Why the Coutinho transfer saga is more about Liverpool’s poor recruitment strategy.

With a pocketful of cash from the Neymar deal and Barcelona needing to re-build it was slightly inevitable that the Catalan club would be linked with Liverpool’s Coutinho.  It has been a move that has been mooted for the past year especially as Barcelona are re-building and require an attacking midfielder.

Of course there is the argument that the majority of teams are selling clubs, especially when Barcelona and Real Madrid come a knocking but regardless of whether you think it is good business or not, it has shone an awkward spotlight on the transfer and scouting under the Fenway group.

The problem has now been exasperated as Coutinho has now put in a transfer request.  This has led to a few believing that he should be sold for the highest price possible.

However the quality of the Liverpool squad is not up to scratch especially as it needs to improve despite finishing fourth and qualifying for a Champions league play-off spot. There are still problems with the defence with the lack of quality of the bench very much apparent last season as there were no options when Liverpool struggled to break down defensive teams.  There were no player who you felt could change the game or change the formation to test the opposition.

From a footballing point of view it does not make sense to sell Coutinho no matter the fee offered.  I imagine there might be a few people scoffing at that notion, after all every player has his price.  However Liverpool do not have the time to get an adequate replacement and will be to the detriment of the club’s progress this season.

It is a team that needs building for Liverpool to be challenging for the major honours.  Losing your best players is going to make that harder as well as questioning the ambition of the club.  After all it has been five years since Liverpool won a major trophy and even then that was the league club.

Although the years have been lean Liverpool due to its history and large support still has some stature in the footballing world.  It needs more than ever to start proving that the last few years have temporary or very soon be just a famous name from the past.

Liverpool’s first game of the new season away to Watford which ended 3-3 has shown the same old problems of the last year.  A poor defence and the inability to hold onto a winning lead with only a few minutes remaining on the clock.  The club is great in attack but there is always the sense that they are only a moment away from a mistake in defence which will wilt so easily.

These are problems that should have been rectified prior to the season beginning but swift action is needed otherwise it will be a groundhog season for 2017-18.  Regarding the transfer request from Coutinho it would probably be better if Liverpool could reach an agreement that they will let him go next season. This though would be on the proviso that the fee is acceptable and that Liverpool find a suitable replacement.

A club can only be successful if its recruitment and scouting is good.  Take Atletico Madrid for example.  They have consistently obtained quality players for decent fees and have been consistent challengers in La Liga and European football which has seen them win major honours.

Fenway appear to have a business strategy with regards as to how Liverpool sign players.  Namely signing young potential players who they hope will live up to their reputation and then selling them on for a vast profit whilst bringing in a new batch to keep Liverpool competitive.  The only problem with that is that you have to ensure that you have the right recruitment and scouting in place.  If that was the case then there would be no real resistance to Coutinho being sold to Barcelona.  The quality in the squad would already be there to cope with a loss.  Added to which there would be the confidence the scouting system would provide a more than adequate replacement.

Unfortunately the reality has been very different to the business theory of the Fenway group.  The likes of Downing, Carroll, Charlie Adam, Coates, Borini, Markovic, and Balotelli to name but a few have failed to live up to expectations and have been poor.  Even the likes of Jordan Henderson, Lovren, and Mignolet have been average and not been good enough to take Liverpool up to the next level.

The successes can be counted on one hand with only Suarez, Mane, and Coutinho being the players who have shown the quality required if you wish to compete at the highest level.  Fenway’s money has been spent on mediocrity.    It could be argued that when non-footballing individuals or people with self-interest are involved then problems are going to arise which has been the case with Liverpool.

It seems that the problem isn’t so much about Coutinho being sold to Barcelona it really is about Fenway’s scouting and recruitment strategy for Liverpool and the next direction that they take. 

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Why questions have to be raised over Liverpool’s Fenway transfer committee

Aside from the eternal optimist nobody really expected Liverpool to go that one step further and win the league but did expect a better challenge to stay within the top four.

