Last January, Liverpool got their winter transfer window off to a strong start, having finalized the signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea on the second day of the window.
This time last year, their new signing had already made his debut against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup and had already scored his first goal in Liverpool colors. The following weekend, Sturridge came on as a half-time substitute and scored against Manchester United.
It’s not just Liverpool; it seems that the Premier League in general has been slow to take action this January. The Telegraph’s list, via John Ley, of ins and outs in England’s top flight shows just how slow business has been for Premier League clubs so far.
But there is still plenty of time left for Liverpool to enjoy a successful January transfer window. Here are five guiding principles that will allow them to do just that.
Don’t Disrupt the Current Momentum
The impressive evolution of this Reds side in the past year shows that Brendan Rodgers has been molding the team as a unit with a shared philosophy in mind, and this has been particularly obvious in the last couple of months, which has seen a plethora of goals scored at Anfield.
As such, while hunting for players and potential signings, Rodgers and his management team would do well to keep in mind Liverpool’s fine form of late and take care not to introduce too many distractions or disruptions to the first team.
The goalscoring streak of Luis Suarez and pre-injury form of Daniel Sturridge mean that the forward line doesn’t have any pressing need for reinforcements, and given Raheem Sterling’s recent excellence, Rodgers has no need for a big revolution up front.
A strong squad option who could improve the starting XI would be great; any target would probably fare better than Victor Moses, who has been nothing short of abject in recent months.
The midfield and the defence obviously have problems to address, but given the lack of available options in the market in January anyway, Rodgers should only go for established players who would be able to settle into Liverpool’s game relatively quickly and easily, for stability’s sake.
Target Potential Cut-Price Options and Loans
As such, cut-price options—especially those whose contracts are expiring at the end of this season—and loans should be particularly attractive to Rodgers and Co., who presumably will have cost in mind when they look for signings this January.
When it comes to players who will be out of contract in six months, Rodgers could either go in strong with a pre-contract offer that factors any potential transfer fee into the wage packages to secure a signing for next season, or he could tempt their current clubs into selling for a fee.
For players who remain important to their team and would likely command a high asking price despite the risk of leaving on a free in six months, such as Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi, the former option seems more desirable.
While any pre-contract agreement wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—be leaked publicly soon, the January window, with the benefit of hindsight, will be looked upon as a very productive one if such players have been pre-signed.
For players whose contract situations don’t look like they might be resolved soon, like Barcelona’s Martin Montoya, via Alex Richards of Mirror Football, the latter option above may be enough to secure a move.
There is also the possibility of loan deals, which would take advantage of the uncertain first-team statuses of many established players at big clubs around Europe. A loan deal would allow them to get valuable playing time at Anfield, and if an option to buy can be agreed, a promise of a permanent move at the end of the short-term arrangement is possible.
Our dream January transfer scenario for Liverpool is thus a combination of both.
Quality, Not Quantity
By now, it’s probably a tired cliche, especially when associated with transfer windows, but still, it bears repeating: Instead of strengthening in numbers, Liverpool should look for real quality that can improve their first team.
We only need to look at Sunderland’s group of disastrous new summer signings and Tottenham Hotspur’s underwhelming replacements for Gareth Bale to learn of the potential problems that buying too many players can cause.
Liverpool’s squad is currently hit severely by injuries. Daniel Agger is the latest casualty after his calf problem in the FA Cup tie against Oldham Athletic, according to James Carroll of the official Liverpool website, but Rodgers currently cannot afford a stockpiling of useful players, especially given that he’s only involved in two competitions.
Last January, Liverpool signed just two players in Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. Their immediate impacts on the fortunes of the first team are now almost legendary. By contrast, in the summer of 2012, Rodgers brought Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi to the senior squad. Only one of them is still at Anfield.
Allow Exits and Loans as Necessary
But it’s not just about bringing players into Liverpool; the January window also gives them a valuable opportunity to let players go if needed.
Last January saw the Reds terminate Nuri Sahin’s loan deal, allowing him a chance to resurrect his career back at Borussia Dortmund, again on loan from Real Madrid, and this time around we might yet see the same with Victor Moses, on loan from Chelsea and whose sole contribution was a goal on his debut against Swansea City.
Allowing Moses to return to his parent club would not only free up room for another loan from a Premier League club if available but also a chance for him to continue his career at a club that would grant him a starting spot week in and week out.
While assistant manager Colin Pascoe has dampened talk of Raheem Sterling going out on loan this month, according to Ben Burrows of Mirror Football, other players who have found first-team chances hard to come by may be granted an opportunity for first-team football in the lower leagues.
The likes of Andre Wisdom and Suso have already spent most of the campaign out on loan, while Martin Kelly and Tiago Ilori, who have found it hard to break into the first team despite the recent injury spike, may yet be on their way with the club’s blessings.
Take Time If Needed
All of which culminates in the final key to a successful January window: Take your time.
That this January is markedly different from just 12 months ago—last year, Liverpool were in desperate need of new players to bolster a shallow squad—is encouraging and a testament to the good work that the backroom team have done to groom an exciting young crop of players.
The Reds struck gold with Sturridge and Coutinho last time, and any similar signings this year would provide a significant boost to their top-four challenge.
But as the Coutinho transfer showed—it was only confirmed Jan. 30, a day before the window shut. Sometimes you have to bide your time when it comes to scouting and negotiating.
There’s no need to rush into anything. After all, Liverpool already have a top-four squad as of Week 20. For premium quality here on out, patience is the key.
This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.