Liverpool Echo

Liverpool's loyalty comes back to bite with two glaring transfer mistakes

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 24/02/2021 04:00:00 Connor Dunn
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It's been a while since Liverpool and transfer mistakes were words considered in the same sentence.

A series of world-class players have arrived at Anfield to take Jurgen Klopp's side to the pinnacle of domestic, European and world football over the last three years.

However, this term things have been very different - particularly on the domestic front - and it feels like the Reds' revered transfer committee and the manager have made two glaring errors.

Most recently, there's the case of Takumi Minamino.

When the Japan international arrived at Liverpool in January 2020, there was a tough bedding in period but he showed flashes of the quality Reds fans witnessed when his former side RB Salzburg lost 4-3 at Anfield three months beforehand.

Then in December last year, the attacker was handed his second Premier League start of the season, opening the scoring and playing 90 minutes of Liverpool's 7-0 win over Crystal Palace.

It felt as though that was a starting point for Minamino, particularly with Diogo Jota having suffered with injury just 10 days prior.

However, Klopp clearly thought differently - allowing the 26-year-old just six more Premier League minutes over the next seven matches of which the defending champions lost two and drew three.

Southampton then came forward with a last-minute transfer offer for Minamino on deadline day, taking him on loan for the rest of the season after the Reds agreed it would be beneficial for all parties and the player in particular.

On the one hand, it made total sense because Klopp wasn't calling Minamino into action and therefore allowing him to gain valuable Premier League experience elsewhere would be great for the long-term.

The German boss admitted Minamino wasn't "given enough chances" at Liverpool and that he'd have loved to have kept the player "to have the option", but hoped he'd return to Anfield even better.

Minamino has played three games for the Saints so far and scored twice, including a wonderfully calm goal against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw this weekend.

After the game manager Ralph Hasenhuttl praised Minamino's skills with the ball at his feet but explained that he needed to improve more off the ball.

That proved Klopp's thinking about Minamino and goes some way to explaining why he wasn't playing for the Reds, as the German boss plumped for his tried and trusted triumvirate time and time again while trying to turn results around.

As we know, Liverpool have won just two matches out of their last 11 in the top flight while slipping to sixth place in the table.

You've got think that Minamino might have offered the team something different to the norm, and given the way things were going at Liverpool anyway it doesn't feel as if experimenting with different ideas would have done much harm - and might have even worked, at least to give the feeling of competition for those in the frontline.

Of course, this is a benefit of hindsight but if Liverpool were more selfish and said to Minamino he had to stay in case he was needed - particularly with Klopp admitting he'd have "loved" to keep the player - then this school of thought wouldn't even exist.

Minamino was clearly ready to play in the Premier League and score goals given his instant impact on the south coast even against top teams, but his lack of game time can almost certainly fall back to the defensive injury issues at Anfield given Klopp's clear desire to protect the backline with every player working off the ball as hard as they can.

Now, the fact Minamino is already playing regularly at St Mary's will only aid his development and benefit Liverpool next season - but things need addressing this term very quickly if the Reds are to actually even compete in the Champions League next term anyway as they sit sixth in the table and nine points behind third place Leicester and five back from West Ham in fourth.

No matter how much Minamino improves, if Liverpool aren't playing in Europe there's going to be some serious questions for other players in their squad before the next campaign even kicks off.

Of course, that's the worst-case scenario but not completely beyond the realms of possibility and dare it be said - a little bit of short-term thinking and player loyalty coming back to bite the Reds.

That's extreme but it's also not the first time this season player loyalty has had a big impact at Liverpool.

Before the 2020/21 campaign even began, Dejan Lovren wanted to leave the club and the Reds obliged following an £11million bid tabled by Zenit St. Petersburg.

Nobody could have foreseen the injuries Liverpool would suffer at centre-back this term and the deal was good. However, when Lovren left the Reds only had three recognised senior options in the heart of defence but calls to replace the Croatia international to bolster the ranks fell on deaf ears.

Liverpool at time, rightly cited that Fabinho would fill-in if needed and he has done so for the majority of this season with aplomb until suffering with injury himself.

There have been times when Fabinho has looked like a No.6 playing at centre-half but on the whole Klopp was proved right about his ability further back.

However, there's no doubting Lovren would have been a better option - even just in order to keep Fabinho in midfield - and again it feels like another player the club could have simply kept at Anfield just in case the option was needed as has proved to be the case.

Klopp is fiercely loyal to his players, though, and that's what makes him such a great coach with dressing room harmony a major factor in the success Liverpool have had over the last few seasons.

Keeping players who don't want to be at the club wouldn't have helped things off the pitch but it may well have helped on the pitch this term - and therefore kept the peace heading into next season too with a more secure base from which to finish in the top four.

24. helmikuuta 2021 6:00:00 Categories: Liverpool Echo

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