The Best Of The Rest

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Author: Mikey O’Brien  


Some Liverpol supporters have gotten frustrated with the club’s failure to sign marquee players in the transfer market. Mikey O’Brien gives us some players from the Premier League outside the Top 7 – and who he thinks will suit the Reds.

I know a lot of Liverpool fans have grown tired of our tendency to shop from other Premier League teams lower down the table than ourselves. On many occasions in the past, we’ve signed the supposedly better players from lesser sides hoping that the extra quality we’d be able to put around them would take their game to a new level, often to no avail.

Whilst no new signings are guaranteed to succeed regardless of where they’re brought in from, in the last 5-6 years we’ve seen the likes of Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing, Andy Carroll and Christian Benteke predictably fail, whilst the likes of Joe Allen, Simon Mignolet and Dejan Lovren have been far from outright successes.

Despite such an approach perhaps representing a lack of ambition and to a certain extent, lazy scouting, in certain instances buying domestically has its benefits, with arguably our 2 best signings of last summer coming from Southampton and Newcastle; Henderson, Lallana and Clyne have all made significant positive contributions since joining the club too.

For each of the positions which most fans seem to agree need strengthening in the forthcoming window, i’ve chosen 1 player from a club outside the EPL’s top 7 who could add something to our squad for next season. Here are my selections for GK, CB and LB.

GK – Jack Butland – Stoke

It’s fair to say I wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice as far as this position is concerned, but Butland is an exceptionally gifted young player.

My major concern with regards to Butland is that he’s been out injured for 51 weeks, meaning he certainly wouldn’t be joining in ideal circumstances. Unlike with outfielders it’s difficult to ease goalkeepers back into the fold as consistency between the sticks is vital. With so much at stake in each of Liverpool’s league games, perhaps it would be better for Butland to prove his fitness and get back up to speed playing for a Stoke side who, with all due respect, are destined for a mid-table finish.

I’d still be more willing to take a gamble on Butland’s physical state than go for the some of the other players people will likely point towards, though. Ability and profile wise, he’s the stand-out. We’re the smallest side in the league along with Man City, so having a 6”5 goalkeeper who’s shown he can dominate his penalty area would help compensate when teams target our lack of aerial prowess from open play and set pieces. Butland is also, like Karius, a natural at coming off his line and acting as a sweeper keeper, if anything showing an over eagerness to rush out, and he’s a very adept shot stopper.

I can’t help but feel that the likes of Sunderland’s much talked about Jordan Pickford and Burnley’s Tom Heaton are made to look better than they really are as they’re peppered with shots every game, giving them more opportunities to make spectacular, Match of the Day worthy saves. I have doubts as to whether or not Pickford, who’s only 6”1, would be able to deal with the crosses that teams frequently put in against us, and there’s not much evidence to suggest that either are quick off their line or can distribute effectively.

Let’s not forget that Mignolet, like Pickford, looked good playing for the Black Cats prior to signing for us, but since 2013 his all round ability has been shown up as he’s been asked to do a wider variety of things.

Arguably the best goalkeeper outside of the top 7 is Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, but again he’s 6”1, and thus perhaps not the type of keeper we’re in need of. At 30, he’s tried and tested, and rather than signing a keeper just 1 year older than Karius, someone more experienced to give the German time to adapt before becoming our number 1 may make more sense. Butland is hardly error prone though, and Karius and Butland competing for both a short and long term place would be intriguing to witness.

CB – Ben Gibson – Middlesbrough

It would be too obvious to say Virgil van Dijk, without doubt the player most worth pursuing if we were actually restricted to targeting players plying their trade in England (and Swansea). Keeping hold of Mamadou Sakho when his loan spell at Crystal Palace comes to an end in May also doesn’t count for the purposes of this article, despite my eagerness to see him and Klopp settle their differences this summer.

Ben Gibson would be a decent acquisition, though, and whether we like to admit it or not, acquiring the Middlesbrough man is a far more realistic prospect than seeing either van Dijk or Sakho pull on an LFC shirt in 2017/18.

