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50-50 Challenge: Merseyside derby

Liverpool vs. Everton 4 days ago
Read
 Posted by Steven Kelly
Jul 21, 2014

Transfer Talk: Liverpool's summer so far

The ESPN FC panel weighs in on the Premier League odds and debates which team will win the league.

With the transfer window in full swing, ESPN FC's Liverpool blogger Steven Kelly discusses how Brendan Rodgers' side are shaping up ahead of the new season.

IN -- Rickie Lambert (Southampton, 5 million pounds), Adam Lallana (Southampton, 25 million pounds), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, 10 million pounds), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, 20 million pounds)

OUT -- Luis Suarez (Barcelona, 75 million pounds)

Expected budget

There was talk of at least 50 million pounds being spent on players even before Barcelona chipped in with their generous contribution to the coffers. That estimate has already been confirmed in a roundabout way by Brendan Rodgers, who claimed the Suarez bounty had not been touched even after spending 60 million pounds. This was before news of the Loic Remy deal.

As much as 120 million pounds' worth of new stars might drive through the Shankly gates by Sept. 1, though it remains possible some money could be held in reserve for the January transfer window in case of emergencies. Liverpool made the mistake of spending all the Fernando Torres money on Suarez and Andy Carroll, when a little patience might have been more rewarding.

All of football will be watching Liverpool closely. Tottenham seemed to waste their Gareth Bale money, while Chelsea and Manchester City have often been accused of simply buying their success. Their fans will all be focussing on the Reds' progress, ready to pounce.

Rate your business so far: Six out of 10 may seem somewhat churlish, but there should always remain a cautious assessment whenever a talent like Suarez has been lost. That kind of departure accounts for at least two points in the opposite direction. With the spending nowhere near complete that rating could of course rise and if any new boys have anything like the swift impact of Daniel Sturridge or even Philippe Coutinho, it should climb higher still. Big things are already being predicted for the Serbian Markovic after his immediate impact at Benfica.

Rumours are bound to fly about Liverpool holding the bulk of the Suarez cash in reserve for a real big hitter, but given nearly all of the world's major stars are already happy and/or accounted for elsewhere it's more likely that the Reds will strengthen the squad with numbers for the daunting task of matching last season's excellent challenge and navigating the coming campaign's extra workload in the Champions League.

Who should be sold?

The pursuit of Sevilla left-back Alberto Moreno suggests Jon Flanagan could lose his place again, having seemingly established himself originally in 2011, but it would not be disastrous if the young Liverpudlian returned to his original right-back berth and Glen Johnson was let go. The latter's contribution to the manager's attacking style may save him, however. He certainly wasn't the only defender to be found wanting last season at crucial moments.

Speaking of which, it seems late in the day to expect Daniel Agger to finally complete a season without injury, but if Southampton don't lower their asking price for Dejan Lovren, the Dane may continue to share centre-back duties with the similarly injury-stricken Mamadou Sakho, who was substituted by France several times during the last World Cup and missed some of Liverpool's season too.

It looks like Rodgers wants to let Fabio Borini go to Sunderland. It's hard to imagine anyone else wanting to give Liverpool the original selling price plus a small profit, and it seems the manager will tell the young Italian there will be rare chances for him to shine next season should he stay.

The arrival of Lazar Markovic should add creativity to Brendan Rodgers' side.

Who should be signed?

The impending arrival of Remy is the latest news, so there may be fewer rumours of a big signing to wear the fabled No. 7 shirt. There were attempts to make Alexis Sanchez part of the trade for Suarez, but defeat finally had to be admitted. It is possible that Sevilla's Moreno will be approached a third time, and the aforementioned Lovren is hoping Southampton can be reasonable -- a tough ask if you've lost as many servants as they have already.

Caution may be advisable. The club's owners were scarred by the hefty fee and failure of their first major swoop, Andy Carroll, with another 20 million pounds wasted on alleged cross-supplier Stewart Downing. Instead various players were bought last summer for fees of around 7-8 million pounds. This proved a false economy as those players ended up on loan without making any valid contribution to the cause.

The money might as well have been spent on one 20 million pound player who could do more than make up the numbers but as always it doesn't matter what you pay as long as the player makes his mark. Even Jordan Henderson came good eventually, so patience is a virtue in these instances.

Problem solving: What do you need?

Conceding goals was a concern last season, though it appears -- albeit with six weeks of transfer activity still to go -- that better organisation and concentration at the back and better protection from midfield will be tried first, in a brave decision not to tamper with a successful attack-minded formula. For all of its science, football can fall back on voodoo occasionally, luck still playing a big part in proceedings.

The absence of Suarez will be the main problem, always the player to turn to when something special was required. It would prove too difficult a task for one man to take on. It looks likely that strength in depth will be key, especially as Germany have just won the World Cup with all-round quality and a strong bench while other teams dependent on a superstar floundered.

The previous domination of the international game was from Spain, also well-rounded as a unit. Football could be changing, although clubs still rely heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Suarez, etc. Rodgers has proved adept at changing with the times, going beyond them at certain moments last season. It will be fascinating to see what can be conjured up this time around.