6 The Daily Telegraph Tuesday 8 September 2020 *** Sport Football Champions reluctant to tinker with formula 2 SIX THE BIG Liverpool mains the ideal, but the unforeseen consequences of Covid-19 have brought compromises, which means there must be trepidation amid the prudence. Klopp acknowledged as much before last weekend’s Community Shield. “So far, it worked out. It doesn’t mean it will always work out forever,” he said of Liverpool’s rationale in the transfer market. Ask Liverpool executives about criticism of the lack of expensive additions and they give no impression that it stings. “The passion of the fans is what makes the club as great as it is,” they will say about any social media angst, while gently reminding anyone fretting about transfers that, with another month of the window to go, it is ill-advised, given how fluid the situation is. For now, Liverpool believe they can reap the rewards of their forward planning with a squad in which, realistically, there are only two starting spots up for debate when everyone is fit. The goalkeeper, back four and front three pick themselves. Fabinho is Klopp’s go-to man in midfield, meaning the scrap is effectively for the midfield places alongside him: Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offer plentiful options. The supporters’ desire for reinforcement is effectively centred around one midfielder – Alcantara – a class player who would enable Liverpool to maintain a high-passing tempo in games in which they dominate possession. Sarr, like Greek left-back Tsimikas, would initially be perceived as a back-up, but such a player is badly needed. As was the case last year, if one of Liverpool’s front three were injured, the drop in quality would jeopardise title aspirations, albeit Minamino and youngster Curtis Jones show promise. Despite the initial fears, the short-term physical impact of Covid-19 failed to stop Liverpool winning their first title for three decades. The conundrum for the club is how to ensure the longerterm financial consequences do not undermine their attempts to successfully defend it for the first time since 1984. Part In the second of our series looking at how England’s top clubs are shaping up ahead of the Premier League season, explains why temptation to spend big is being resisted at Anfield Chris Bascombe J urgen Klopp might be tempted to quote Bill Shankly when he is asked for team news ahead of Liverpool’s opening game against Leeds United on Saturday. “Same as last year,” Shankly would quip on the eve of a season. There was reassuring laughter then. Today, it might provoke accusations of lack of ambition, complacency or boardroom stinginess. The 2020 appetite for transfers means stability does not quicken pulses. While rivals chase the most coveted signatures in Europe, there is a theory that the Premier League champions’ stepping aside from such pursuits risks squandering their first opportunity in 30 years to flex muscle and recruit from the ultimate position of strength. There is merit to that argument. Equally, for the past two years Liverpool have defied the logic that every side need annual refreshing, maintaining forward momentum without spending big. Klopp has enjoyed his most prolific Anfield spell with pretty much the same preferred starting XI since 2018. Since signing Alisson Becker for a then world-record £65million for a goalkeeper in the aftermath of the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, Liverpool have paid a combined £22 million on Takumi Minamino, Konstantinos Tsimikas and Sepp van den Berg, while they await a tribunal verdict on the value of Harvey Elliott, signed from Fulham in 2019. Loose change for a club of Liverpool’s resources, especially as they have brought in £52 million over the same period. More than £100 million was committed into the team as the club moved into a period of retention rather than recruitment, with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Klopp himself among those given lucrative new longterm deals over the past 18 months. With regards to signings, external pressure to pounce upon what are internally deemed unnecessary and expensive upgrades has zero influence. Initially, Liverpool’s