EVER since Brendan Rodgers arrived at Anfield, the talk has been of tiki taka, philosophy, technicians and consistency.
But the one area where the Liverpool manager truly needs to make a difference doesn’t concern passing, formations or desire.
The transfer market has instead continually proven the downfall for the Anfield outfit, with millions being spent on players who have either been unable or simply not good enough to drag the team back into the Premier League elite. Rodgers’s initial experience in wheeling and dealing with Liverpool was less than ideal.
Only the remarkable form of Luis Suarez prevented the folly of the failure – irrespective of where the blame lies – to bring in a striker on deadline day in August from wreaking significant havoc. And, while injury has contributed, few could argue Liverpool have had a great return on the £25m Rodgers spent on signing Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Ousamma Assaidi.
In mitigation, the Northern Irishman was working alone during the summer. The subsequent arrivals from Manchester City of new head of scouting Dave Fallows and new chief scout Barry Hunter have eased that particular burden with the January transfer window proving the first opportunity for the set-up to flex their muscles.
They won’t have to look too far for evidence of previous missteps.
While the £35m spent on Andy Carroll was more a necessary hurried show of intent in the wake of Fernando Torres’s departure, the club’s owners Fenway Sports Group had their fingers badly burned by the huge outlay 18 months ago on Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Jose Enrique and Charlie Adam.
The latter has since gone, and Rodgers, despite his team selections in recent weeks, is not fully convinced by the remaining trio. Indeed, FSG appear intent on erasing all trace of the Kenny Dalglish-Damien Comolli experiment.
The transfer failures go back further than the Americans, however.
Witness Joe Cole, bought on a free but, for a variety of reasons, unable to justify his exorbitant salary. Cole has no long-term future under Rodgers, and moving on the 31-year-old this month would further lessen a wage bill FSG are keen to slash following the summer departures of high earners Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy, Alberto Aquilani and Maxi Rodriguez.
Whether Daniel Sturridge – who signed in this week – and Tom Ince are the answer to Liverpool’s shortcomings is open to debate.
But much scrutiny will be placed on the duo, not least Sturridge whose £12m outlay seems steep for a player who, save for a brief loan spell at Bolton Wanderers two years ago, has never been a first-team regular.