Liverpool fans have spent most of January anxiously waiting for news and updates on transfer targets, but so far, 23 days through the month, nothing new has been forthcoming.
Amid a number of rumours with varying degrees of reliability surrounding them, the one which appeared to carry the most weight was the chase of Basel winger Mohamed Salah—though the latest reports, emerging late on Wednesday, had Chelsea rivalling the Reds for his signature, as per Peter Guy of the Liverpool Echo.
It's a frustrating picture emerging for Kopites to watch, one which has been played out too often of late. But, if the Egyptian opts to move to London, supporters shouldn't be overly disheartened—and similarly, if he is soon pictured leaning on Melwood walls with a red scarf in hand, Liverpool's transfer committee should not take their January work as complete.
Salah and the improvement of the Reds' final third is far from the most pressing problem facing Brendan Rodgers and his team at this point in the season.
To Sign or Not to Sign Salah
While Liverpool don't specifically (or more to the point, immediately) need to add to a front three which already sees a battle between four quality players, that does not preclude adding quality to the squad in that area of the field.
The key issue is, does the expenditure needed on Salah mean that no further funds will be able to strengthen other areas of the side?
If the answer is no, and Salah is merely an additional signing, there should be no problem. Just because he is signed first out of two or three completed deals, it doesn't necessarily indicate he is the absolute priority or that the club are not working on other transfers, it simply means the time was right to conclude this one.
If the answer is yes...Liverpool must strongly reconsider if he is going to make the telling difference in getting the club over the finishing line in the top four.
Lucas' Injury and Midfield Depth
Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva was feared to be out for several months, but the player himself has sought to allay these worries by revealing he may only be out for a number of weeks.
Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) January 22, 2014
However, even if the Reds' No. 20 misses just three weeks, that's up to five games he could be absent, including the Merseyside derby and a visit to Anfield for Arsenal.
Liverpool's paucity in central midfield is worrying and has been for some time. For a top-four, or even top-six club to play with three central players with regularity, the expectation would be to have five or six players competing for starting positions.
Rodgers has four.
With Lucas out, there is no room for error, injury or dips in form without resorting to positional switches, relying on reserves or persisting with what isn't working.
A defensive midfielder should long have been brought to the club to provide cover, competition and depth. It has surely, surely, now gone from a need to a necessity.
Other Key Positions to Fill
Whatever happened to Glen Johnson's form, it's clear he's not regaining it consistently in a hurry. Liverpool have 16 league games left, and at this point, it's more a case of muddling through with whoever is fit, rather than expecting top performances out of the players on the left and right of defence.
Jose Enrique and Jon Flanagan have been sidelined, Aly Cissokho has wavered between spectacularly athletic and spectacularly bad, Martin Kelly has still not been given the chance to prove he's made a full recovery and Johnson, well, his form is what it is.
What is Liverpool's biggest need this January?
All in all, at least one full-back and quite possibly two should be on the Reds' to-do list.
Summer is a time for more evaluation, but it seems unlikely the manager would be happy with his options at this stage.
A third centre-forward and perhaps even another midfielder after the aforementioned holding player should also all figure on Rodgers' list of requirements.
As intimated above, the chase of Salah is not the be-all, end-all whether he joins or not. If he does, rejoice, for Rodgers will have more options, and a very handy young player will be on the books. But the work is far from over.
So far as Liverpool's first team is concerned, improving the first and middle thirds right now are the big jobs in hand. A wide forward is a luxury the club might be able to afford but certainly shouldn't be content with.