Trying to select a CB from teams between 8th and 20th is especially difficult as the sides that are relatively solid, e.g. West Brom, tend to sit quite deep, playing a direct or counter attacking brand of football. Their centre backs have protection in front of them and from their full backs either side, and would be horribly exposed if put in our team. On the other hand, the ones that try to play expansively, in a style more comparable to that which Jurgen Klopp implements, the likes of Bournemouth, Swansea and West Ham for example, concede an absolute bucketload. West Ham’s Winston Reid and Angelo Ogbonna possess all the physical attributes you could ask for but are too rash and often lose concentration.

Gibson, however, whilst playing for a defensive minded Middlesbrough outfit, has shown throughout this season, and perhaps with greater certainty than our current crop of central defenders, that he can perform the basics of defending consistently and reliably, making no defensive errors of note this season. Our centre backs have shown a tendency to make a hash of situations unrelated to the high line they find themselves in.

Middlesbrough’s backline has chopped and changed too, with Gibson having to play alongside 3 different partners so far this campaign, and whilst Aitor Karanka set his teams up incredibly negatively, the likes of Bernardo, Barragan and Fabio are hardly defensive rocks, in fact appearing suspect to say the least whenever I’ve watched them. Clayton and Forshaw are also naturally more forward thinking midfielders, so Gibson has still had to take on a lot of defensive responsibility, lead, and has been the key to Middlesbrough boasting a better defensive record than both Liverpool and Arsenal so far this season.

Also, whilst he may not have had the chance to properly demonstrate his pace and his ability to defend in space, putting him in the same boat as the likes of Burnley’s Michael Keane, one stand out quality that Gibson possesses is his composure/ability with the ball at his feet. He rarely looses possession, even when put under real pressure, passing progressively, and is adept at striding out of defence and into the midfield. He’s only 6’1, however, and i’m adamant that we should be looking to add height to our team rather than take it away, but at just 24 and being left footed, he’d make a better buy than any of the alternatives.

LB – Ryan Bertrand – Southampton

This was a pretty easy one.

Bertrand plays for a Southampton side who’ve shown their defensive capabilities against Liverpool 3 times this season, not conceding a single goal across 270 minutes of football, as well as in a number of other matches. He’s played a significant part in them boasting the second best defensive record of all the teams under consideration here. He rarely gets caught out positionally when asked to play more conservatively, and is a lot quicker and more energetic than our current left back James Milner, allowing him to recover when players do get in behind down his side. He’s exceptional at dealing with one on ones too.

Southampton certainly aren’t a team that always sit back, and he’s shown his attacking prowess on multiple occasions this campaign and in recent years. For example, he was one of the stand out performers in Southampton’s recent League Cup final, causing Man Utd no end of problems as he continuously looked to overlap and provide width as Nathan Redmond cut infield. He’s provided the same number of assists as Milner and Clyne combined (5) in the EPL this season, despite playing 9 less games than them both, and has scored 2 goals from open play, with Milner and Clyne managing 0 apiece.

Aaron Cresswell, his injury troubles aside, is a good player too, but again, at 5”7 he’s lacking in the heigh department, and Andrew Robertson looks talented but we need reliability. Also, if we’re still worried about players not being able to make the step up and handle the pressure that comes with playing for a club like Liverpool, it’s worth noting that Bertrand started in and won a Champions League final with Chelsea against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, coming up against a right hand side of Arjen Robben and Philipp Lahm. Doesn’t get much bigger than that.

Written by Mikey O’Brien (@MikeyO_BrienLFC)

Centre Backs To Consider

Despite our offensive struggles since the turn of the year, failing to break down low block sides that give us little space to operate in, there’s no doubt that our defence is the area of our team that needs most significant improvement heading into next season and beyond. 

A solid base to work from is crucial, and would give us a better chance of picking up results and points in games in which the attack is not clicking.

For the last 5 seasons we’ve simply conceded too many goals too consistently to compete at the top end of the table, being exposed on the counter attack and dominated in the air, not to mention gifting our opposition goals with comical individual errors. 

 A number of the defenders currently at the club have proven on many occasions that they cannot play in the tactical system that Jürgen Klopp implements and that they don’t possess the general quality required. 

Joël Matip impressed hugely towards the beginning of the season, and despite being largely poor since his injury, his place in the team is secure. Finding him a partner this summer has to be a priority.

