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Liverpool may go against 'Ferguson's Formula' for success

Liverpool have earned the right to defy convention and delay new signings

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Jurgen Klopp, with Reds youngster Curtis Jones. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp, with Reds youngster Curtis Jones. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp, with Reds youngster Curtis Jones. Photo: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

If ever there is a club that has earned the right to buck conventional wisdom then it is Liverpool.

Reaching back-to-back Champions League Finals, and winning it last season, becoming Club World Cup champions, winning the Premier League title for the first time in 30 years, losing just three league games in the past two campaigns and all the while playing brilliant, attacking football certainly earns that right.

So much has understandably been made of their superb, strategic recruitment that has been achieved with Liverpool operating a sustainable model, with relatively little owner investment and spending far less than their rivals.

It has been an astonishing success story and Jurgen Klopp, sporting director Michael Edwards and the club's hierarchy have already earned their place in Anfield legend.

And for their next trick? It would be remarkable if Liverpool did as Klopp suggested and not make a major signing this summer.

It would be the ultimate statement in defying convention because Liverpool, more than any other club, are aware of Manchester United developing during their years when Alex Ferguson continually attempted to refresh his squad - although Liverpool may also argue it is something they were adept at doing themselves during their years of dominance.

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Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

Getty Images

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. Photo: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

The 'Harvard Business Review' even published an analysis of what it called 'Ferguson's Formula' with one of the key points being to "dare to rebuild your team".

"Even in times of great success, Ferguson worked to rebuild his team. He is credited with assembling five distinct league-winning squads during his time at the club and continuing to win trophies all the while," Professor Anita Elberse stated.

Liverpool are still in their first cycle, it would appear, and what is exciting for them is whether the young players Klopp has talked up - such as Neco Williams, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott - can be a kind of 'Class of '92' in becoming key additions to the first-team squad.

At the same time, Klopp is adamant there will be no danger of complacency from his "mentality monsters" - and there is no reason to doubt him and his powers of motivation.

After all, when he knocked Bayern Munich off their perch in Germany by winning the title in 2010-'11, he went and did it again the following season by retaining it.

Nevertheless, Klopp then had to deal with his best players, such as Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze, being cherry-picked. Again that should not happen at Liverpool and Klopp has already stated he is enjoying having that security.

Still if there are no big signings it would be the second summer in a row that they have taken a "pause", as the manager puts it, while those around them scramble frantically to try and keep up or catch up.

Okay, Manchester City did not do that last year and have paid the price for not replacing Vincent Kompany but will go for it this summer.

Chelsea were prevented from doing so because of their transfer ban, but are already making up for that with key signings Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech and at least two more to follow, with genuine interest in Kai Havertz, Declan Rice and Ben Chilwell partly funded by the sales of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata.

Liverpool effectively passed on Werner and that was partly driven by two clear factors that they feel will determine what they do: the financial uncertainty caused by Covid-19 and the lack of clarity as to when the transfer window will open and close, and when the next season will start.

The former suggests that money will be tight; the latter suggests that Liverpool, given their strength, may prefer to play a waiting game and make a late entry into the transfer market especially as it is generally felt there will be a fall of around 30 per cent in fees because of the effect of the pandemic.

"Maybe at a later point in the year, if the transfer window is still open, we will know more," Klopp said last week and it felt telling.

Remember, this is the club who lost the Champions League final in 2018, with goalkeeper Loris Karius woefully at fault, but waited almost two months during the close season before eventually securing his replacement, Alisson Becker.

Similarly, Klopp waited half a season before securing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton, because he could not get the defender in the summer and so held on until the window opened in January 2018.

Will the same happen again when it comes to the one area of the team where a world-class addition is needed - Liverpool's attack?

Of course, Takumi Minamino was signed for £7.25million from Red Bull Salzburg in January, but whether he will be able to adequately understudy or replace Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane remains to be seen.

It is obvious, as against Aston Villa, that the drop-off when one of those three does not play is simply too great. Divock Origi has provided some crucial cameos, not least in scoring a winning goal in the Merseyside derby and his unforgettable, match-winning contribution in last season's Champions League semi-final comeback against Barcelona.

But he is not at the same level, while Xherdan Shaqiri is out of the picture and Adam Lallana is leaving. The crushing 4-0 defeat to City showed that the gap between the two teams is not as great as the table suggests and Klopp knows that.

The fear is that Liverpool's dominance this season may persuade the owners that further investment can wait. Especially, since the postponement of January's African Cup of Nations means they will no longer be without Salah or Mane for up to six weeks.

Either way, it will be fascinating to see how it plays out this summer, whether Liverpool do indeed go against 'Ferguson's Formula' or whether it is all part of them showing their strength by moving into the market when it suits.

The suspicion is it will be the latter.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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