Sitting in the top four positions in the Premier League, as they have done for much of this season, January seemed to be an opportune moment for Liverpool to take advantage of both their own improved form and the struggles of their Champions League-place rivals.
A signing or two, with quality and capability to come directly into contention for the first team, could well have been the boost that—following on from Luis Suarez signing a new deal—propelled the Reds closer to achieving their seasonal objective of finishing inside the top four.
However, just a few days before the closure of the January transfer window, no new arrivals have been announced, a lengthy and failed chase of Mohamed Salah has seen him join Chelsea instead and Brendan Rodgers' comments on Monday, as per LiverpoolFC.com, don't seem to imply signings are likely.
There's certainly nothing imminent. But we always felt if we could do [business] then it was something we wanted to do. ... I'm just reluctant to bring in anyone that is just going to stockpile players. We need to bring in players that are really going to affect the starting XI. And if we can't do that, then we won't be doing anything.
Almost four weeks of relatively inert behaviour from the deal-makers at Anfield have seen the fanbase more than a little concerned, as injuries mount up and rivals strengthen their own top-four prospects.
Chelsea have brought in Nemanja Matic and the aforementioned Salah, while they have also sold Juan Mata to Manchester United and Everton have signed Aiden McGeady and Lacina Traore.
Mohammed Salah with the Chelsea Shirt! pic.twitter.com/SGf2PaZxN7— TheChelseaNews (@TheChelseaNews) January 26, 2014
Those deals will boost not only the depth in the respective teams, but also the hopes and expectations of the players within them and the fans cheering them on.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have been little more than onlookers, for perhaps a variety of reasons.
Despite the team sitting in fourth, there is a general feeling of "opportunity...blown" about the whole window. In truth, if the Reds fail to make the top four now, there will be all sorts of justifiable finger-pointing taking place.
What it means is that the Reds will head into the Merseyside derby, arguably the most important one in many years with both teams having so much to play for, with at least six injured players absent and no new arrivals to beef up a very thin-looking midfield.
For a team who regularly play three across the centre, to have only four options for an entire season seems strange.
To have two of those injured during the transfer window, and still not opt to strengthen, seems tantamount to suicide in this season of such close competition.
Commercial deals with Dunkin' Brands and Garuda Indonesia have been met with reactions wavering between mirth and apathy, despite the no-doubt lucrative and necessary nature of the ramifications for the club's coffers.
It's a simplistic but oft-repeated view on social media this month: Where's that money being spent, if not on the first team, the area of greatest need?
At this point, the last thing Liverpool could possibly contemplate is to close out the month of January with defeat to their Merseyside rivals Everton.
The derby, played at Anfield on Tuesday, could see Liverpool open up a four-point lead over their sixth-placed rivals—or drop two points below them, perhaps as low as sixth themselves, with defeat. It's a scenario Brendan Rodgers and Co. dare not contemplate as the home stretch approaches.
A win, however, would give the Reds breathing space—perhaps especially with Tottenham, currently in fifth, playing Manchester City.
Win that, and the top four once again looks like an achievable and realistic objective for the Reds, especially if the likes of Mamadou Sakho and Joe Allen return from injury soon after.
Three points at Anfield has been a regular pattern for Liverpool this season, but this match is arguably the biggest so far of 2013-14. The fans demand a win anyway in the derby, but this time around, they perhaps need one too.
And who knows; maybe there will be an incoming deal to celebrate before January 31, to go along with the three points.
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