Comment - Why Jurgen Klopp should be wondering whether Liverpool's owners share his ambition
Liverpool fans should be reaching for alarm bells as Jurgen Klopp appears to have started plagiarising a transfer script used by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger over the last decade.
In a summer when the Anfield board were expected to back the manager that guided the club back into the Champions League with a host of high profile signings to plug the gaps in Liverpool’s fragile squad, Klopp now appears to be paving the way for a final month of transfer activity that involves looking at other teams signing star players.
“Look out there and tell me five that would make us stronger, five. Then you win a prize,” declared Klopp, in a summer when his club has tried and failed to sign Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk and Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita, and has suggested previously discarded full-back Alberto Moreno could not be a key player in his squad in the upcoming campaign.
Having attended several hundred press conferences with Wenger overt the last two decades, I can confirm that the longest serving manager in the Premier League has used that tiresome line of defence time and again as he made aborted attempts to sign high profile targets.
In a market where every player has a price, we can translate Klopp and Wenger's words in a simple and pretty damning summary; we will not pay the asking prices for top players, therefore we pretend there is no one to buy.
If clubs are not willing to sell their best players - and that is certainly the case with Southampton and Van Dijk at this moment - then transfer ambitions need to be switched as Liverpool look to plug gaps in a squad that was cruelly exposed last season, yet time is running out and Klopp is getting his excuses in early.
Last year’s lessons need to be remembered. In a campaign that lacked Champions League football, Liverpool’s lack of back-up performers meant their season fell apart when Sadio Mane left for international duty in January’s African Cup of Nations, with injuries to Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and treatment room season ticket holder Daniel Sturridge adding to their woes.
Klopp cannot believe his own words when he claims he is ‘happy’ with his squad and doesn’t need too many more additions ahead of a season that may include a glut of high octane Champions League games, and what he hopes will be a Premier League title challenge.
Summer signings Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson and Dominic Solanke have boosted his squad numbers, but if Liverpool fans were told back in May that those three players would be the only new arrivals at Anfield this summer, they would have been desperately disappointed.
“Whatever way the finances are organised, Liverpool’s ambitions for next season will be shaped by their transfer trading in the next couple of months,” states former Liverpool striker John Aldridge. “With Champions League football now secure, Klopp knows this is an opportunity his club simply cannot ignore.
“We might not like the big money clubs are spending this summer, but you either join in with the madness or you will get left behind. Hopefully Liverpool’s owners show they are ready to spend big.”
Liverpool’s Sporting Director Michael Edwards needs to take a large slice of the blame for the shambolic attempts to sign Van Dijk, with the novice appointed to the role last November and adopting an aggressive approach to the unsolicited transfer negotiations that ensured Southampton were riled and will now not sanction any deal.
Edwards was clearly trying to impress Klopp by wrapping up the Van Dijk transfer in a competitive market that also featured competition from Chelsea and Manchester City, but his lack of experience in negotiating big money transfers has been cruelly exposed.
So even if Klopp claims publicly he is happy with his squad, and had turned to the Wenger songbook to project his message, Edwards and the club’s owners (Fenway Sports Group) should be blamed if Liverpool run into injury trouble in the first half of this season and see their ambitions snuffed out for another year as a result.
Whatever Klopp might suggest publicly, he will know that Liverpool need a top class centre-back to partner Joel Matip, additions to their full-back ranks, midfield back-up and a proven centre forward, but it is now clear that those four signings will not be made this month.
If none of those positions are filled by Edwards and his recruitment team, Klopp may be asking whether Liverpool’s hierarchy share his ambition to take this great club back to the top.