Liverpool and the logic behind reinforcing foundations over making star signings

Few transfers but lots of activity and expenditure for the Reds nonetheless

Karl Matchett
Saturday 28 August 2021 15:33
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“One of the more surprising strategies for longevity is actually to sacrifice some part of the object itself. We see this in nature where a lizard’s tail can break off when attacked, allowing the lizard to escape alive.” - Alexander Rose, How to build something that lasts 10,000 years

“That’s what we were always talking about – a season is like that, you constantly prepare a basis for the final weeks. We are now in the final weeks and there will be no interruption anymore, there will only be game after game after game. We created a wonderful base, now let’s use it.” - Jurgen Klopp, 2019

There is a link of sorts here between lizards and Liverpool, honest. The Reds are a week away from the transfer deadline having added a single new player to the first-team squad, Ibrahima Konate, and with the centre-back yet to feature in a competitive game.

On the face of it, it’s not a momentous move from the club to reel in last year’s champions Manchester City, who finished 17 points above the Reds, or indeed rivals Man United, who finished five above and have since added £115m duo Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

Liverpool’s work has instead been consigned to the negotiating table with those already at the club: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson all signing new deals to remain at Anfield for the long haul. Mohamed Salah and captain Jordan Henderson are expected to follow suit too, all being well, likely increasing the Reds’ already-enormous salary outlay on a squad which has grown together and won together.

Renewal will be required at some stage, but it’s important to note the manager has always placed a huge emphasis on not focusing solely on the end point, but on what happens at the start of the journey: getting the house in order, then worrying about what’s possible later on.

That’s the base, the “wonderful base”, that the club want. Not just in terms of league results and position in the table, but on a more holistic viewing: the academy and first-team training complex, now together and ready to provide positives for years to come. Liverpool FC Women, aiming not just for promotion but their own permanent base too, enabling future growth and success. And Klopp’s squad in place to win major honours, not just for a season or two of full-tilt, all-or-nothing challenging, but a sustainable foundation of power to keep building from.

Wind the clock back and it was rarely the case for the Anfield club.

Brendan Rodgers took them on a wild title chase, but the foundations of that team were as far from rock-solid as imaginable; it was a thrilling ride, but one built on a leaky defence and the brilliance of a couple in attack. None lasted all that long at the club.

Rafael Benitez’s almost-all-conquering side was better-constructed, and perhaps didn’t win as much as it deserved due to competing at a time when the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United were also among the very best in Europe, but an FA Cup, a title challenge and a European Cup - plus another final - wasn’t a shoddy return at all until financial mismanagement reared its head.

The idea this time around is for it to be far longer-lasting, and indeed more profitable on a silverware basis.

Signing new players is often a positive. And, for Liverpool, it will certainly be required in the coming seasons in several areas - but the work this summer is akin to opting for rebuilding the unconquerable Konigstein fortress turrets, rather than adding another conservatory to an expensive hotel.

The latter looks good, it makes the overall building bigger and sometimes it’s exactly what you need, but the former is much longer-lasting against all manner of challengers.

Of course, even a fortress changes its design, and even Konigstein had a notable escape from the inside.

Gini Wijnaldum, like Emre Can before him, is a rare example of an allowed departure when it no longer made sense to those running the club to compromise. Wijnaldum was a huge part of a very successful team, but the club deemed more worth in letting him go than retaining him above his perceived value - the ‘lizard’s tail’ if you will. Liverpool go on regardless, with every expectation of a replacement emerging in time and for a long time, even if not through an immediate, expensive acquisition.

They have their base, off the pitch and on it. The new contracts are as much a part of the silverware plan as the six points Klopp’s side have picked up so far - it just requires zooming out to appreciate it.

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