In short this so called transfer committee need to be asked questions as well as the personal ambitions that the Fenway group have for Liverpool.  During the past three or four years the business model seems to be pretty similar to Tottenham’s strategy.    Hire a young enthusiastic manager, buy youthful potential players which you believe can help you challenge for a top four position, and hope to sell one of them for a vast profit.

Tottenham did this with Gareth whilst Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona last season.  Much as it is prudent to try and develop a young team there has to be a balance in terms of signing experienced player’s who you know have a good chance of hitting the ground running.

Liverpool’s transfer committee did not seem to learn from when Fernando Torres was sold to Chelsea for £50 million.  Most of that money was wasted on the likes of Steward Downing, Andy Carroll, and Charlie Adam.  Yes Luis Suarez was an instant success and Henderson has finally come into his own but certain areas of the team that needed improving was not.

After last season’s unexpected tilt at the title it was a chance for Liverpool to ensure that they had the player’s in place to cement a place in the top four.  With the Suarez money it should have been a case of buying at least two quality players with Champion’s league experience to ensure Liverpool would keep within the top four.

Quite clearly the club value youth and potential and although this is laudable a balance needs to be struck with experience.

The signings of this summer have not been great.  Emre Can is the only one who looks promising and even then he is not being played in the position that I think we can get the best out of him.  Instead he has been doing a good job as the third centre half.

Markovic does not look good enough to justify the £20 million spent on him, Lallana has been injury prone this season and although there have been glimpses it is hard to judge him.  Lovren looks a bad buy whilst the Ricky Lambert signing still looks puzzling.

That’s before we come on to Mario Ballotelli.  A player who has been described as ‘unmanageable,’ by Jose Mourinho.  He hasn’t performed whatsoever with a goal ratio that can be counted on one hand.

A deal with Barcelona for Luis Suarez would have been agreed early last year.  By and large they are not deals done at the last minute.  Indeed before going official it appears Liverpool were already spending the money as they fully knew that clubs would hike the prices up, if they were aware Liverpool had a big fat cheque burning a hole in their pocket.

Why Liverpool could not have earmarked a potential replacement for Suarez much earlier only the transfer committee can answer that.  The Balotelli deal smacked of a panic buy with the transfer window closing, they didn’t want to be in a situation a couple of years ago when they had to sign Sturridge in the January window due to being left short in the summer of 2012.

Nobody seemed to think about whether Balotelli would suit Liverpool’s style of play or whether his performances merited taking a chance.  In short it didn’t.  However Liverpool did seem happy with the sales of Liverpool shirt’s with Balotelli’s name splashed all over them.

The actual start to the season wasn’t great.  Opponents knew how to stop Liverpool playing with the red’s looking lethargic and slow in the build up.

Rodger’s it seemed didn’t know how to stop the rot and at one point in the season when the pressure was on him it could be argued that his confidence went.  The brief foray in the Champions League is definitely a case in point.

When the draw was made it looked like a group that Liverpool could and let’s be honest should have qualified from.  Real Madrid aside they should have had enough nous and ability to get the results required against Basle and Ludogorets.

Instead they floundered with Rodger’s nerve going as he played a weakened team against Real Madrid and thus writing off the match completely.  A strange decision considering Liverpool’s rich heritage in European competition.  Either way it was a gamble that did not pay off.

Despite some poor results and performances, Liverpool somehow found themselves needing a win at home against Basle in the final game.  You would think that the team would be more offensive but it wasn’t.  With a midfield of Lucas and Allen it seemed to be more of a team set up to be defensive.  They might not have been beaten but a draw was enough to send Basle through who did deserve to go through.

The pressure was certainly on Brendan Rodgers and despite a 3-0 defeat away to Manchester United it seemed that this was the turning point.  After changing the line up to three at the back with wing backs and Coutinho playing just behind the lone striker, Liverpool’s form picked up.

At this stage Balotelli and Lovren were dropped with the hope that when Sturridge regained fitness he would chip in with the much needed goals.  Somehow Liverpool managed to get themselves back into contention but again they messed up in the big games that matter.

Beskitas was a tie in the Europa Cup that again Liverpool should have done enough to get through after winning the first leg 1-0.  Instead they went out on penalties after losing 1-0.

