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50-50 Challenge: Merseyside derby

Liverpool vs. Everton 5 days ago
Read
 Posted by Steven Kelly
Sep 3, 2014

How did Liverpool do in the window?

ESPN FC's Craig Burley gives his opinion on Liverpool's transfer market summer signings.

Ins and Outs

Players in: Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4 million), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.75 million), Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25 million), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, undisclosed), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, undisclosed), Divock Origi (Lille, £10 million), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid, loan), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla, undisclosed), Mario Balotelli (AC Milan, undisclosed)

Players out: Luis Suarez (Barcelona, £75 million), Iago Aspas (Sevilla, loan), Divock Origi (Lille, loan), Jack Robinson (QPR, undisclosed), Daniel Agger (Brondby, undisclosed), Andre Wisdom (West Brom, loan), Jose Reina (Bayern Munich, undisclosed), Martin Kelly (Crystal Palace, undisclosed), Jordan Ibe (Derby, loan), Tiago Ilori (Bordeaux, loan), Sebastian Coates (Sunderland, loan), Oussama Assaidi (Stoke, loan)

Summing up the window

There has been an awful lot incoming to sift through, and that in itself makes the grade pessimistically low. So much needs to be done to incorporate so many individuals that it is nigh impossible to calculate the exact effect on the club's chances this season.

That's before anyone has seen them perform, of course. Liverpool have chosen to spread the Suarez bounty around, opting for four or five other reinforcements in weak areas for more sensible prices from their own pocket. All together it's easily the biggest spend in the club's history.

With that in mind, it can't be ignored that this won't be just for the current season but for two, maybe even three, years into the future. It's an incredible vote of confidence in Brendan Rodgers. A quick look at the names bought reveals an intriguing measure of talent, either already confirmed at their previous clubs or seen as great potential.

One look at the sales, one in particular, makes you realise what the club has sadly lost. 6/10

Best piece of business?

Talking football in fiscal terms can be pretty annoying. What ultimately matters is whether you get the right player, no matter what he cost.

Much has been made of the other clubs' signings of inferior strikers that cost them almost as much as Balotelli cost Liverpool. There have also been references to "sell-on value," an ugly but necessary consideration in the modern game. Though even his agent speaks of Balotelli's "last chance," at a big club anyway, it would not be difficult to sell him for the same fee if things didn't work out.

A slender chance exists that not only could Balotelli fail but that he could also drag everyone else down with him, making the sensible-business angle moot. There's no arguing with the fact that the fee for a Premier League winner and an influential international is almost laughable. It's whom that joke is going to be at the expense of that will keep even neutrals engrossed this season.

Worst piece of business?

The reported pittance brought in for Agger is obviously ridiculous, yet if it is true, that there is an element of compassion in the decision to send a quality, still relatively young centre-half back to his homeland makes me prouder of my club than if it had squeezed every last penny out of the deal. He has done quite enough in a red shirt to warrant understanding and goes with everyone's blessing, I'm sure.

As for the buys, every writer will hate this particular question. The potential for having it thrown back in your face is enormous. "Aren't you the one who said Markovic would be a dud?" I could cop out, be terribly old-fashioned and name Lovren since the reported £20 million for a defender just feels wrong even in the modern era. Gone are the days of Sami Hyypia and Stephane Henchoz combined for £7 million.

What Liverpool needed most of all is organisation and discipline at the back, which can be done with individuals that cost a fraction of the Lovren money. It's almost as if fans are expecting him to do all that restructuring himself! He really would be worth the fee then.

People will be watching closely for clean sheets or general improvement on a defensive record that largely cost Liverpool the title last season. Whether it's fair to give any credit or pin any blame on one individual is for another discussion, but spend that much on one centre-half and fingers will point, no matter how unfair it is.

What remaining issues are there?

The simple question of what Liverpool's first-choice team will be. Will there even be one, or will rotation become the rule rather than the exception?

So much focus was placed on one competition last year that the only changes needed were for injury, suspension or the occasional tweak. With the workload increased and the squad much larger as a result, quite what to do with what on the surface seems like an embarrassment of riches could become an obstacle in itself.

That said, the loss of Agger and Kelly and a new injury to Martin Skrtel raise questions over the depth in the one area Liverpool needed to strengthen most: the back four. Glen Johnson's place also looks in danger, so pressure will build on loanee Manquillo or Jon Flanagan to step in.

The biggest question is whether Daniel Sturridge can strike up a new, similarly fruitful partnership with another of football's so-called bad boys. More prolific feats from the two main strikers may yet again cover any cracks in the rest of the side.

Will Victor Valdes be in place between the posts by January?

Who could help in January?

The trickiest question of all. A quick look at the top figures suggests Liverpool have spent everything there is to spend. Keeping faith in the players they already have might be the only way to go by the turn of the year. Ideally, additions would not be necessary.

A good defensive midfielder would be useful, but that would be an admission that Steven Gerrard isn't really the answer in that department. For a side that scores 100 goals and doesn't really care how many it concedes, Gerrard was probably ideal.

If there was ever to be a genuine commitment from Rodgers to protecting that defence and reducing those numbers significantly, the next Javier Mascherano would come in handy. All the major clubs will be searching for such a player, though, and once it became an auction, Liverpool would probably have to bow out.

It would be great if they discovered such an individual slaving away at an unfashionable club for a fairly low fee or -- perish the thought -- find him within their youth ranks. Sadly that no longer seems to be in fashion nowadays.

Should the rumoured Victor Valdes move fail to materialise, if Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero still hasn't left Sampdoria and any question marks remain over Simon Mignolet, that might also be considered.

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