Virgil Van Dijk is the player everybody talks about, and for obvious reasons, given the immense quality he’s displayed in his 2 years at Southampton. 

To put it bluntly, though, we have little to no chance of signing the Dutchman. He’ll likely cost around £50m, and Manchester Utd, Manchester City and Chelsea will all be in for him when the transfer window re-opens in June. 

I’ve seen few alternatives linked by papers or even mentioned by fans, so here I’ve had a look at 3 players I think Liverpool should be targeting.

Kalidou Koulibaly

This lad is a tank.

Despite not pulling up any trees in his first season at Napoli, the 25 year old Senegalese international has quickly risen to prominence under the management of Maurizio Sarri, attracting the interest of Arsenal last summer, as well as Chelsea, who supposedly tabled a hefty bid for the player before resigning David Luiz.  

Despite being 6”2, an average height for a centre back, he’s particularly imposing physically, with his strength and aggression being the most notable facets of his game. 

The power that he possesses is something we seriously lack, resulting in us being bullied by centre forwards such as Fernando Llorente, Salomon Rondon and Olivier Giroud in the recent past, not to mention the havoc that the limited Marouane Fellaini has managed to cause in several previous meetings with Manchester United. 

We wouldn’t be so soft with Koulibaly in the lineup, as despite not being exceptional in the air (though by no means is he poor), he would at least challenge and make life uncomfortable for opposition forwards, knocking taller players off balance and preventing them from making clean contact; this would make a change from the often passive marking we see from our backline.  

Statistically he performs well, making more tackles than Matip, Lovren, Klavan and Lucas with 2.2 per game in all competitions, Lovren and Klavan being the closest with 1.4 each. 

Koulibaly has actually made an even more impressive 2.9 tackles per game in the Champions League this campaign, demonstrating his ability to perform on the big stage against top players. 

His positioning and reading of the game is impressive too, completing 2.2 interceptions per game this season, again more than any of the players we currently have to choose from, demonstrating his tendency to defend on the front foot, suitable for the high press.  

Much like the ostracised Mamadou Sakho, he is an astute and progressive passer of the ball as well, despite a rather ungainly appearance. 

He also possesses the ability to maraud up the pitch, last season completing a remarkable 88% of 17 attempted take ons, whilst this season he has completed 0.4 dribbles per game, twice as many as Matip, who most would consider to be a very accomplished ball carrier. 

Lovren is limited in possession, and having two centre backs that can bypass opposition players next year could prove invaluable against sides that sit deep as others are draw out of position to close down.  

My only concern over Koulibaly is his capacity to randomly switch off and make costly errors in games despite playing to an otherwise high standard, again like Sakho to an extent. 

He’s made more errors leading to goals (2) so far this season than Matip (0), Lovren (1), Klavan (1) and Lucas (1). 

He has played more games than the aforementioned quartet though, and the latter 3 certainly have gotten away with a number of howlers.

Presnel Kimpembe

Presnel Kimpembe is a 21 year old French centre back who plays for PSG. 

He’s very highly rated in France and across Europe, having drawn particular praise following his impressive display on his Champions League debut against Barcelona last month, as PSG demolished the Spanish champions 4-0 at home in the first leg of their last 16 tie. 

PSG opted not to buy a new CB in the summer of 2016 despite the departure of Brazilian David Luiz, who joined Chelsea in a £30m deal, speaking volumes about the trust that manager Unai Emery has in his abilities, especially given the tendency of captain Thiago Silva to pick up injuries and miss key matches.  

Like Koulibaly, Kimpembe is 6”2 and left footed, which is by no means an essential or decisive characteristic but the balance either would provide, particularly when playing out from the back, could be of benefit. 

Perhaps the most notable strength that Kimpembe possesses is his ability with the ball at his feet. He’s averaged an impressive 93.4% passing accuracy this season, despite attempting more long balls than all of our centre backs bar Lovren, and has averaged 0.8 successful dribbles when he’s taken to the field, twice as many as Koulibaly and thus four times as many as Matip. 

It is worth noting the relative lack of pressure he’s put under in Ligue 1, though he was equally as expansive against Barcelona, one of the best teams in the world at winning the ball back high up the pitch.

