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Could Liverpool’s January transfer window cost them a Champions League place?

Jake Jackman

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Liverpool

Liverpool are taking a huge risk in January as they have once again shown reluctance to strengthen their squad, despite the rest of the top six making significant moves. It can be argued that the Reds will be ending the month with a weaker squad than they started it with and considering their drop-off in form recently, that is a huge reason for concern. Although they still have a very talented squad, the past month has left the supporters feeling deflated and they could come to regret their business or lack thereof.

The window started well for the club as they finally clinched the signing of Dutch international Virgil van Dijk. The centre-back has been a priority target for the club since the summer, but their approach for him caused problems, as Southampton reported them for misconduct. That caused the transfer to stall and the Reds had to pay a significant amount more to land him in January. The fee was reported at £75 million, which is a world record fee for the defender. Despite the money involved, it is generally agreed that he represents a huge upgrade on their current options. Jurgen Klopp’s men have had defensive issues since he took over at the club and this was seen as a positive move to remedy them.

However, after the signing of Van Dijk, the window took a turn for the worse and the club have refused to sign any more players to replace those leaving. Philippe Coutinho was the first player to depart, as he joined Barcelona in a deal that was worth an eye-watering £142 million. Los Cules wanted to make a statement after losing Neymar during the summer and Liverpool were the club to suffer from that. Supporters were upset that the board allowed one of their best players to leave mid-season, but it was an offer that was too good to turn down.

The sale of Coutinho wasn’t a disaster as a stand-alone event. The Brazilian was far from the most important player in the side, despite being the most talented. That showed in the immediate aftermath as the club beat local rivals Everton before becoming the first team to beat Manchester City in the Premier League this season. The Reds played some excellent football and they looked ready to push on to better things.

It was an excellent occasion for supporters, but the club’s win over Manchester City may have had a negative impact on the thinking behind recruitment. They looked a team capable of challenging for major honours and that may have caused the board to be cautious in the transfer window. January is famously a tough month to do business. In the past, the top-six have been reluctant to spend big money in the window as there isn’t a lot of value for money. Clubs are less willing to sell their key players and that means huge money is needed.

Although it is a difficult market to operate in, the nature of the Premier League is changing, and Liverpool need to react to that. No team is guaranteed Champions League football on a yearly basis, as there are six very good teams playing England and that means an injection of quality mid-season will be needed most seasons, even if only to provide positivity to the fan-base.

The rest of the top-six have realised that. Manchester United have signed Alexis Sanchez. Arsenal are close to bringing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to North London, while Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City will all finish the month in a stronger position. That won’t be the case at Anfield, as Liverpool’s month has got worse and worse since the Manchester City victory.

They have refused to sign anyone to replace Philippe Coutinho, which puts huge pressure on Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Both are talented players, but they haven’t shown the consistency to suggest they can be first-team regulars for a Champions League team. It is a huge risk to rely on them to step in for the Brazilian considering their place in next season’s Champions League is far from guaranteed. They have been linked with Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar this month. Although neither are as good as the midfielder that left for Barcelona, they would have provided some positivity.

The sting in the tale came when the club agreed to loan out Daniel Sturridge to West Brom. The England international has featured in only nine Premier League matches this season, but he is a fan favourite and has the ability to contribute if the team needed it. Liverpool have agreed to let two proven attacking players leave without a single player arriving in the forward positions. Not only with Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain need to perform, but Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke will be expected to contribute in the final third. Neither have proven that they can do that since arriving at Anfield.

There will be some Liverpool fans hoping that the club surprises them on deadline day with a signing or two, but that seems unlikely given recent history. The current board seem to lack proactivity in the transfer market and they will likely see there being more value in the summer. If they do end the window without an attacking player joining the club, it will be a huge risk. There is no doubting the current front three, but the depth beneath that is worrying. If the Reds suffer two or three injuries to key players, they will struggle to finish in the top four.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Bristol City

Sam McQueen linked but losing Joe Bryan would hurt Bristol City

The Englishman has been at Ashton Gate since 15 years of age.

Josh Kerr

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Joey Bryan
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Bristol Post, Bristol City are being linked with Southampton‘s Sam McQueen as the club’s replacement for full-back Joe Bryan, meaning the South-West club could be preparing for life without the 24-year-old, who has made over 229 appearances for the club.

The Robins ultimately look set to lose Bryan during the summer transfer window with Burnley, Everton and Aston Villa all keen on signing the left-back. With only a year left on his contract at Ashton Gate, the club could be tempted to cash-in for the home grown defender, for a fee of around £6 million.

