The 2023 summer transfer window has closed in England and most of Europe, and boy has it been busy! While some clubs tried to get their business done early (like Manchester United) and some decided to buy every player possible (like Chelsea), some such as Liverpool left things quite late.
In fact, the Reds’ transfer business has been somewhat questionable in the last few windows. The departures of Michael Edwards and later Julian Ward have seemingly weakened what was one of the best recruitment departments among Europe’s most elite clubs, so their squad building has taken a turn for the worse.
It is tough to say what exactly is going on behind the scenes but many reports have suggested that manager Jürgen Klopp has sought to have greater influence over Liverpool’s transfer business, leading to the departures of key decision-makers. In any case, our focus will be on their business in this window, which has not been on point.
Liverpool have heavily focused on their midfield this summer, making four signings to really renovate that department of their squad. Altogether, the quartet cost them just under £150 million in terms of transfer fees, which is not too bad in this market.
The first signing they announced was Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton & Hove Albion for about £35m. He was a much-coveted player for a number of Premier League big-hitters having well over three years of experience in the league with an ever-improving Brighton side, so Liverpool should have been glad to have gotten him for this price.
The Argentine international is a very well-rounded midfielder who showed great ball progression ability from deep as well as attacking impetus and a serious goal-threat at Brighton last season.
Mac Allister’s various strengths mean that he can really play any position in Liverpool’s midfield trio. He might not be the best as the deepest midfielder when defending in transition but certainly can do a great job of helping progress the ball from there, while the more advanced roles would limit him in that regard but better utilise his attacking qualities.
In any case, Mac Allister should definitely go down as a very good signing at the time.
Similarly, Dominik Szoboszlai also looks set to be a great addition to the squad, although he came at a greater cost. RB Leipzig received £60m to part ways with him, which again contextually looks a decent sum given how crazy the transfer fees have been this window.
The Hungarian international definitely is a more attack-minded addition, as he excels in the final third with his creativity, chance creation and goal-threat thanks to his world-class ball-striking ability. He has already highlighted these qualities in a red shirt, particularly the last one with a fantastic goal against Aston Villa.
Szoboszlai was also very involved out of possession in RB Leipzig’s intense pressing, so that is another quality he can bring to the table for Liverpool if they wish to utilise it. All in all, he too clearly is a great addition who looks set to make the right-sided midfield position his own.
After getting these two signings done relatively early, Liverpool waited a very long time before their next move (though there were a couple of failed bids put in). Quite puzzlingly, it was only after the Premier League season started that they realised that they had nobody remotely resembling a defensive midfielder in their squad due to the departures of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and James Milner.
With just a couple of weeks left in the transfer window, they seemingly went into panic-buy mode and picked up Wataru Endo from Stuttgart. While there definitely were better options in the market had they acted earlier, the Japanese international could well turn out to be a vert shrewd signing for just about £17m.
Endo was a rock solid presence in the last three German Bundesliga seasons in Stuttgart’s midfield, which can often be a very chaotic place (like almost any Bundesliga midfield, really). His main responsibility at Liverpool will be to bring a similar sort of stability and free up the rest of the midfielders to attack, so he should be able to play that role quite well.
The last addition was made on deadline day, when Ryan Gravenberch left Bayern Munich for Merseyside. His transfer fee was about twice as much as Endo’s, even though he played just 576 minutes in the Bundesliga last season.
While things clearly did not work out as the Dutchman would have liked at Bayern Munich, there can be no doubts about the fact that he has the potential to be a very good consistent starter at a top team. He showed his qualities in the 2021/22 Eredivisie season with Ajax, when he absolutely dominated proceedings in all aspects in almost every match he played.
However, the two questions that proved problematic at Bayern Munich stand: can he do it in a more intense league and can he displace the established starters? With no Champions League football either at Anfield this season, Gravenberch will not want to spend another year as a squad player.
Holes in the squad
Given the departures of the aforementioned midfielders as well as the likes of Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fábio Carvalho, Liverpool’s focus on midfield signings is understandable. However, there also were other areas of their squad which needed improvement but have been neglected instead.
The departure of Roberto Firmino is perhaps not so concerning as Diogo Jota and Darwin Núñez should be able to manage the striker position between them, but other areas of their squad that were thin last season remain so this term.
The entirety of their right wing falls in that category, as they have basically been left with just Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah in the two positions, with the latter subject to massive-money interest from Saudi Pro League giants Al-Ittihad. Injuries or any sort of enforced absences for either of them could have a catastrophic impact on their season given their reliance on those two players’ unique skillsets.
Elsewhere, the defensive midfielder situation has also not been best addressed as previously discussed, although the issue there is a lack of a top-class starter rather than a lack of depth as is the case with right-back or right winger.
In short, Liverpool have made some good signings this summer, but they failed to address some pre-existing and some newly-created holes in their squad which leave them in a less-than-ideal state going into the season. Looking at these takeaways in a wider context of their business in recent years raises some concerns about their recruitment structure and processes, which should be quickly addressed lest they fall further away from the top four.
Stats courtesy Transfermarkt and Opta via Fbref.