Of course, most Liverpool fans are probably more interested in his defensive prowess, and are probably keen to depart from the Brendan Rodgers approach of buying centre backs according to their ability as footballers rather than their ability to keep the ball out of our net. 

Kimpembe, though, has conceded just 8 goals this season in the 20 appearances he’s made in all competitions, keeping a clean sheet against arguably the best strike force in the history of football. 

Alongside another young player in Marquinhos, and in a game where PSG certainly didn’t sit back, Kimpembe held his own and looked assured. 

On average, he’s been dribbled past just 0.2 times per game, half the rate of Lucas and Klavan and nearly a quarter that of Lovren (0.7) , demonstrating his ability to defend one on one, vital for us given the number of times our centre backs are left isolated.

For me his age is the only off-putting factor, as we’re crying out for reliability and leadership, though given the players we’ve gone after in the past, his youthfulness may make him a more realistic FSG buy. 

One general grievance I’ve had with our transfer activities in the past, though, is that despite a dedication to buying young players with potential who we believe will develop into top class players, we rarely buy the best and most highly rated youngsters around. 

The likes of Tiago Ilori and Luis Alberto, for example, were unknowns, Ilori being on the fringes of the Sporting Lisbon team and Alberto plying his trade in the Spanish second division. 

There are few better centre backs right now at Kimpembe’s age, so if we opt to sign someone with little experience who we have long term plans for, then at least make it be him.

John Brooks

Brooks is probably the least well known of the 3 players I’ve mentioned, but he could well be the ideal fit for our team. 

The American has been a key player this season for German Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, a side on course for the their best league finish since 2009 following a turbulent decade for the club and currently firmly in the race for Champions League qualification. 

He was also his country’s star player as the USA reached the semi-finals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario. 

Brooks is 6”4, so partnering him with 6”5 Matip would give us the tallest centre back pairing in the Premier League. 

Given the relative lack of height throughout the rest of our first team, (Clyne, Alexander-Arnold, Milner, Moreno, Wijnaldum, Lallana, Coutinho and Mané are all 5”9 or under!) and our subsequent inability to deal with set pieces, this would be of massive help. 

He would also be extremely effective in helping to counteract the long ball, a tactic sides are using with increasing regularity against us, as it allows them to bypass the pressing of our forwards and midfielders but also because it inexplicably seems to cause mass panic and confusion in and around our penalty area.  

I’m also not just assuming that him being tall would ease the chaos, as Brooks puts his height to good use that’s for sure. 

He’s won a remarkable 70% of his aerial duels this season, significantly better than Klavan with 49%, Lucas with 50%, and Lovren, who’s best attribute is probably his heading ability, with 64%. 

And make no mistake, the Bundesliga has its fair share of powerful target men, most notably the likes of Anthony Modeste, Sandro Wagner and Alexander Meier, and centre backs such as 6”7 Jannik Vestergaard who he would’ve had the pleasure of marking at corners and for free kicks, meaning Brooks wouldn’t face a particularly sterner challenge if he were to make the move to England.  

The American is again a left footed and thus left sided player, and as he’s quick for a centre half he should, as with Koulibaly and Kimpembe, be able to handle being part of a high line next to Matip. 

He reads the game well, like Koulibaly making more interceptions per match this season than any of our current crop, and with 2.8 he’s actually made a good few more than the Senegalese man too, with Koulibaly averaging 2.2 as mentioned above. 

Also having more tackles per game than our 4 current options, he’s been instrumental in Hertha boasting the 3rd best defensive record in Germany so far this campaign, conceding less than the likes of Dortmund and 13 fewer than Bayer Leverkusen, who a centre back very popular amongst Liverpool fans, Jonathan Tah, features regularly for (not to say Tah’s a poor player or at fault of course, as in fact I agree that he is another player we ought to consider). 

Another factor that works in Brooks’ favour is the fact that he speaks English. Communication between a back line is vital, so not having to learn the language could contribute to more instant success. Of course, though, this is no guarantee.

Written by @MickeyO_BrienLFC

Five Things I’d Like To See Between Now And May

Regardless of the time of year, whether just before or during a transfer window or just after one with the next still several months away, transfers are still often the first thing on everyone’s minds. 

