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Featured: Konoplyanka failure disappointing but not the main issue (ESPN article)

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by Dave Usher for ESPN

When Liverpool's pursuit of FC Basel's Mohamed Salah ended in all too predictable fashion with the winger signing for rivals Chelsea, I was more upset about missing out on another target than the loss of the player himself. When the transfer window slammed shut with managing director Ian Ayre flying back from the Ukraine without Yevhen Konoplyanka… well, that just rubbed salt into the open wound. Whatever the reasons for Liverpool's failure to add to the squad, they've come out of this window looking amateurish at best and incompetent at worst.

The recriminations of who is to blame for this latest shambles can wait for another day. Right now, I'm trying to work out the thought process that led to Liverpool prioritising the addition of a wide attacker when there appeared to be much more pressing areas of the team in need of reinforcing.

The vast majority of Kopites would say a midfielder should have been Liverpool's overwhelming priority in this transfer window, possibly followed by a full-back. A top class winger was needed, of course -- you can never have too many of those -- but that would have come a distant third for many fans and could even be seen as being something of a luxury signing at this moment in time.

Missing out on Salah probably isn't going to have a huge impact on Liverpool's push for the top four, but it was nonetheless irritating to see another target choose to go elsewhere. The Reds appeared to dither and allow a rival club to come in and get a deal done by offering more money than Liverpool were prepared to pay.

Had Salah been a powerful, dominant central midfielder, the response to missing out on him would have been vastly different. Some LFC supporters might even argue that the loss of Salah was a blessing in disguise if it meant funds not used on the Egyptian were put towards bringing in that much-needed midfielder.

That was a view I shared, so what I found somewhat surprising was that the next player Liverpool moved for was also a winger, Dnipro's Ukraine international Konoplyanka. Missing out on him hurt a lot more than Salah for several reasons, not least because most people seem to think he's a much better player.

It's been reported by the Liverpool Echo that the deal did not happen because the Dnipro president apparently refused to sign the paperwork even after a buyout clause had been met and a medical passed. Surely, if it were that simple, Ayre would have bundled the player onto the back of his Harley Davidson, told the Dnipro owner to "eat my dust" and raced back to Merseyside and let UEFA deal with it. That seems a little far-fetched to me but, irrespective of why it didn't happen, the fact is it didn't -- and Brendan Rodgers yet again cut a frustrated figure as a transfer window closed.

Read the full article here.

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A good article in full.

 

Did the Kono deal fail because we would not pay in full up front or because their owner changed his mind on selling? One thing is for sure, when the CEO is in the team, failure to complete a deal rests with him.

 

My concern is not about the failure to secure Kono per se.It is that we have what may be a rare chance to crack the top four assisted by the poor form of others as well as our own skill. That chance may not repeat itself.

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It's mystifying that we didn't go after a full back. I can just about understand not moving for a midfielder if Lucas's injury is not as serious as we first thought, but the full back situation is ridiculous. We have both Johnson and Enrique out with no return in sight, Cissokho is very limited, and Kelly still seems to be miles away from his best form. Plus we have Wisdom and Robinson out on loan. What do we do if Flanagan gets injured again?

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I'd say the main issue is NOT the strange prioritising of positions which aren't immediately in need of reinforcement, but rather the entire transfer negotiation process. For whatever reason, the club takes an age to complete deals. Seemingly, days weeks and months go by from the point at which it is confirmed we are in negotiations to the point at which the player is holding a shirt at Melwood proclaiming this to be his dream move.

 

The clubs has found itself accused of all sorts such as lowballing, tapping up and dithering. And yet the club is amongst the top 3 in the Premier League in terms of how much it pays in agent fees. Is the figure so high because we take up so much of an agent's time? It sounds silly but you do have to wonder.

 

The club has all too frequently found itself being gazumped late in the day when another club comes in and closes a deal with the player seemingly within a few hours. Chelsea have done this recently, but Spurs have had a habit of doing this over the past 5 years. Irritating for the chaps doing the negotiating I'm sure, but absolutely infuriating for the fans.

 

Without being privy to how transfer negotiations are conducted in general, or least by those clubs that are usually successful and quick in closing deals (and I don't meant those backed by oligarchs or Arab royalty), it's hard to gauge what it is that Liverpool are doing differently.

 

There are numerous possible explanations, but this is one where I think Liverpool are at a disadvantage, and it's to do with having the right contacts. Other clubs use the services of a so-called 'super agent' like Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola or Pini Zahavi to keep the negotiations ticking over even if he doesn't represent the player directly. These people know how to play the game and can tell when the other side are bluffing, they know how to call their bluff. They know how to bluff effectively themselves, and they know how to get a satisfactory resolution when dealing with hard-headed club owners such as those at Porto and Benfica (or even Dnipro). The transfer committee and Ian Ayre haven't got that know-how or that contact who can grease the wheels and make things go smoothly, quickly and in Liverpool's favour. 

