A lot of Liverpool fans are reading their club's failure to sign Yevhen Konoplyanka as a lack of ambition. They blame Brendan Rodgers, or Ian Ayre. But they're wrong.
Liverpool did exactly the right thing in not offering more money for Konoplyanka. It's a shame that the player didn't get the move he wanted, but it certainly wasn't Liverpool's fault.
For too long, Liverpool have been taken to the cleaners by agents. They've been taken advantage of and paid over the odds because they weren't in a strong position. But now things are changing—Liverpool have left mediocrity behind.
Now Liverpool are challenging for the top four again. They're on the up and should be playing the market on their terms. The message should be: "Here's our offer, come and play for Liverpool if you want to be a part of this."
The reported £15 million bid for Konoplyanka, as per the Mirror, was sensible business. Liverpool should not be offering more than that for a player who's not that familiar to the Anfield faithful.
Ultimately, I don't think they've been harmed in the slightest by not getting him. He would have taken months to settle anyhow.
The better the team is, the harder the transfer window becomes. As your squad gets stronger, it becomes more and more difficult to make it better. It's a problem for Liverpool, but it's a good problem.
Gerrard must forget his old game
If I had to rank Liverpool's holding midfield options, I'd put Lucas Leiva (when fit) first, Joe Allen second and Steven Gerrard third.
There's no doubt Gerrard can play there, but he needs to forget what's come before and alter his mindset for his new responsibilities. It's a process, but he's capable of thriving if he can change his game.
The difficult part is leaving behind the player he was. There's been no more effective offensive midfielder in Europe over the last 20 years. Gerrard made his name as a dynamic, goal-scoring force who changed games.
What's needed now is concentration. There will be times he wants to get forward, but it may be for the best of the team that he doesn't. It's not easy to make that transition, but if Gerrard wants it badly enough, he'll make it happen.
Cleverley must choose his position
Tom Cleverley is coming in for a lot of stick lately, but he's not to blame for Manchester United's form.
That said, he does need to improve in most departments if he's going to sustain a top-level club and international career.
He's not effective enough as a holding midfielder, and he's not effective enough as an attacking midfielder. He either needs to add goals to his game or improve his passing, vision and tactical awareness.
In my mind, Michael Carrick is the best holding midfielder in England. What he needs beside him is a player who complements him. Cleverley is not yet that player.