What a great job these three men have done for us.
What. A. Transfer. Window. Wow.
Despite some late drama that, unfortunately, seemed unavoidable, this transfer window has undoubtably been the best in recent Liverpool history (the only other one I would rate as highly would be Summer 2007, which saw us buy Fernando Torres, Ryan Babel, Yossi Benayoun, Lucas Leiva, and Dani Pacheco, among others). Seven first-team players were brought in, while more importantly, an amazing eighteen players were sold or released, and a further six were loaned out (with only two set to return here and have a future). The squad finally received a much needed overhaul, with the high transfer fees paid for some players offset by saving the wages of the deadwood which had floated around the first team squad for too long.
Perhaps the most important thing to Liverpool is that they entered the window with a clear plan. There were clear holes in the team (LB, wing, playmaker, etc.) that couldn't be filled by players currently at the team, mostly due to a lack of quality (and fitness in some cases, such as Fabio Aurelio). Meanwhile, with the success of our own youth players towards the end of last year (Spearing, Kelly, Flanagan, Robinson), it was important to leave a path for them into the first team. Without that path, it would be hard to keep attracting top youth talent (which won't be discussed here, but at least five very good youth players were brought in).
Contrast this to other teams, the most notable being Arsenal. Arsenal knew there was a good chance of losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, and yet they let this happen without a plan to bring in anyone to replace them. As we all know, this lack of thought was exposed in their comical 8-2 loss to Manchester United. Chelsea, meanwhile, seemed to focus exclusively on acquiring Luka Modric throughout the entire window, and ended up purchasing our own Raul Meireles instead - not the playmaker or defensive midfielder that they really needed. At Tottenham, 'arry wasn't able to live up to his own "wheeler dealer" stereotype, and they failed to make any sort of major purchase at all (or even a quality bargain, as VDV was a year ago).
With this plan, Liverpool started the transfer window with what appeared at the time to be an extremely odd move, the purchase of Jordan Henderson from Sunderland for £16m. Midfield was, it had appeared, the one area of the team that did not need to be strengthened this summer. However, with his ability to also play on the wing (and if you're Stuart Pearce, as a DM), he has fit into our team and offered pace, mobility, and a great cross. Following this purchase was yet another midfielder, Charlie Adam of Blackpool for £7m. Some Liverpool fans could be forgiven for thinking "Great, we're playing the famous 0-10-0 formation next year," but in retrospect, this has proven a shrewd move. With Gerrard out longer than initially thought, a spot in the midfield next to Lucas opened up, and Adam has filled it brilliantly. Still adapting his game to our side, Adam's free-kicks and corners have already proven a great asset.
It was the next two purchases, Alexander Doni from Roma (on a free transfer) and Stewart Downing of Aston Villa (for £18.5m) that really started to fill our needs. Brad Jones had proven to not be good enough, and a loan for the promising Peter Gulacsi was now possible. Downing, meanwhile, has offered much needed pace and width to our side. At 27, he is one of our older purchases, but with promising youngsters like Raheem Sterling and Toni Silva already in the Reserves, a long-term solution wasn't necessary. Instead, we needed a player who could fit in and contribute immediately. Downing has done this, and will continue to.
Still, the one position that had troubled us the most (because of the lack of fitness for Fabio Aurelio and the insane decision to loan out Emiliano Insua) had been unfilled. Enter Jose Enrique. Despite links to Alvaro Pereira, Aly Cissokho, and most notably Gail Clichy, it still appeared that Jose Enrique was our first choice throughout the summer. It seems that only an insane £15m valuation by Newcastle had kept us away from him for so long. Yet when the season finally approached, Newcastle knew they had to sell, and Enrique was ours for a bargain £6m.
As deadline day approached, only two holes seemingly needed to be filled. The sale of Sotirios Kyrgiakos meant a new CB was needed, while the future sale of David N'Gog meant a new striker would be needed. Sebastian Coates of Nacional in Uruguay may be the most unexpected signing of the summer for Liverpool. And despite a great performance at the Copa America (winning the Best Young Player award), few European sides seemed to have interest. Liverpool were able to snatch him up for only £5m, a bargain for someone with his potential. Craig Bellamy has been the most player to arrive. With Manchester City also needing to unload their own deadwood, a free transfer was possible. It's unknown how either of this signings will fit in, but they should solidify areas needing it.
All the while, the deadwood was cleared. The beauty of having supportive owners is that players haven't necessarily needed to be sold in order for new ones to be bought. Due to the actions of Damien Comolli, weekly wages of £30k (Raul Meireles), £20k (David N'Gog), £30k (Sotirios Kyrgiakos), £35k (Christian Poulsen), £70k (Milan Jovanovic), £30k (Paul Konchesky), £20k (Emiliano Insua), £55k (Philippe Degen) and £40k (Nabil El Zhar) have been removed due to transfers and releases, while further amounts of £80k (Alberto Aquilani), £30k (Joe Cole), and £20k (Dani Pacheco) will be saved due to loan agreements. All this adds up to an amazing £460k a week, or almost £25m a year. With our new signings, it's unlikely that we are paying more than about £350k a week in wages, a real reduction of almost £6m (and possibly more due to players I've missed). Including the wages of players sold in the January window (£110k and £70k sold, with £70k and £60k bought), there is a reduction of another £50k a week!
For our squad to undergo such a radical transformation in only one transfer window is nothing short of remarkable. A cleverly executed plan to strengthen our squad worked brilliantly, and we now have a squad full of players who want to be here, backed by a manager who knows how to use them, and owners who give us the money to spend when we need it. Some may disagree with some of our purchases, and debate will likely continue for some time. But for now, we should be very pleased with the performances we've seen. Despite an impressive start to the season, taking 7 of 9 points, it is imperative that we keep up our performances and finish in the top 4. Now more than ever, I am confident of this.