Thanks for closing the window, now let us get on with the football - by Jason Harris
The start of a new year is seen as one of fresh beginnings, one where personal goals are set for the upcoming twelve months.
In Football, January also marks the opportunity to replenish the playing stocks in preparation for the all-important second half of the season in the league and cup competitions.
For the key figures in the game, they see this period as a major distraction as we approach a pivotal time where the big games come thick and fast. The media love it, as it gives them more content to fill the column inches with all the speculation which is flying around. But spare a thought for the average fan.
Supporting a football team was meant to be a deal of fun, not where you have to refresh Twitter every couple of minutes waiting to see which world class talent you are apparently close to signing.
For quite a number of years, a lot of the top teams seemed to take a back seat to the madness, happy with their squad and unwilling to pay crazy money for a player they can get much cheaper in the summer. Basically it was left to the desperate teams at the bottom to claim any bargains in their fight for survival.
However over the past couple of seasons, we have seen a fair few of the 'big boys' dip their toe into the water and see what value is around. Liverpool are one of those teams who have a mixed relationship with the winter window.
When we have decided to splash the cash we have bought wisely, with the signings of Daniel Agger, Javier Mascherano, Alvaro Arbeloa, Martin Skrtel, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge all making a sizeable impact.
Unfortunately Fernando Morientes, Jan Kromkamp and Andy Carroll did not fit into the same bracket, but like anything in life, you win some and you lose some.
With the exception Marko Grujic (who was immediately loaned back to Red Star Belgrade), Liverpool had been dormant in January in terms of purchases since the double signing of Coutinho and Sturridge five years ago. That all changed this season.
Just as Santa had packed up his sleigh for another year, a late Christmas present came though the chimney at Melwood in the shape of Virgil Van Dijk, the much coveted central defender from our unofficial feeder club Southampton.
It appeared all the stars were aligning as this was the sort of player our much maligned back four was missing, a leader of men and someone who would make the others walk taller too.
However, the all around feel-good factor was sadly not going to last. The news which everyone connected with the club dreaded was happening-Coutinho was off to Barcelona. The timing could not have been much worse. Within the space of ten days we had filled one hole, only for another one to open up at the other end of the pitch.
You need all elements clicking to be a top side, but as we know, Jurgen Klopp's philosophy is largely to do with attacking football and losing a key member midway through a season is far from ideal.
Names from all over Europe have been mentioned as options to replace the diminutive Brazilian, but we know enough about Klopp to realise that he is not a manager to make a hasty decision. Just like he waited for the right moment to purchase Van Dijk, he was not willing to sign a player just for the sake of it and settle for second best.
Many would call that astute management, but for others, there is a lingering doubt over what role the owners are playing in all this.
On face value, it could be viewed that a one in/one out policy is in effect, and any Liverpool player is obtainable for the right price under FSG.
However Klopp strikes you as an individual that would not put up with any undue interference regarding his plans, and therefore goes about things in a cool and calculated fashion.
To put a positive spin on the current situation, the lack of a new face to replace Coutinho presents itself as a ideal opportunity for a player like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to stake a regular place in the side for the rest of the season. While it took him some time to find his feet, I think he has been a really underrated performer for the club since his arrival from the Gunners and personally believe he has the ability to kick on to another level.
It may be a contentious call, but all things considered at this moment I would give him the nod ahead of Adam Lallana who has not been near his best this season due to injury.
Twelve months ago we were up in arms about standing still in the January window, especially as we were still a sneaky chance for the title. Injuries, inconsistent form and our overall depth put pay to that, but the team recovered well to claim a top four spot.
A pertinent question to be asked:
Are we currently a stronger overall unit than 12 months ago?
Opinion will be split, but I truly believe we are slightly ahead of where we were this time last year. We now have a proper left back playing very well in the position, two young and ever improving right backs, a world class defender who will get better with every game he plays with, and solid overall depth waiting for their opportunity. Not to mention a frontline which sends shudders through every defence they come up against.
While the loan of Sturridge to West Brom may seem like curious timing, you cannot compare the 2018 version of the striker, to the player who was in his prime during the 2013/4 season. I would back the likes of Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke to fill the breach in a supporting role.
Certainly it is not ideal losing a world class player like Coutinho, but it was clear that he did not see his footballing future with the club and in that case we are better off without him.
Frustration may be high through lack of further signings, but mercifully as another transfer window closes, we can sit down, take a breath and let the football take centre stage as it deserves to be.
That in itself is a good thing for players, managers and fans alike.