 

This is a problem that pre-dates FSG so I suspect there is another common denominator that has hampered the club from being effective in the transfer market. It has little to do with money (God knows we've spent enough over the last 20-25 years). Liverpool like to portray themselves as having old-fashioned values such as class, dignity, respect and other similar adjectives that can be thrown around easily. They call it The Liverpool Way. The problem is, these values do not translate effectively in an industry that is now more about business than the sport itself, and in business, you need to be ruthless, cut-throat and hard-headed to keep yourselves ahead of the game or at least in it.

 

You can't succeed in a multi-national corporate world with an ethos that is closer to the corner shop or the market stall. The Liverpool Way was effective when the sport was a sport, but it is now just a convenient buzzword and a bit of a cop out for when things don't pan out.

 

It's also the name of this site!

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There was onl one thing I thought was pleasing about the transfer window and that is with regards to the targets there was a theme; two wingers.

 

In the summer there was no rhyme or reason.

Micky Ryan - Attacking midfielder

Costa - Striker

Willan - Winger

 

Talk about scattergun approach.

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Good piece, I wondered if a wide player might signal Coutinho being pushed centrally, but I also thought the lack of fullbacks targeted might have meant Rodgers envisaged going to three CBs (when Sakho and Agger are fit) again and utilising a winger as a wing-back.

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I agree with most that we need a central midfielder, especially one that can actually tackle. Must admit though, that as soon as Brendan said he saw Stevie's future in that deeper role I'd resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn't be going after anyone for that position.

 

Perhaps one other small crumb of comfort to take from this window though is that Everton, Spurs and Arsenal all failed to strengthen their squads too. The guy Arsenal signed isn't even fit! Obviously Everton & Spurs are on our tails for 4th but that's very much in our hands. I honestly think that we could reel Arsenal in too, especially with the terrible run of games they have coming up, which includes coming to Anfield. I think the two oil conglomerates will finish 1st & 2nd, 3rd is still very much up for grabs though.

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The one straw for Kopites to clutch at is that the deployment of Coutinho in that more withdrawn role could be like having a new signing.

 

 

I never ever thought I'd see nonsense like this in one of your articles, Dave. The 'like a new signing' trope should be left to desperate management. 

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I never ever thought I'd see nonsense like this in one of your articles, Dave. The 'like a new signing' trope should be left to desperate management. 

 

We need never make an actual signing again.

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I love reading the comments on those ESPN articles. This one is possibly my favourite so far.

 

 

Martin Jansson · Top Commenter · Works at Staten

 

"Ayre would have just bundled the player onto the back of his Harley Davidson, told the Dnipro owner to "eat my dust" and raced back to Merseyside and let UEFA deal with it."

Talk about oversimplifying things. That would surely make him eligable to play for us. So fed up with this second-guessing articles written behind the safety of hindsight. Worst of all though, is that the author seems to know better than the manager and the leaders of this club what priorities needs to be made in the transfer market. Sometimes you get it right (like last Janury window) and sometimes you don't - that's footy for you unless your in a position where money's not an issue like Man C and Chelsea (some would add Arsenal and ManU to that list).

To think that either of Salah and Konoplyanka represents the difference between finishing 4th and not is just delusional and proof of a superficial and intellectually restrained analytical capacity to be perfectly honest. We have a good enough squad to finish 4th (check the table again please) unless we get long-term injuries to key players like Suarez and Sturridge simultaneously. But that would always be a problem (look at ManU for references).

I'm not particularly happy with this window, but I'm not too despondent either if it means we increase our chances to bring in quality in the summer which I think we will. If anything, the current regime, from owners to manager via MD, have shown time and again they're a bunch of quick learners. So I'm confident they'll improve in the summer on whatever mistakes was made this winter. We just need to calm ourselves down and remember they weren't crucial mistakes.

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Can Mr Martin Jansson with the clearly, intellectually restrained analytical capacity or any other hourly paid on line, FSG professional appreciator analyse when was the last time Liverpool finished a transfer window without a single signing and when was the last time Man UTD dropped out of the Top 4, just to put everything into perspective.

 

Love

Nightcat of Mogadishu

 

P.S. Good article Dave

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I never ever thought I'd see nonsense like this in one of your articles, Dave. The 'like a new signing' trope should be left to desperate management. 

 

You missed out the line after that which puts a completely different context to it.

 

As for the comments on the ESPN articles, I stopped reading them after a few of them took the line "when Kolo Toure single handedly led Arsenal's 'invincibles' to an unbeaten season" seriously and slated me for it.  I decided there and then not to bother anymore.

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You missed out the line after that which puts a completely different context to it.

 

As for the comments on the ESPN articles, I stopped reading them after a few of them took the line "when Kolo Toure single handedly led Arsenal's 'invincibles' to an unbeaten season" seriously and slated me for it.  I decided there and then not to bother anymore.

 

I don't think you are missing anything.

 

I disagree somewhat with the thesis of the article. The fact that we need players in position x or position y does not preclude buying quality if is available in position z, especially if players in position x/y seem to be thin on the ground. I didn't notice many players (Mata excepted) in those positions being moved on.

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He's had a pretty average start to his career in La Liga... but Chelsea are planning to rescue him in January apparently.

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He's had a pretty average start to his career in La Liga... but Chelsea are planning to rescue him in January apparently.

 

They are short of wingers to be fair - only about 30 million of them out on loan at present.

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