Despite McQueen being a sensible replacement for City, his arrival wouldn’t quite soften the blow of losing Bryan, who has quickly established himself as one of the best all-round defenders in the EFL Championship.

The full-back has been with the side since he was 15 years of age and has gone on to become one of their most important players. Many will remember the 24-year-old’s wonder strike to help beat Premier League giants Manchester United in the Carabao Cup quarter-final, after a display that saw him named man-of-the-match.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Losing a player of his calibre will not help the club’s attempts to challenge for the play-offs next season. Considering the club were in contention for a top two place as recently as Christmas, it is difficult to comprehend the board selling one of their best players.

The Robins sat second in the Championship during the festive period but went on to finish a disappointing 11th after only picking up 20 points from their final 22 games.

Lee Johnson reportedly sees McQueen, who was told he can quite St Mary’s this summer, as the most likely replacement for Bryan this summer, if the right offer comes in for the latter’s services.

The Saints defender played 22 times in the 2017/18 season, mostly from the bench, but is a player who could definitely prove his worth.

At 23, he still has years to improve and with a full Championship season under his belt, he could emerge a shrewd replacement for long-term servant Bryan.

However, the news won’t float well with City fans who would prefer to keep their homegrown player, rather than attempt to replace him.

Nonetheless, with a year left on his contract, cashing in on the £6 million talent, while bringing in Sam McQueen, could prove a smart piece of business from the Robins.

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West Bromwich Albion

West Brom’s Nacer Chadli very fortunate to make Belgium World Cup squad

The Belgian’s inclusion in Roberto Martinez’s World Cup side came as a surprise to many.

Josh Kerr

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Nacer Chadli
Photo: Getty Images

West Bromwich Albion attacking midfielder Nacer Chadli has been named in Roberto Martinez’s preliminary World Cup squad, much to the amazement of all Baggies fans.

The 28-year-old has rarely featured for Albion during their disastrous relegation season, with injury limiting him to just six appearances in all competitions for the club.

The Belgium international has even been included over Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan, who today also his international retirement after receiving the disappointing news.

Chadli is arguably the most fortunate player to be in Martinez’s World Cup squad, considering he only featured four times in the league for a team that was relegated in the most disastrous fashion.

(Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

The former Tottenham player has a relegation release clause of £17 million, so there’s a chance for him to sign for another club if he is able to show the quality that former Premier League manager Martinez has evidently seen in him.

Other notable names also in the Red Devils’ squad to take to Russia include Manchester City‘s Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, Chelsea‘s Eden Hazrd and Thibaut Courtois, and Liverpool‘s Simon Mignolet.

Many football supporters have taken to Twitter to highlight their disbelief to Chadli representing the Midlands side for Belgium in this summer’s World Cup in Russia. His inclusion sees him as one of just two current Baggies to represent the side in the summer tournament, along with Egyptian centre-back Ahmed Hegazi.

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Everton

A Marco Silva reunion at Everton is exactly what goal-shy Richarlison needs

The Brazilian has struggled for form since Everton-linked Marco Silva left the Hornets.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

Marco Silva has been heavily linked with the vacant Everton managerial job this week and, according to reports in the Daily Mail, the ex-Watford boss is set to hold further talks with the club in the coming days.

As a result of the Silva connections, Paddy Power’s odds suggest Everton are now the front runners to sign Watford winger Richarlison this summer.

The move could prove to be an ingenious way to revive Richarlison’s early-season brilliance under the manager who coaxed the best out of the mercurial Brazilian.

Both Richarlison and Silva enjoyed superb form when the two were together in the opening months of the 2017/18 campaign, and a reunion at Goodison Park would result in success.

The Portuguese manager steered the Hornets to an impressive start to the season that saw the club suffer just one defeat in their first eight league matches.

The Brazilian winger also hit the ground running at Vicarage Road, notching five goals and contributing three assists in his opening 12 Premier League matches.

However, the tide turned in the final months of 2017, as Richarlison scored his last league goal in November, and Silva won just one of his last 11 league matches before being sacked in January.

Richarlison clearly thrived under the management of Silva, and after the Portuguese departed the club, the winger scored and assisted a grand total of zero goals. But at only 21 years of age, the youngster has time on his side and is still adapting to English football.

Everton would do well to reconnect Marco Silva with Richarlison, and if the manager can get the best out of the Brazilian, the Toffees would attain the services of a top-class attacking talent who has many productive years in front of him.

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