Fans love to discuss what positions they believe are in need of strengthening, what sorts of players we ought to be targeting, both in terms of style and profile but also which specific names should be on our radar, and to hypothesise how our starting XI could shape up next season.  

I’m no different. For the record I think a summer of heavy investment and real ambition shown in the transfer market is needed, and hopefully lies ahead. 

But one thing which could significantly impact upon the quality of player that we can attract is whether or not we’re in the Champions League, though I think wages are even more crucial.

Qualification hangs in the balance, with our dreadful form since the turn of the year meaning we now find ourselves in 5th place, just 1 point ahead of 6th placed Manchester United.

Obviously the management and players currently at their disposal will be focusing solely on the challenges they face in the immediate future.

As fans we can afford to look further ahead, but here are 5 things I would like to see, and things which I think are doable, in the fixtures that remain this season.

1) Less crosses. A lot less.

Yes, I’m looking at you James Milner. When we’re struggling to break down low block defences, which has been a somewhat regular occurrence in recent weeks, we lack imagination and thus penetration. 

We currently revert to playing the ball from side to side, seemingly hoping for space to create itself, without really forcing the issue. 

Eventually, after 4 or 5 goes of the same passing sequence, the ball ends up at the feet of the aforementioned Milner, who loses patience and, 30 yards out from goal, swings an aimless cross into the box.

Such a basic tactic may bear fruit against our defence, or perhaps for a team that plays with a target man, but it does not and hasn’t for us. 

We’re one of the smallest sides in the league, and whilst at the start of the season we were great at getting a multitude of attacking players into the box, of late 5 ”11 Roberto Firmino has been left to challenge alone against two or more centre-half brutes standing at 6’2 or taller, which is a battle he’s almost never going to win. 

Neither Sturridge nor even Origi are particularly good in the air either.

I don’t know exactly how we get back to the performances we put in against Hull at home in September, or Watford in November.

 I want to see the players taking more risks; trying give and goes on the edge of the box and taking players on, even if it it doesn’t come off, is at least playing to our strengths and is more commendable than going for the easy option and hoping for the best. 

2) Moreno back in at LB.

Since our Europa League final defeat to Sevilla last May, the vast majority of Liverpool fans have taken a strong dislike to Moreno, to put it kindly, and never want to see him put on a Liverpool shirt again. 

Whilst I understand people’s concerns over the Spaniard’s lack of defensive capabilities and reliability (though I don’t think Milner has been as defensively solid as has been made out by many.

I believe some of the criticism of Moreno’s positioning is harsh), I think he would help out in an attacking sense, potentially contributing to a return to the attacking prowess we displayed in the Autumn. 

Moreno is hardly fantastic in possession, often being rash and making poor decisions, but he provides genuine width. 

Opposition players know that Milner has neither the pace nor the energy (he’s clearly knackered) to overlap and sprint down the touchline.

He’s always going to cut inside, and having both him and Coutinho looking to use their right foot from the left hand side closes off the space for the 2 of them to operate in and makes us an extremely predictable outfit.

When our intricate passing and the movement of our frontline is not clicking, which it hasn’t done for a while now, Milner offers very little in the attacking third.

Moreno’s mere presence is likely to be more beneficial than anything Milner’s bringing to the table, especially against lesser sides. 

Opposition players are pulled wide to mark Moreno, their defences are stretched and the one twos I previously called for in central areas become simpler. 

Plus, the quality of Milner’s crossing is horrendous. 

The fact we resort to crossing as a team is disappointing, but Milner’s poor delivery exaggerates the problem. Firmino’s headed goal against Swansea in January was the Englishman’s first headed goal assist from 143 crosses up until that point this season. 

That is ridiculously poor, and for that alone he deserves relegation to the bench for the time being.  

3) Sturridge/2 up front against the so called lesser sides.

It’s fairly clear that Sturridge will be moving on in the summer. I realise that he’s not an ideal fit for this team and what we’re supposed to be trying to do system and style wise, but as alluded to, said system/style isn’t currently being implemented to any great effect against teams that sit deep. 

