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Sad one, Liverpool’s rebuilding has been stalled



Liverpool’s rebuilding is underway, but Jurgen Klopp has been unable to bring on some of his new players

Only those Liverpool fans who weren’t paying attention – and given the Reds’ form this season, it’s understandable – would have been surprised by Jürgen Klopp’s comments about the need to rebuild his squad.
“It was one of the main reasons I signed a new contract, because I knew it was necessary,” the Liverpool manager Michael Calvin’s Football People told the BT Sport podcast this week. “It won’t happen overnight. I know most of the outside world is only interested in the short term, but we also need to focus on the long term, which is who we are.”

Klopp has long hinted at a rebuild – referring to a “transformation” of his team in May – but the reality is that the Reds squad has always evolved during his tenure. The debate right now, of course, is whether that process has been accelerated enough in recent seasons. There is no doubt, however, that since winning the Champions League in 2019, Liverpool have been looking to the future in their transfer market dealings. Of the 17 players they paid to recruit, only two – Thiago Alcantara and Ben Davies, the latter of whom hasn’t kicked a ball for the club – were over the age of 24 when he was signed.

In the last 18 months alone, around £230m has been pledged to bring in new players. But those signings point to a conundrum Klopp has grappled with for much of the campaign.

Can a renovation really be called that if it’s mostly about using the same bricks in the same places? It would end up looking pretty much the same house. Little will have changed.

Consider it. Liverpool have played 30 games this season, 19 of them in the Premier League. And combined, the six seniors signed since the end of the 2020-21 season have managed just 47 starts during that period. Darwin Nunez, the record £85m transferee prospect from Benfica last summer, earned the most but has so far amassed just 15 starts in a debut season that has been hampered at times by suspensions, injuries and the obvious need to focus on adapting to his new environment.

Luis Diaz is next with 11, but he hasn’t played since sustaining a knee injury at Arsenal in October and is unlikely to see himself again until March. Ibrahima Konate is eight after missing the first few months of the season with a knee problem, while 20-year-old Fabio Carvalho has also started eight times as he prepares for a move to the Premier League.

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Cody Gakpo has the mitigation of only arriving at the beginning of the month, and with four consecutive departures, like Nunez and Carvalho, he is still getting used to moving up the level. And while he’s not expected to be a starter this season, a historic injury problem helped teenager Calvin Ramsay get off on his own.

Even Arthur Melo, who was loaned out on summer transfer deadline day, only made a brief substitution before succumbing to injury. And further: Diogo Jota, who was signed in September 2020, has only started four games.

In fact, in the last four years in terms of most minutes played for Liverpool this season, only Nunez, Harvey Elliott and Thiago have been bought into the top 13. Seven of the top 13 are aged 30 or over. Is it any wonder that the Reds have too often seemed a bit upset compared to their rivals? Older players are encouraged to shoulder the workload with younger team members.

It’s also telling that of the signings over the past four years, only Jota has had anything resembling extensive Premier League experience and needed no adjustment. This is in stark contrast to the start of the Klopp era, when Sadio Mane, Gini Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson all arrived with plenty of top-notch craftsmanship and quickly became key figures in what Liverpool became champions of Europe, the world and England.

“All the problems you have in a transition period, we have a lot of injuries and that makes life really complicated,” Klopp added. “I know that the majority of the outside world is only interested in the short term, but we also have to be long term oriented and we are.”

Liverpool’s long-term rebuild has been underway for some time. But the perfect storm has left Klopp largely without his new bricks and mortar. Only time will tell if this is a place worth living.