Liverpool Have Not Repeated Spurs' Failings

That's the view of Matt Stanger, who says Brendan Rodgers is doing his best to sidestep a difficult problem in the transfer market. Liverpool can find value if they stick to their guns...

Last Updated: 22/07/14 at 16:24 Post Comment

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It's a popular pastime in football to make comparisons but rarely does such superficial analysis of the game strengthen our understanding, especially when it comes to value. The trite remark wheeled out repeatedly over the past few weeks is that Toni Kroos cost Real Madrid 'only' £24m while Liverpool spent £2m more on Adam Lallana. Who cares that the significance is redundant because the Reds never stood a chance of signing the German World Cup winner - it's a pithy line that causes much amusement.

Liverpool were taught a lesson in value when Alexis Sanchez was offered to them as part of the deal that took Luis Suarez to Barcelona. At a fee equivalent to £32m the Chilean looked a steal, but his desire to live in London proved an immovable roadblock to the lure of his price tag. Sanchez could have been available on a free transfer but, if he preferred to join Arsenal, then what use would that have been to Liverpool?

The best value is always found in the players that want to come and fit your plans. This is something that Brendan Rodgers has had to learn the hard way at Anfield, with Liverpool struggling to attract the manager's top targets both before and after last season's remarkable second-place finish. Sanchez and 2013 objectives Willian and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all offered zero value to the Reds because all three rejected the club's interest.

Rodgers has found a way around this problem, however, in identifying a number of potential signings outside what Harry Redknapp would term the 'top, top' bracket of the market. Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Emre Can and Lazar Markovic have all arrived for figures below the highest amounts shelled out by Liverpool's rivals this summer, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United all spending more on single transfers than the Premier League runners-up.

But there remains a sense that Rodgers cannot win regardless of his course of action. He was damned for aiming too high in his pursuit of Willian and Mkhitaryan and 12 months on he has been damned for failing to find the star quality to replace Suarez. Rodgers has been told it will be impossible to repeat last year's achievements without a star signing to rival Suarez's quality, but reports that Liverpool are chasing Marco Reus, Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba have understandably been met with laughter.

It's clearly a difficult predicament for the manager. Of course it is near-impossible for Liverpool to replace Suarez with a marquee name before they have proven their Champions League return isn't merely a one-off, but that doesn't necessarily prevent Rodgers from finding a player he can try and develop to Suarez's level. It's seemingly easy to forget that the Uruguayan's goals-per-game ratio in the Premier League more than doubled following Rodgers' appointment in 2012.

The best way for Rodgers to proceed is exactly that which he has undertaken - aiming to sidestep the problem by continuing to place his faith in a playing style that reaped such unexpected rewards last season. While Liverpool have been accused of repeating Tottenham's failings of 2013 - when Elvis was supposedly replaced by the Beatles - Rodgers has refuted that suggestion as he focuses on building a cohesive unit. "There is a lot of work going on to get in the right player," he said. "We have every confidence in the group we have, plus we will bring in more signings. Hopefully they can improve to the levels Luis Suarez improved."

It's an argument that deserves some sympathy. The running theme throughout Spurs' business last summer was rumours of disagreement between Andre Villas-Boas and sporting director Franco Baldini, which may have played a part in the manager eventually losing his job. It was clear that Erik Lamela, signed from Baldini's former club Roma, was not a target for Villas-Boas, while reports following the manager's sacking claimed that almost all of Spurs' 'magnificent seven' were not the Portuguese's choices. "In our job, there is a technical risk when you buy more than three players as you unbalance a bit the stability of your squad," said Arsene Wenger last August, and it proved to be the case.

It should be different at Liverpool. Instead of the disharmony that characterised Spurs' spending, Rodgers' long-term vision is evident in each one of his summer signings so far. Even Rickie Lambert, despite his age, makes compelling sense, providing the plan B that was missing in those agonising closing minutes against Chelsea in April when Liverpool lacked the presence of a target man to unsettle the visitors' defence.

There were knowing nods of agreement when Lambert signed before the World Cup and, although there are doubts over his price tag, there should be similar understanding of the contribution the talented Lallana can provide. He may have cost more than Real Madrid paid for Kroos, but if the 26-year-old can slot seamlessly into Liverpool's system and help to keep the club in the top four, then he will have been worth every penny. That is when we can truly assess the player's value, rather than using the incongruous context of Kroos' move to Real Madrid or Spurs' struggles in 2013.

Matt Stanger - follow him on Twitter.

@buck rogers, Remy,Lambert and Lallana 30+ goals? I can see Remy doing well but have a hunch Lambert will struggle.
- crow

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