Whilst I don’t want Klopp to deviate from his plans on how he wants his Liverpool team to play long term, in the short term a compromise may be necessary.

Sure, Sturridge doesn’t press in the same manner as Firmino, though I think the way he blocks passing lanes is more effective than it appears.

He may not be able to link the play in the same way either, but he’s one of the most clinical players around. 

When we’re not at our free-flowing best, which no team ever is, we need someone who can stick away one of the few chances we are able to create, which Firmino has failed to do on numerous occasions this campaign, costing us points against the likes of Southampton away and Chelsea at Anfield. 

In our games against Arsenal and City that are still to come, Firmino as a false 9 is probably the way to go, as we’ll be given the freedom to play as we wish.

Against teams whose aim is to kill the game and nick something on the break, teams who we cannot open up consistently, the sort we play most weeks, someone of Sturridge’s finishing prowess will come in real handy.

I’d also not be against us playing 2 up front. Whether this meant playing Sturridge and Firmino up top together or brining Origi in to the fold, we need more players in the penalty area asking questions of opposition centre backs. 

If my first and second wishes aren’t fulfilled and Milner continues to play and put in 40 crosses a game, then perhaps having more targets to aim at will help Milner in his efforts. 

I wouldn’t even mind going completely gung-ho and playing Henderson and Lallana as a 2 man midfield, with Coutinho, Firmino, Mane and Sturridge ahead of them. 

We get torn to pieces on the counter already and will concede stupid goals no matter what, so screw it. 

4) Like for like/direct changes.

This in a way links back to our previous 2 transfer windows, as at times I can understand Klopp not trusting certain direct understudies currently in the squad. 

Having said that, I don’t see how making 3 or 4 changes to our starting XI when there are a couple of absentees is beneficial in anyway. 

As an example, when Coutinho was out over the festive period, we had Firmino playing on the left wing doing a poor man’s impression of his Brazilian counterpart, and thus we had Origi leading the line doing a poor man’s impression of Firmino. 

Similarly, when Mané was at the AFCON, Lallana had to fill in on the right hand side, offering virtually none of the same attributes that make Mané such a useful and crucial asset, whilst Can was brought into the midfield 3 alongside Henderson and Gini, failing to replicate what Lallana offer in a central role. 

It’s no coincidence that our fluency and performance levels dropped to the extent that they did (even though we were still picking up some good results without Coutinho), more than you’d normally expect as a result of one injury sustained.

I’d like to see someone like Ojo given a chance if, god forbid, Mané were to be sidelined for any matches that remain. 

If he’s so poor that he can’t even be thrown in to benefit our other most important players, then serious questions need to be asked of the manager in failing to recruit someone he can trust. 

5) Earlier substitutions.

This is probably the one major criticism that I’ve had of Klopp since the day he arrived. 

The other points I’ve discussed relate to issues that have arisen recently or are to some extent not in his control with the players having to be braver. 

Failing to change games in our favour from the touchline, being decisive and switching things up early when it’s clear the set-up we’ve started with isn’t working is something we’ve seen too often though during the German’s tenure.  

Klopp is a loyal guy, and is obviously keen to show his players that he trusts them to eventually get the job done as he believes that’ll benefit them long term, but I think he may have slightly too much faith at times. 

Referring back to the Southampton game in the PL at St Mary’s yet again, in a game which we drew 0-0 and mustered just 2 shots on target, Klopp waited until the 80th minute to bring on Sturridge, who in that time created a guild edge opportunity for Clyne, and essentially took the piss by brining on Origi with seconds remaining in stoppage time, the Belgian not getting a sniff.

He also places slightly too much emphasis on the importance of the crowd.

I get that he sees us as an incredibly valuable tool that can help the team push on in games, but going back to the Europa League final at St Jakob Park in Basel last season. 

We were being overrun in midfield from the moment the second half kicked off, and instead of brining on our captain, albeit he was not in great form, after an hour to help us regain some composure and control, he waited until the 73rd minute to bring on Joe Allen, by which time Sevilla were 3-1 up and the game was dead and buried. 

When we were under the cosh he spent much of his time trying to gee up the fans in the stand behind the dugout and inspire a Dortmund-style turnaround, but that’s simply not something he can rely on doing, and is even less likely to help when the problem is a lack of cutting edge in the final third.

