By Mick Moran – @m1cklfc
I personally didn’t think it would ever, ever happen – but I’ve finally hit a point with a Liverpool squad in my lifetime where I’m not worrying about who we’re going to sign next.
Since Jurgen Klopp came to the helm in October 2015 Liverpool have paid for 13 players and, apart from Loris Karius who pretty much cost us a Champions League trophy in 17/18 and Marko Grujic who is yet to be fully tried and tested, you could argue that the rest of them were a success in one way or another.
The thing is, as fans we automatically analyse the weaknesses and potential uncertainties in certain positions within the team and squad and speculate as to who could come in and fill voids, whether that’s with your mates at work or down the boozer over a quiet pint after watching the Reds.
In Liverpool’s recent past and especially since Jürgen Klopp’s arrival four years ago we have been quite surprised by his some of his signings.
The purchase of Andy Robertson sticks out as the main one for me – £8m for a Scottish left-back from Hull who showed grit and determination but who needed a lot of work. He clearly needed a huge amount of development in order to make the grade, and I think most of us wondered why are we signing him.
Fast-forward two years, and the 25-year-old is now arguably the best left-back in the world – could you imagine yourself saying that back in July 2017 when we signed him? Not a chance.
The same goes for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He was seemingly stuck in a rut at Arsenal and you knew the lad had bundles of ability – but there were questions about his desire on the field and if he actively wanted to turn his career around.
The chance at Anfield came for him, he grabbed it with both hands and he has gone on to be one of the most popular members of the team after some excellent performances last season, before his campaign was unduly curtailed due to a bad injury against Roma.
He will come back into the fold properly next season and it’s an exciting prospect to think of how well we could go on to do in the 2019/20 season with all the magnificent players we now have around him.
These types of signings have now given us to a starting XI which is among the strongest in world football. These two signings were doubted by many-a Liverpool fan, but once fully integrated into the team, those misgivings soon evaporated.
Fabinho was also doubted at one point – and rightly so as he was signed for big money. Klopp’s persistence to not start a player until he is fully convinced that they have grasped the system didn’t help this, but this is just the boss’ way – there’s definitely method in the madness.
Moving past the signings Klopp has made, I think we’re also at a point where you’re pretty certain that all of the top players want to stay at the club following our success last year.
They’re all in their prime years – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Roberto Firmino and Virgil van Dijk are all still only 27. We now have an excellent core with the introduction of the Dutchman and Alisson, plus more recently Fabinho who had an excellent second half of last season.
We also have a couple of good youngsters waiting in the wings attempting to break into the team like Rhian Brewster and Harry Wilson, plus experienced players like Adam Lallana who has vowed to stay and fight for his place despite not being everyone’s cup of tea.
On Lallana, I believe he is actually a good player who can push the current XI for a starting berth, whilst also remaining patient and waiting in the wings to take someone’s place, by merit or by injury. He has been dogged by injuries and now, at 31, you do start to doubt whether he can recapture the form of three years ago.
If he can, then great. If he can’t? Then he is moved on and we find someone who can push this extremely solid starting XI into being the best they can be.
Competition for places is what we’ve lacked for as long as I can remember and I think now – with a few additions/tweaks here and there – we are almost at a stage where we can realistically and properly challenge in all competitions throughout a season.
My advice? Sit back and enjoy your summer and be prepared for maybe a few surprise signings that come completely out of nowhere, but doubt them at your peril.
Jurgen Klopp certainly won’t, so why should we? He’s earned that right.