If you’re so unfortunate as to have never experienced the amazing adventures of a certain chihuahua and obese cat (and a horse), use the above video as not only symbolic of the next nine days in the winter window, but also a stepping stone into one of the greatest short collections (19 episodes) animation has ever known. (We do not consider anything past the initial material produced by Spümcø to be actual Ren and Stimpy. There will be no debate of this fact.)
The winter transfer window is often the time for clubs to make fools of themselves (see: Torres, Chelsea, etc.), but occasionally the moment where projects are launched forward as if by the nearest trebuchet (see: Van Dijk, Liverpool, etc.) The latter moments are, of course, much rarer that the former, which is why most clubs stay out of the winter window altogether. Players are more expensive. You’re in the grind of mid-season where it’s more difficult to get people acclimated to a new environment, training schedule, and league. And the lingering scent of desperation just compounds everything for team, club, and fans. So, what does that mean for Liverpool…?
Pretty much nothing; just like the last window. We have what we need and we have solid talent coming through the academy, so there’s no real need to get exercised over anyone, unless said player just happens to fall into our proverbial lap like Takumi Minamino.
Now that the club is sitting pretty, there’s room for speculation that doesn’t carry that whiff of panic, but which is all still pretty unlikely. The majority of said speculation has centered around two players: Kylian Mbappe and Timo Werner.
Mbappe is tantalizing because he’s one of the more exciting young talents in the world right now. Just like everyone playing the game, he’s taken notice of LFC or had it pushed in his face by eager gossip columnists looking for clicks (There was a time when ESPN was a news organization.) However, as one of the faces of oil-money-backed PSG, he’d also be insanely expensive, even for a club with the resources we’re now raking in. I saw some speculation on the FB group this morning about making an effective trade between Mbappe and Salah at some point in the future, but I find that extremely unlikely. There’s nothing in Klopp’s history that indicates that he’s interested in that kind of blockbuster deal, mostly because he doesn’t often deal for superstars. At Mainz, he couldn’t. At Dortmund, considering their usual approach to expenditures and the fact that they were regularly cannibalized by Bayern, they also really couldn’t. Klopp buys good players and makes them great (Mané) or great players and makes them dominant (Virg.) The one real exception to this is Alisson, who was already considered one of the best keepers in the world when we picked him up. Furthermore, there’s nothing about Klopp that has ever indicated that he’d risk sabotaging the esprit de corps of his side (and outraging a good chunk of the LFC fan base) by attempting a swap like that. Certainly, things can change a couple seasons down the road, but this doesn’t strike me as a Klopp move.
What, then, makes the increasing rumble over Timo Werner different from Mbappe, given that they both play the same position? A couple things. First off, Mbappe has never indicated interest in LFC. He’s seemingly content to be playing for the biggest club in his native land and being feted as a national hero (Ligue 1 winner, World Cup winner, etc.) and still being within shouting/PSG implosion distance of a Champions League title. Not a bad gig, if you can get it. Werner, OTOH, has been looking for a way out of Leipzig for a while now. It’s understandable, given that, as successful as they are (currently top of their league, just like PSG and, um, Liverpool), Leipzig doesn’t quite have the shine of the other big clubs. Only a decade old, the club was an amateur side that Red Bull purchased as a pathway into the Bundesliga, spent tons of money on (and evaded the German “50+1” rule by selling shares of the club to Red Bull employees in Leipzig), and have reaped the rewards for doing so. They’re essentially the German version of Manchester City, except that City had actually been playing professional football in England for over 100 years when Sheikh Mansour arrived. So, y’know, kinda worse. Werner, understandably, wants to play somewhere like Bayern or Barca or Liverpool, as those clubs have history and history is an attractive thing (I continue to say to people that have no appreciation for it. Any social studies jobs out there? No? Surprise, surprise.) The fact that Liverpool also has the best manager in the world who also happens to be a legend in their native Germany doesn’t hurt.
But, secondly, as good as he is, Werner isn’t quite “superstar” status, either. There’s a difference between every club in the world fantasizing over your potential for their side (Hi, Virg!) and the big clubs being interested if timing/money/composition are all in alignment. As I said, Werner has been looking for a way out for a couple seasons now and no one has come barging in the door. Klopp is eager to not only maintain a tight unit among his regular rotation, but also to maximize the academy so that the groundwork for his successor is already done. Would you pay a quarter of a billion for Mbappe only to have him rotate with one of our usual front three? No chance. But if you can get a player of Werner’s talent, at a reasonable price, and who’s eager to try his luck on a bigger stage, which just happens to be the best team in Europe right now…? Yeah. I could see that happening. It also wouldn’t cost us the services of any of our top three, all of whom I expect to be around for a while. But, even without Werner, we still have Brewster and Jones and Hardy and a bunch of kids who are on the pathway to stardom, so it’s not like we’re in the grips of the madness, either.