Written by @MikeyO_BrienLFC

FSG: failed to deliver, but Klopp means my patience has been restored

Since not long after their completion of the takeover of Liverpool Football Club in October 2010, the merits of FSG’s ownership has been a topic of much debate, with a multitude of people on either side of the assessment spectrum. 

With the form of Jürgen Klopp’s side taking a dramatic turn for the worst since the turn of the year, much of the good work of the Autumn being undone, it’s no surprise that the debate has regained prominence; many fans have once again started to voice concern with regards to our ability to be a consistently competitive force under the stewardship of John Henry, Mike Gordon and co.

FSG’s detractors tend to be those who exclusively focus on how the team has fared on the pitch over the past 6 years.

Even as someone who’s never been our owners’ biggest fan, though, far from it in fact, I recognise the importance of considering both the positive and negative aspects of their non-footballing operations too.

They inherited huge amounts of debt from Hicks and Gillett, and as most people who are pro FSG like to point out, they did ultimately save the club from administration.

They’ve subsequently gone on to stabilise the club and, as a result of their fantastic commercial dealings and the work of the likes of Ian Ayre and Billy Hogan, we now find ourselves in a very healthy and sustainable financial position.

Of course, however, they bought the club as they saw a magnificent business opportunity for themselves, not because of a love for Liverpool or football.

For the record, I don’t expect them to share the passion of the supporters, but the fact that, once they do eventually sell up, they’ll have made an absolute fortune from the club (our value has nearly trebled since they took over) means many people, including myself, are less sympathetic and accepting of failure to build a squad capable of challenging for the biggest prizes on offer.

I still appreciate what FSG have done as, even though I was too young to fully understand what was going on back in 2010, I know the club was in genuine disarray, and unlike then, there is at least some scope for optimism now, even for the staunchest of pessimists.

Let’s also not forget that there were hardly dozens of potential buyers queuing up to inherit the mess that Hicks and Gillett left behind, largely due to the perception that a new £500m stadium would need to be built for any deal to be worth it in the long run from a financial and a sporting perspective.

Despite this, like Liverpool fans have, or should have, high expectations of our manager and our players when they take to the field, I believe we should have high and wide expectations of those at the very top.

For that reason, I can’t accept FSG not being terrible owners/being significantly better than their predecessors as an argument as to why fans shouldn’t be entitled to wanting some other group/person pulling the strings (who that would be is obviously a sticking point and not as straight forward a matter as many make out).

From a footballing standpoint, it’s fair to say that FSG have thus far failed to deliver, and how the Reds fare is the point that all fans are predominantly and truly concerned about. 1 League Cup win and 1 top 4 finish in 5 full seasons, for a football club of Liverpool’s stature, is objectively unacceptable, and it will be 6 full seasons without a trophy come May with Champions League qualification firmly in the balance once again this time around.

The landscape of football has changed, and with the emergence of Chelsea as a real force to be reckoned with and more recently Manchester City, it’s more difficult than ever to challenge for trophies and come out on top every year.

Having said that, I can’t help but think that we’ve made life more difficult for ourselves than it’s needed to be.

The biggest grievance that most people who want FSG gone have is with their transfer policy, as the calibre and profile of player that we’ve been signing, for the most part, since 2011, has undoubtedly contributed to a lack of on field success.

The model of buying young players who have or are supposed to have potential, overseeing their development into the finished article at the club, predictably results in a team which, in the short term, will fail to get over the line when it matters.

I was not a fan of Brendan Rodgers, and I think the majority of the poor performances and results that we were subjected to over the course of the thoroughly depressing 2014/2015 season and during the pathetic start to the 2015/2016 campaign came about primarily due to his management, but he wasn’t helped.

Is it really any surprise that a team which started with 5 outfield players under the age of 23 (Can, Moreno, Markovic, Coutinho and Sterling) went missing in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, albeit against a poor Aston Villa side? I don’t think so.

Similarly, last season, prior to Jürgen Klopp making any signings of his own, we comprehensively beat Man City twice in the league, 1-4 at the Etihad and 3-0 at Anfield, the score line flattering City on both occasions, but in the League Cup final we failed to perform at anywhere near the same level, and hardly threatened up until scoring with 10 minutes of normal time left to play.

