first few games for the club.
The Spaniard struggled to maintain that start when the Reds' performances dipped off in September, and he was one of the early casualties of the starting XI when Rodgers had to change the team shape around.
Aspas is perfectly suited to the Reds' uptempo and fluid movement approach in the final third, but struggled to impact the game when they went through longer spells of defensive work against the likes of Swansea and Southampton.
Had he been on the field for the recent demolishing of Fulham, for example, he probably would have had fans believing he was the real deal once more—but injury has curtailed his involvement for now, and Aspas will not return until close to Christmas.
When back, he needs to fight his way into the team and provide the creativity and craft alongside one of the goalscorers up front to stake his claim on a regular basis once more.
Luis Alberto: C+
Young midfielder Luis Alberto has been in and out of the side, not starting a league game and having to make do with the odd 20-minute spell off the bench in the main.
As a talented young player, it is understandable and acceptable that his progression into the team should begin this way, even though plenty of supporters thought that his price tag during the summer meant he would be featuring more often.
Alberto's touch, vision and movement in the final third means he is a good option to bring on to kill teams off in matches, but he has not yet shown he can perform consistently, making Rodgers' slow approach to integrating him the right one for now.
The ex-Sevilla attacker can certainly improve in the second half of the season and play a good part in the Reds' continued challenge for the top four.
Victor Moses: C+
Liverpool signed Chelsea forward Victor Moses on a season-long loan to add more experience and pace in the wide areas, which has inevitably meant that the Nigerian was one of those to go off the boil and then out the team when Rodgers switched to a winger-less 3-5-2 system.
A debut goal against Swansea boded well, but that has really been the highlight of Moses in a Liverpool shirt so far.
With Suarez and Sturridge paired up top and Coutinho given a very loose role from the left side of late, it doesn't seem that there is a real spot in the side for Moses at present, so sub appearances are likely to be the order of the day until the next injury or tactical switch.
Moses' pace and power, his ability to dribble past players and his knack for scoring a handful of goals means he should be a decent squad player for the Reds—but probably little more than that over the course of the season.
Mamadou Sakho: B
Liverpool's big-money signing of the summer came in the mammoth-sized shape of central defender Mamadou Sakho, who cost around £17 million from PSG.
The 23-year-old immediately settled into the team in the 3-5-2 system, playing from the left of the centre where his composure on the ball and aggression in challenges has balanced out the defence nicely.
Of course, there have been hiccups along the way where his tendency to press out of line is not entirely in sync with the rest of the back line, but only time and training can eradicate these inevitable errors.
Overall, he's been pretty close to as good as the Reds could have hoped, even keeping vice-captain Daniel Agger out of the team until the most recent game.
Rodgers will hope over the rest of the season that he can bring more resilience and consistency to Liverpool's defence as they adjust to having the big man at the back.
Kolo Toure: B+
Kolo Toure arrived and immediately set about looking an astute piece of business in preseason, combining some enormous defensive performances with his infectious enthusiasm for the game in the early stages of the campaign.
He became a fan favourite in a matter of matches and has continued to play pretty well thereafter, though probably just below the level of Sakho and Martin Skrtel.
Toure, however, arrived with the expectation of being the fourth choice, the experienced head to provide moments of calm when required, not a regular starter, so he has effectively exceeded expectations until now.
He might not get that kind of run of matches again all season, but he has definitely shown that he has a big part to play for the Reds.
Simon Mignolet: A
Say what you like about Pepe Reina's performances, it took guts, self-assurance and iron-clad confidence for the manager to ship him out and replace him—as well as complete conviction that the incoming goalkeeper would make a difference.
In Simon Mignolet, Liverpool and Rodgers have chosen well.
The Belgian stopper won the Reds points as early as the opening day of the season with his late penalty save against Stoke, while further great reaction stops have made him a fine last line of defence for the team.
There were question marks over his distribution rather than his handling, but try this statistic on for size: Taking into account all distribution mediums—throws, kicks, etc.—Mignolet has the best completion rate out of every Premier League goalkeeper this season, as per Squawka's Opta-based stats.
Keep that up, along with his save ratio (fourth in the league) and general confident demeanour, and he can continue to be Liverpool's best signing of the season.
And if your goalkeeper earns that award, and the likes of Suarez are on fire at the opposite end of the pitch, there's a great chance the team will be doing well enough to claim that top-four place.
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