Following a second consecutive disappointing result for Liverpool this weekend, there is growing scrutiny on the club’s owners and managers and their role in the poor results.
This is not the first time that Liverpool have put in a hugely impressive performance, their victory over Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and then lost relatively simple games immediately afterwards. Their defeat to Swansea City means that they now have to work considerably harder to try to secure a top four finish in the Premier League.
If that wasn’t bad enough, they then crashed out of the FA Cup against West Bromwich Albion over the weekend once again plunging the club into a mid-season crisis.
Just one year ago a fantastic win over City meant that Liverpool began 2017 full of hopes for success. However, their dreams were immediately ruined as they crashed out of two competitions leaving Klopp and the team devastated. At the time there was talk of defensive mistakes, poor goalkeeping and questions over the club’s lack of spending in the transfer window and once again, close to a year on, exactly the same topics are being discussed once again.
Without a doubt part of the responsibility for the poor performances against Swansea and West Bromwich lies with Klopp and there is now a real chance that he will end his third season with the team without winning a trophy.
Many are saying that at least two of Liverpool’s persistent problems are the fault of Klopp and his coaching staff. His use of Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius on a weekly basis has led to questions over his ability to judge goalkeepers. Many believe that on numerous occasions the duo have shown that they are not up to the job and that they should have been replaced a long time ago.
People are also questioning the apparent lapses in concentration in the team’s defence that do not seem to have improved since the £75 million signing of Virgil van Dijk. Once again, it is Klopp and his coaching staff that are coming under fire for this weakness.
Despite all of this, the majority of criticism is being aimed at the club’s owners, John W Henry, John Werner and the Fenway Sports Group.
The Fenway Sports Group was welcomed to the club by fans who had had enough of the leadership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett in 2010. The new owners promised to reinforce the club and guide them back to glory at a time when the Premier League was dominated by teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.
Welcome to the family. 🔴👋
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 29, 2018
When the owners recruited Klopp as a replacement for Brendan Rodgers as manager in October 2015 many were saying that it was proof that the club’s owners were truly ambitions and prepared to back the club.
However, a swift look at the club’s transfer balance sheet over the last three seasons would suggest otherwise. Klopp is currently in his fifth transfer window at Liverpool and a look at the profit and loss account is cause for alarm for many of the team’s fans.
While it is true that it can be hard to obtain exact transfer figures as many clubs now declare an ‘undisclosed fee’ for a majority of deals, many figures have been reported over the last two seasons. In the 2016/17 season Liverpool spent £61.9 million on signings and made £76 million on player sales, a profit on £14.1 million. So far this season Liverpool have spent £154.9 million on signings and made £177 million on player sales, a profit of £22.4 million.
Of course, this season’s balance sheet has been majorly boosted by the £142 million sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona earlier in January. However, people are questioning how a club as big as Liverpool can be operating at a profit for transfer trading in an era when the big Premier League clubs are spending more money than ever before.
Manchester City are on the edge of passing the £400 million barrier for player purchases since Pep Guardiola took over in the summer of 2016 and they will pass it if they succeed in signing Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte. Similarly, Manchester United have been spending vast amounts on signing big names such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez over the last few seasons.
It would seem that Liverpool’s owners wish to make the club into a business that sells its star players before buying a replacement. The recent purchase of Van Dijk serves as evidence of this policy.
There have been recent reports that Liverpool’s owners were reluctant to pay the £75 million asked by Southampton for Van Dijk at the start of September but that they then changed their minds, the reason for which is not known, and informed Southampton that they would be happy to pay the fee.
It may be that Liverpool decided to agree to the asking price for Van Dijk after they had reached the decision to sell Coutinho to Barcelona this month. It is the scenario that has been widely assumed by officials at Southampton and fans.
If so, it means that the signing of Van Dijk was a deal that was purely funded by Barcelona’s cash. Similarly, while Naby Keita is due to arrive at Liverpool in the summer for a fee that could potentially rise to £60 million, the departure of high earning players such as Emre Can and Daniel Sturridge means that there will be room in the budget for the signing.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 29, 2018
It seems highly unlikely that this kind of budgeting is what Klopp would have agreed to when he ended his sabbatical from the sport to take on the role of Liverpool manager. However, he is now in a position where he is being forced to make excuses for the owners’ attitudes.
So far Klopp has skilfully avoided questions in media conferences about Fenway Sports Group’s ambitions but this doesn’t mean that he isn’t frustrated at the situation. If the Group doesn’t begin to change the way it operates there is every chance that Liverpool’s fans will start to make their feelings known. The owners are at risk of losing the loyalty of supporters who will look at the attitude of other teams and except more from Liverpool.
There is now just over a day left of the current transfer window and there is some evidence that Liverpool are trying to make some last minute deals. Just yesterday Roma reportedly rejected a first offer from the team for Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker in a sign that Klopp may be aware of his current problems.
There have also been reports that Liverpool has approached Monaco about Keita Balde and that the club is willing to listen to offers. Balde moved to the Ligue 1 team from Lazio last summer for £30 million but sporting director Michael Emanalo is thought to be ready to cash in on the player already. Liverpool were interested in signing Tomas Lemar but the asking price of £90 million is thought to be too steep, as a result, Balde could be a viable alternative.
On the other hand, it seems that Liverpool could lose another player or two. It was reported that Daniel Sturridge is close to joining Newcastle United on loan. He has barely featured this season and started in just five Premier League games so far. There has been interest in him from Inter Milan and Sevilla but it seems that Newcastle are closest to reaching a deal.
Furthermore, last Friday Klopp said that the team are “not really likely” to make any more signings before the end of the month. If so it means their only signings will have been Van Dirk and Falkirk youngster Tony Gallacher who they signed last week for £200,000.
In addition, Klopp has indicated that Emre Can will be allowed to run down his contract at Liverpool and leave on a free transfer at the end of the season. Klopp insists that Can will stay until the end of his contract but this of course means that he will be free to leave as soon as it ends.
If this is the case there is likely to be increased scrutiny on what the team plan for the summer. Klopp will be under intense pressure to bring in at least one big name. Of course, if he guides the team through the rest of this season without incident then the pressure would ease considerably.
All in all, Liverpool fans have reason to be concerned but it seems that it is the team’s owners who should undergo real scrutiny, rather than its manager and players, and there are sure to be some tough questions asked in regards to their transfer attitude.
Matchday. Back in @premierleague action.
🕗 20:00 GMT
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 30, 2018