It’s more than a coincidence. Signing young players, rough diamonds and the better players from lesser sides within the division is fine so long as some proven players, proven winners, are signed too, to guide them through games on the big stage.

Despite some obvious transfer successes since the January window of 2011, for example FSG oversaw the purchases of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, all of whom hit the ground running upon arrival despite not being ready made world class stars, such signings have been few and far between.

We’ve never had enough players of the quality required to win major honours at the club at the same time whilst FSG have been here.

Using Suarez as the most obvious example, by the time he reached the absolute peak of his powers, he had been at the club for 3 and a half years already, with just a Carling Cup to show for it, and he thus felt as though he needed to move on to better his career, before the true emergence of Coutinho as a consistently top class performer.

We’ve seen with the likes of Fernando Torres and Raheem Sterling too that players these days won’t wait around for the club to sort out the rest of the team/squad not yet at their level when they’re hot property and in demand.

Choosing to develop top quality players rather than buy them is an idealist approach which in practise is hard to get right.

The one thing that stops me from being 100% of the opinion that in order for us to properly progress we require a change in ownership is the fact that Jurgen Klopp is our manager.

That’s not to say that I think Klopp is simply such a good coach that in spite of FSG’s strategies he can get us back to where we want to be; instead, it seems clear to me that his footballing philosophies are in line with those of his American employers.

At Dortmund, Klopp didn’t spend vast amounts of money on players, largely signing unknowns that fit his system and who he felt he could get a lot out of.

He made a handful of Suarez type purchases, such as those of Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan, players coming off the back of break out seasons and seen as being on the verge of stardom.

I don’t think it would be right to say that Klopp hasn’t received backing in his 3 transfer windows with us so far, as FSG were reportedly willing to fund the purchase of £30m+ Alex Texeira at the start of 2016, and despite a positive net spend last summer, Klopp was supposedly happy with what he already had at his disposal; we recouped money by selling players deemed surplus to requirements, rather than any of our key assets.

In the January just gone, many fans, including myself, were unhappy about us not signing players to add depth to a relatively thread bare squad, but as journalists have pointed out, it was Klopp, not FSG, who was against the idea of signing stop gaps, or overpaying for someone now when prices will, he hopes at least, be more reasonable in the summer.

Again, however, I do wonder whether this is because Klopp realises that he can’t afford to spend vast amounts of money on players he isn’t certain will work out as any outlay eats away at his budget for future windows.

I certainly don’t buy the argument that we couldn’t sign anyone because no one was available. Hardly anyone decent is put up for sale at any point, but all players have a price.

I certainly don’t think Klopp is the submissive type, though, and if he felt he was being truly restricted in the transfer market we’d know about it.
Rodgers, who, unlike Klopp, was in the biggest job he could ever hope of obtaining as Liverpool manager was even willing to speak out when he deemed fit, strongly hinting on many occasions that the club failed to provide adequate backing in his pursuit of the likes of Diego Costa, the aforementioned Mkhitaryan and Willian.

It’s for that reason why I’m still willing to give FSG time. I’m honestly not sure whether having someone like Abramovich at the helm would make that significant a difference to how Klopp would go about his business.

If it would, I doubt he would have decided to join us in the first place, bearing in mind the other offers he was bound to receive following his success at the Westfalenstadion.

FSG now have the man who they wanted as their manager since day 1 of their time at the club, and I trust Klopp’s ability to get us to punch above our weight moving forward.

Overall, I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by FSG’s tenure so far, and the coming summer is an absolutely pivotal one for the club not only in terms of the manager and the team but for FSG too in my eyes.

That’s been said before in years gone by I know, and I’m sick of hearing it too, but if we do not invest heavily this time around, especially if we qualify for European competition, then my patience will have run out.

I will refuse to believe that it’s Klopp’s call to not significantly upgrade certain parts of the squad on this occasion as it’s beyond clear, after our last 10 games especially, where we’re lacking, and we simply need to start showing some real ambition to be as competitive as we feasibly can be.

Written by @lfc1forever