Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, has warned that there are two substantial impediments to him spending heavily in January – availability and affordability – and he will not be tempted to take risks with investments, despite the potential of a top-four finish being far greater than he could have imagined.
The implosions at Arsenal and Chelsea this season have made two Champions League positions look achievable, even taking into account the erratic nature of Liverpool's first season under Rodgers, which continued with Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Aston Villa.
Although progress has been made towards an £18m investment in Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge and Blackpool's Tom Ince, Rodgers is insistent that he wants to return to Champions League football in a sustainable way, rather than gamble a little more on the promised land than he might otherwise have done.
Asked about the temptations of a Premier League table which leaves Liverpool in 12th but only five points off fifth-placed Everton, he said: "There is a bigger picture for sure and it goes back to affordability. We will spend money in January to try and bring fresh faces into the group and give us that support at the top end. But the reality [about] all the names bandied about is 'Are they going to be available?' Certainly we will bring in what we can and help us and then we will revisit it again.
"All our problems were never going to be solved in this window because the January window is one of the least productive and the least movement goes on there. But we will look to solve some of our problems then and then we will look to revisit it in the summer knowing that in the summer we will be better placed than the previous summer.
"There is no doubt we will get reinforcements in and there is no doubt that we will get the backing, but it will come down to two things. The availability and affordability of players – I see lots of names bandied about that are pie in the sky because there won't be too many top players moving about in January because clubs want top money. But there is no doubt that we want to bring in goals and we want to bring in players who can assist in scoring goals. If we can do that then that will set us up and then we can really reinforce when the transfer market opens up in the summer again."
There must be a temptation to speculate to accumulate, given the multi-million pound commercial benefits that Champions League football can bring, not to mention the boost that a place in it would bring to Rodgers' own work in next summer's market. He said recently that Tottenham Hotspur's proximity to qualification made their market activity easier.
The intriguing current aspect of Merseyside football is that the Everton manager, David Moyes, has a side just as capable of capitalizing on the relative inertia among the London sides.
"I think most teams will find it hard to get ahead of the top three of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, but football changes very quickly," Moyes said recently. "So by keep getting in the Champions League, it keeps funding what you are going to try and do for the next year or two because the money at that level is far greater than anything else.
"The year we made it [into the Champions League in 2005] I didn't get a trophy to run round Goodison Park with but it nearly felt like that. I knew if we'd got through the qualifier [against Villarreal] it might have changed Everton's world. It might only have changed it for a couple of years but it might have given us that notch and the money we might have taken that one year."
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