No one can argue with what Brendan Rodgers achieved at Liverpool last season.
To take a team into the Champions League is a huge feat and Rodgers has been praised for taking Liverpool within a Steven Gerrard slip of winning the Barclays Premier League, while playing a fantastic brand of attacking football. He was rightly named as the LMA Manager of the Year.
But if you dig a little bit deeper, beyond Luis Suarez rising to become arguably the third best player in the world and Steven Gerrard enjoying a renaissance in the holding role, Liverpool the club and their ‘transfer committee’ are letting the manager down in the players they have brought to the club.
The 'transfer committee', an idea of Fenway Sports Group, includes chief executive, Ian Ayre, Michael Edwards, the head of analysis and the head of recruitment, Dave Fallows. Rodgers has final say on signings.
When he arrived in June 2012, Rodgers inherited a truly awful squad where Andy Carroll, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing were core members of the first team. During his spell the club have done well to find a good return of the exorbitant fees paid for some of those players.
But Rodgers has seen 23 new players arrive either permanently or on loan at Anfield in his spell in charge and, at a quick count, only two of those have proved themselves to be truly successful under the Northern Irishman.
Those two are Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho who have become integral members of the first-team. Sturridge is one of the best strikers in the league after being on the scrapheap at Chelsea, while Rodgers has harnessed Coutinho’s natural talent and added work rate and a determination to improve.
Simon Mignolet is another who has performed reasonably well, but there are plenty of Liverpool fans who believe Mignolet is inferior to the now-departed Pepe Reina; when Kolo Toure is the only other player even close to being considered a success, you know your transfer policy has been a disaster.
If we start with the loan deals, Nuri Sahin, Aly Cissokho and Victor Moses failed in Red and no follow up move was ever mooted. Sahin was just returning from injury and has done well since moving back to Borussia Dortmund, but Cissokho and Moses struggled to find a spot last season, especially in their brilliant run of wins late in the campaign.
Five players are still on the books at Liverpool but have played little part in the first-team and find themselves on loan this season.
Oussama Assaidi is in his second loan spell at Stoke City, while Divock Origi, a £10m signing was sent straight back to Lille without playing for Liverpool and Tiago Ilori, a £7m centre-back signed last summer is still to make his debut and will spend this season at Bordeaux.
Spanish pair Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas had truly disastrous spells in their first season in England. Alberto didn’t start a game in the Premier League and Aspas scored just one goal in 15 matches as a second choice striker for the Reds.
These five players have cost Liverpool a whopping £33.5m since Rodgers arrived; their combined record stands at 39 games played and one goal so far.
In Rodgers’ first summer he also spent £25m on Fabio Borini and Joe Allen. The Welsh midfielder, a favourite of Rodgers from Swansea, was never worth £15m and has seen himself fall behind Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva in the midfield pecking order. Borini, bought for £10m, has just two Liverpool goals and has struggled whenever he has been given a chance in Red, despite a reasonably promising loan spell at Sunderland last season.
Mamadou Sakho stormed out of Anfield last week after being told he would not be in the team to place Everton but the French centre-back has looked anything but worth the £15m Liverpool paid for him last summer.
This summer’s spending spree is well documented, with Liverpool eventually spending more than £110m on seven players, and loaning another, after the £75m sale of Uruguayan talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona.
Like Tottenham a year earlier after they sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Liverpool have appeared to opt for the policy of buying lots of second-tier players, rather than breaking the bank for a world class talent.
They were linked with moves to Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani but wound up buying Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic.
Balotelli has the potential to be a very good player but he plainly does not fit in with the style that took the Reds into the Champions League, so far at least. It seems he was brought in because he is a big name but with no thought about how he might actually fit into the team.
His laid-back style is the complete polar opposite to the all-action menace that makes Luis Suarez the player he is.
It is too early to truly pass judgement on these players – Jordan Henderson’s rise is testament to that – but the early signs are that Liverpool have made an error in their business this summer.
It seems to be a legacy of the transfer committee. While the Reds have identified and been linked with plenty of top targets during Rodgers’ reign (the above trio plus the likes of Willian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and others) the Liverpool fans and their manager often have to make do with second best.
Bitter rivals Manchester United have been prepared to break the bank and overpay on stars as they strive to return to the top.
Liverpool appear to have overpaid for second-tier players.
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