Other teams actually in the madness. Chelsea gets to open the toybox again! Yay…? I mean, I guess that’s a good thing, given their, uh, uneven results in the past couple months. (That Kante slip looks so… familiar.) But one would hope they’ve recognized that a lot of the talent they have on the roster is workable in the PL and it would be a shame to kick those kids to the curb just because they can spend gales of money on some overpriced and/or declining star (*cough*Torres*cough*) in an effort to re-energize their season. One of the players they’ve had their eye on, of course, is the aforementioned Timo Werner, but offense is not where Chelsea’s problems really lie, at the moment.
Similarly, ManU is trying to get over the hump and secure CL play for next season (Oh, the memories of those days are not very far away.) I briefly mentioned the Bruno Fernandes case in my game write-up, but it’s worth spotlighting here. So, Fernandes is an attacking mid for Sporting CP. He’d be a good replacement for the perennially-disinterested Paul Pogba (Paul Pogba!), as he’s a similarly skilled passer, great dribbler, and an often-casual tackler. It’s almost a 1-for-1. He’s eager to move on from Portugal and ManU could have had him for a decent price back in July. Ed Woodward, being Ed Woodward, was probably busy signing the deal for ManU kitchen towels in Kazakhstan or some such thing and didn’t pull the trigger. Now, they find themselves definitely without their best midfielder and riven by other injuries and they’ll have to pay through the nose to get the guy because it’s the winter window and Sporting knows they’re frantic about reaching the top 4. In other words, they’re the perfect sucker play, except for the fact that they played themselves.
Speaking of riven by injuries, another team to look at in the depths of the madness is Aston Villa. The Villans are in the unusual position of having lost two keepers to injury this season, in addition to key players like John McGinn and Matt Targett. They’re also in the midst of a relegation battle, so if you’re wanting to see true desperation, that’s usually the place to look. They’re not swimming in the same waters, recruitment-wise, as the bigger clubs in Europe, so they may be mining the Championship for stopgaps. That, of course, doesn’t prevent said Championship clubs from extorting Villa in the same way that Sporting is doing to ManU, since their primary objective is to replace Villa in the shangri-la that is the EPL and its TV cash. Anyway, enough madness for now.
Just to end on a humorous note. Everton pulled off a spectacular faceplant yesterday against Newcastle while ostensibly cruising to a win.
Just to say that the Bitters slipped up in stoppage time doesn’t really do justice to the situation. Everton was battering (bittering?) the door down in the second half, after going up 2-0. They outshot Newcastle 17-8, including 8-2 on target (yes, Newcastle scored with both of their shots on goal…) You’d think that TRex doing a great job of protecting the back of the net by being two feet behind his goal line when trying to make a “save” would be humor enough. But, no, we’ll have to go into the locker room to really crown it. Ancelotti attempted to sympathize with his dejected players by telling them that he’d been in similar situations. In fact, he said: “I lost the Champions League final after winning, 3-0. These things happen.”
So, you’re the manager of a club that’s been part of a ferocious crosstown (well, crosspark, really) rivalry since, oh, the 1890s. As a casual suggestion, when trying to raise your team’s spirits, perhaps it’s best not to remind them of one of the legendary nights of that crosstown rival, not only for said rival, but for fans of the Champions League, in general. “Hey, guys! It’s OK. Not only have I lost sure wins. I lost sure wins to Liverpool!” One can almost see Everton dropping an early round League Cup game to Wycombe next season and Carlo trying to rally the troops by mentioning: “Hey! It’s not like we didn’t lose to Liverpool’s academy team last year! Come on, guys!”
So, yeah. Wolves tomorrow. I still don’t feel entirely right about this game, although it’s been apparent that fatigue is hitting Wolverhampton pretty seriously. And, by “don’t feel entirely right”, I mean I’m thinking we could end up with our second draw of the season. Crisis. We leave you with our latest LiVARpool results. Oh, look! Man City might’ve won a game 7-1, rather than 6-1. That would change everything!
Also, LOL at the City Twitter brigade now suggesting that Liverpool is “buying” the title, given that they spent £135 million last summer and we spent… £3.5 million. Keep trying, you guys! You’ll justify it to yourselves somehow! Just like those pesky ownership ethical issues!