Still there was a chance of a top four finish and with the games quickly evaporating it was a crunch game against Manchester United at home.  These are the matches that you have to win if you want to meet your objective.  It’s a chance to go past your rivals which not only put you ahead but give you a psychological boost.

Liverpool once again blew it as they allowed Manchester United to control the midfield with Rodgers seemingly unable to change things.  Yes Gerrard’s sending off was a blow but they were hardly at the races in the first half as they ended up losing 2-1.

There was still another chance to somehow keep within touching distances as they played Arsenal away.  Again they were blown away and with it any chance of finishing within the top four.

Once again the pressure will be back on Rodgers and Liverpool.  With an FA Cup replay away to Blackburn there will be more rumblings of discontent if Liverpool do not go through.

In short the major problem has been the new signings.  Any team would miss the goals of Suarez and with Sturridge also out for a long period that certainly hasn’t helped.  However if the right signings had been made then things would maybe have been a bit easier.

Certainly there is concern that the goals are not shared out throughout the team.  It was why there was such a huge cheer when Sturridge came on against West Ham and incidentally scored as he knows how to finish. Sterling’s finishing is erratic but apart from him and Gerrard who is leaving in the summer, there is no one else in the team who can chip in with the goals.

In tight games being able to take that one chance is the difference between taking the three points or getting nothing.  Of course Liverpool have not got the money to match Chelsea or Manchester City but the fee received from Suarez could have been spent on proven players.

With Liverpool just missing out on the league title it could have been used to attract the quality player’s needed to keep within the top four and actually get out to the knock out stages.  Instead they have tried their hand with unproven players and have suffered as a consequence.

That’s not to say that this Liverpool team is poor but it’s currently at the level that it is at.  Namely knocking on the door of the top four but more likely to finish fifth or sixth.

The question now is where Liverpool go from here.  Rivals like Arsenal, Manchester United, even Tottenham are going to try and stay one step ahead with signings.  It’s going to be a big summer for Liverpool in more ways than one.  There will be more scrutiny and pressure on not just Rodgers but the Fenway group.

Currently this Liverpool team isn’t good enough and changes are going to be needed if they wish to get back into the top four.  The only difference this time around it is going to be difficult to entice the player’s required.

People are already talking about attitude and whether this current crop of Liverpool player’s are just simply too nice.  I personally think that we are not clinical and unable to press and move forward quickly enough.

I know it’s a cliché to go back to Guardiola’s Barcelona but they are the template to follow in terms of not just pressing and exploiting space but in harrying opponents when the ball is lost.  Something this Liverpool team is unable to do.

With regards to Mignolet it has been a season to forget for him.  However he is not good enough and has always been a liability since Mignolet signed for Liverpool.  For starter’s his positioning and command of the defence is poor.  Then there is his distribution which is shockingly bad.  Time and time again he is too slow to get the ball out or he makes the poor option of rolling the ball out to a teammate in no space and pressurised into having to find a red shirt without losing it to the opposition.

Defensively Liverpool has still got problems with the £20 million Lovren now being a regular on the bench.  In the midfield Gerrard needs replacing and I believe we need at least another one or preferably two midfielder’s that have pace and the creativity needed to press quickly.  Plus as stated before someone who can chip in with the goals.

Whether the transfer committee representing the Fenway group realise experienced quality is needed remains to be seen.  As far as they are concerned they might be privately be happy with the way Liverpool are going.  They might believe that their plan will see Liverpool break into the top four next season.

Either way they need to be honest with fans and explain what they really want for Liverpool.  Is it for a team to be just on the fringes of a Champions League spot or actually attempting to challenge with the big teams.

At the moment I think it is hard to blame Rodger’s entirely for the disappointment this season in the league.  Yes it was a poor showing in Europe but you can only work with the player’s that were brought in.  This season still might see an FA cup win (hopefully) but once again Liverpool find themselves at the crossroads.  Next season will be a big one not just for Rodger’s tenure but the direction Liverpool is going.

For me it is the Fenway group who should be answering why they have messed up in the transfers and what exactly do they want and how do they set out obtaining what they want from Liverpool.