By Sam Mathius
You did it. Pat yourself on the back, thank your respective god. You survived Transfer Deadline Day. A day so fraught with absurd rumors, more absurd punditry and English youths making inappropriate gestures behind Sky Sports reporters that it harkens back to passages in the Book of Revelation. If it wasn’t for that last bit, the whole thing would truly be a waste of a day.
Fortunately for Liverpool fans, they could breath normally on Deadline Day. A flurry of early transfer business was topped off by a late push that required some formalities on September 2, ensuring they could all enjoy our weekends knowing that they brought in some solid recruits for reasonable sums.
It wasn’t all rosy though, as many called for owner John W. Henry to open his wallet a bit more just a week ago after a period of stagnation in the market. However, the worries were soon squashed as a triple-threat signing of Mamadou Sakho, Tiago Ilori and Victor Moses on loan. All in all, it was one of the less stressful transfer windows Liverpool fans have experienced in recent history, expect for… well… the whole Luis Suarez thing.
Regardless, when all the summer’s dealings are analyzed as a whole body of work, a high grade is surely warranted. There seems to be more depth all around for Rodgers to choose from which should keep spirits high. Even the attacking options are solid at the moment, once predicted to be an area of immense emaciation with the pending departure of El Pistolero. However, with the enigmatic Uruguayan set to return in late September and Daniel Sturridge on a sure pace to score at least 38 league goals, firepower is certainly available.
Aspas brings the grit
Upon hearing that Liverpool was interested in Iago Aspas, I did what anyone would do: I emailed my old Spanish teacher who is a massive Celta Vigo to get a scouting report about the lad. His assessment: “He’s the leading goal scorer on a team that sucks. I’m inclined to think that the best thing about him is his name.”
Although he’s no world beater, I have to say, there seems to be more to the lad than a snappy name. The initial reports of his temperamental spirit were a little unnerving but his early season form shows some promise. In particular, he does appear to be a little punk, in the most admirable sense of the word. His work rate is noticeable, never willing to lay off the defenders heels, causing them countless headaches like the dog that simply will not get off your leg.
Apart from his tenacity, his first-touch is one attribute that quickly stood out. He’s capable of settling the ball quickly and turning it into a productive pass with the nest swing of his boot. He puts in a working class shift and has just enough Spanish flair to keep the ball nestled close, ready to spring a clever pass to the likes of Sturridge, Coutinho and hopefully Suarez. A squad player perhaps but one that has proven worthy of the starting role so far and will certainly cause issues against most back lines.
Mignolet comes just in time
Coming to terms with the fact that one of your favorite players just isn’t who he used to be is one of the toughest things to do as a supporter. For Liverpool fans, that’s the conundrum we’ve faced with Pepe Reina. In fact, I’m sure many fans still haven’t.
But the honest truth is that Reina was always a great distributor and shot stopper. What he lacked was height – obviously no fault of his own – and the accompanying ability to deal with set pieces. Simon Mignolet solves that problem. So far, the Belgian has been superb. He’s proven to be a top-tier shot stopper that can send rebounds away from danger if necessary and hold onto even the most stinging of shots. Although he may not have the passing and foot skills that Reina had, he’s certainly a keeper on the upswing in his career.
At the start of the summer, the back line was arguably the most deficient unit in the squad. A retiring Jamie Carragher left a center back group consisting of the inconsistent Martin Skrtel, the injury-prone Daniel Agger and the unconfident Sebastian Coates.
A free transfer, Kolo Toure was never supposed to be the permanent solution, rather a duct tape patch for the broken defense. However, the Ivorian turned back the clocks in his first two matches, showcasing the strength that made him a coveted defender at Arsenal. Most impressive was how he easily dealt with the formidable Christian Benteke away at Aston Villa.
Still, recruits were sorely needed. Fortunately, Liverpool was able to bring in one of the most highly rated young central defenders in Europe in Mamadou Sakho. With slightly fewer than 200 appearances to his name for Paris Saint-Germain, the 23-year-old is a tantalizing mix of size, strength and speed, capable of covering ground with the best strikers in the Premier League. Surely, he will take time to settle but don’t be surprised if he impresses early in his Liverpool career.
Moses leads the rest
Topping the list of the other recruits is Victor Moses, followed closely by Aly Cissokho. The former is exciting because he’s proven to be a real force on his day in the Premier League, while the latter has the experience, speed and versatility to offer depth down the left side.
The loan pair will add to the squad but their long-term futures at the club are cloudy at best, Moses in particular. Regardless, they should have a positive impact.
Then there are Tiago Ilori and Luis Alberto. Honestly, I can’t say much about Ilori and Alberto looks like more of a project than an immediate first-team contributor, which for a 20-year-old is to be expected.
Making the grade
Nothing is perfect. Keeping that in mind, I’d say Liverpool deserves a B- for their dealings, narrowly missing out on a B+. It’s hard to overlook to low-price of £11.8m that Tottenham paid for Christian Eriksen and say it wasn’t disappointing that the price wasn’t at least twice the amount. Also, I’ll be super nitpicky and say I wish I would have seen more teenage prospects recruited.
However, it’s clear that past transfer hardships have provided educational fodder for John Henry, Ian Ayre and Tom Werner. Here are some numbers to put this summer’s transfer proficiency into context:
Cost of Liverpool’s eight recruits: £46.7m
Price Arsenal paid for Mesut Ozil: £44m
Number of clubs that brought in more than Liverpool in sales (£27.1m): 2