A barrage of criticism has been aimed at Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool’s transfer decisions of late, not least in an article from Chris Bascombe in the Telegraph on Monday, who explained an anxiety amongst some of Rodgers’ summer signings not starting games:
Not for the first time in his Anfield reign, Rodgers found himself in a politically vulnerable position when asked about the rationale behind a series of deals that swelled the squad at considerable expense, but failed to provide enough of the high-class, first-team players the club need to have any hope of sustaining a top-four challenge.
Bascombe isn’t alone either. Fans have taken to Twitter to make similar points—that essentially Liverpool aren’t progressing because the team isn’t changing.
Liverpool should find their form away from home. BR is a good manager, but Liverpool transfer policy is the set back to progression.— Matmkey lfc (@katinde) December 3, 2013
Suddenly questions are raised over who pulls the strings to make these transfers happen, who identifies the targets in the first place and who has the final word.
So..Rodgers bombs Skrtel out. Transfer committee buys alternatives. Skrtel becomes mainstay of side. That's a problem right there.— Joseph Pepper (@JosephPepper) December 1, 2013
Unfortunately, the term “knee-jerk reaction” comes to mind.
There have been just ten league games after the end of the summer transfer window, and already the judgements are out.
In an attempt to dissect this rush of negativity—the point of which is difficult to fathom as it does neither the club nor fans any good—the bigger picture is being completely overlooked.
Competition And Price Tags
The arrival of Mamadou Sakho has seen the rejuvenation of Martin Skrtel, supposedly on the brink of leaving Liverpool in the summer.
Sakho hasn’t necessarily put a foot wrong to warrant Skrtel’s 11 league appearances this campaign.
Skrtel has certainly benefited from the wake-up call of Sakho’s arrival.
Following his ousting from the first-team by Jamie Carragher last season, Skrtel appears to have cemented himself as Rodgers’ first centre-back of choice.
Against Hull, the Slovakian found himself making up the ground that his underperforming defensive teammates lost, and was unfortunate to see two goals deflect in off him.
Before half-time, he’d made two vital interceptions to prevent the game going beyond Liverpool by the break.
On that theory though, Sakho’s £18 million price tag may well be seen as a big price to pay to give Skrtel a kick up the back side—especially if you add the signing of veteran Kolo Toure to that sum.
However, just as 28-year-old Skrtel won’t be around forever, Sakho, five years his younger, is just getting started.
Sakho has signed a “long-term” contract at Liverpool. He’s not a quick fix, but he’s got the attributes and potential to be a first choice centre-back at Anfield in years to come.
Right now, though, the looming competition certainly isn't a bad thing for Skrtel and the other defenders at the club.
Was Toure expected to be a first-team player when he was brought in from Manchester City? At 32 years old and on a free transfer, it’s doubtful.
Toure provides a wealth of experience, as well as proving himself to be a model professional for younger players at the club to absorb.
Yet the Ivorian has also proven himself and been rewarded with ten league appearances in-between injuries.
Iago Aspas suffered a torn thigh muscle and hasn’t featured since October—any judgement on the Spaniard after four starts for his new club borders on cruel.
Luis Alberto and Tiago Ilori are signings “for the future”, by Bascombe’s own admission, whilst the loan signings of Aly Cissokho and Victor Moses are very much "try before you buy."
That leaves Simon Mignolet, who is having a brilliant first season at the club and proving to be an upgrade on the already excellent Pepe Reina.
Bascombe describes the notion of a new signing needing to be a first-team player as “Comolli-esque”.
It's very apt—Damien Comolli wasn’t right on a lot of things.
Rodgers has already outlined his vision for the forthcoming transfer window in that he wants to improve his team.
Andy Hunter of the Guardian quoted him as saying last month:
We need to bring in players for the team. We've got a squad and we've got enough cover but in the future the focus is on bringing in players that can come straight in and improve our team. We did that last year and benefited from that. We know what we need to improve and we know the areas we need to improve but it's all about timing and all about affordability and can we do it? I always hope that in each window we can improve the team and if we can do that we can rightly be up there.
Needless to say, this isn’t Football Manager. The success of transfers is not the be all and end all of success over a season, never mind 90 minutes of football at the KC Stadium where this criticism appears to have sprouted from.
The questions over Rodgers’ and the club’s transfer policy at this stage are negative and unnecessary.
Is opinion and journalism in football in such a reactionary state that a transfer that isn’t an immediate success story, such as Daniel Sturridge or Philippe Coutinho, can be labelled a failure now?
Only 13 games into the season and January’s transfer window in sight, it is only fair for the jury to still be out—and for quite some time yet.
Unfortunately, the pessimistic members of the jury appear to have come back in prematurely.