recent modest transfer outlay was by design after a prolific recruitment spree in the years preceding the 2019 Champions League win. The difference now, if that continues into the new campaign, is that it is more due to circumstances. Like every other business, Liverpool await guidance from the World Health Organisation as to when the pandemic will pass, at which point their budget considerations will be clearer. It is possible they will end this transfer window having brought in Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr, but they insist that would only happen if the economic conditions altered significantly. That could be due to the imminent guarantee of revenue streams (such as the return of supporters), or raising funds through the sales of fringe players such as Marko Grujic, Harry Wilson and Xherdan Shaqiri. Six weeks ago, Michael Edwards, the sporting director, and Michael Gordon, president of owner Fenway Sports Group, were lauded for sticking to their plan and getting the balance right, hailed as the behind-the-scenes gurus driving Klopp’s trophy spree. Within football, that envy and admiration lingers. Listen to any owners’ five-year strategy and it aspires to spending smartly to construct a winning team so that there is then less necessity to do so. Most of those pursuing Liverpool are going through the reconstruction process FSG oversaw for its first eight years in charge, dishing out massive fees and contracts to try to narrow the gap to the leaders. Now the champions are in the luxurious situation where a couple of players would enhance a title-winning side, not reconfigure it. Signing a few more re- £11.7m £150.1m £70.7m £234.5m £82.4m £81.5m £92.5m £69.4m £55.8m £56.1m 3 TOMORROW Why Guardiola is under more scrutiny than ever at City Part Results and fixtures UEFA Nations League A - Group 1 EUROPEAN U-21 CH’SHIP Q’FYING.-Gp 2: Gp 4: Northern Ireland Norway P W D L F A GD Pts LEASING.COM TROPHY.-Northern Grp A: Grp B: LEAGUE C GROUP 2 (1) 1 (3) 5 Elyounoussi 2 Haland 7 58 Sorloth 19 47 Armenia v Estonia (5) Georgia v North Macedonia (5) Sunderland v Aston Villa (7). Morecambe v Rochdale. Bolton v Crewe (7). Port Vale v Tranmere (7). Lincoln City v Scunthorpe (7), Mansfield v Man City (6). Doncaster v Bradford (7.30). Accrington v Leeds (7), Blackpool v Barrow (7). Grimsby v Harrogate Tn, Hull v Leicester (5.30). Portsmouth v Colchester (7), Southend v West Ham (5.30). Gillingham v Crawley (5.30), Ipswich v Arsenal. Milton Keynes Dons v Northampton (7). Bristol Rovers v Walsall, Oxford Utd v Chelsea. Exeter v Forest Green (5.30), Swindon v West Brom (7). Newport Co v Cheltenham (7), Plymouth v Norwich. Leyton Orient v Brighton (7). Cambridge Utd v Fulham (7.30), Peterborough v Burton (7). McNair 6 Azerbaijan 1 France U21 2. Croatia U21 0. Czech Rep 0 Scotland Czech Republic 2 2 1 1 1 0 0 1 3 4 2 1 4 3 1 3 Bosnia-Herz Poland (1) 1 Hajradinovic 24 pen (1) 2 Grp C: Grp D: Glik 45 Grosicki 67 LEAGUE D GROUP 2 Grp E: SSE AIRTRICITY LGE.-Prem: Sligo Rovers 3 Finn Israel 2 0 2 0 2 2 0 2 San Marino v Liechtenstein Grp F: P W D L F A GD Pts Harps 1. Holland Italy (0) 0 (1) 1 Barella 45 Slovakia 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 1 EUROPEAN UNDER-21 CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING.-Grp One: Grp G: Grp H: Southern Romania Norway 2 1 1 0 4 3 1 4 2 1 0 1 6 3 3 3 Luxembourg v Armenia (4), Sweden v Italy (5.30). Liechtenstein v Georgia (4), Slovakia v Switzerland (7.15). Albania v Andorra (6), Austria v England (7.30). Lithuania v Scotland (4.30). Latvia v Estonia (3), Poland v Russia (5), Serbia v Bulgaria (7). Faroe Islands v North Macedonia (2), Israel v Kazakhstan (6.40). Holland v Norway (7), Portugal v Belarus (5.30). Finland v Ukraine (5), Malta v Romania (5), N Ireland v Denmark (5). Belgium v Germany (3), Moldova v Bosnia-Herzegovina (5). Fixtures League C - Group 4 P W D L F A GD Pts Grp Two: Kick-off 7.45 unless stated Italy Poland Holland 2 1 1 0 2 1 1 4 2 1 0 1 2 2 0 3 2 1 0 1 1 1 0 3 Albania Lithuania Austria 2 1 0 1 4 4 0 3 (0) 0 (0) 1 Kazlauskas 50 Grp A: UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE A GROUP 2 Grp Three: Grp Four: Grp Five: Grp B: Northern Ireland 2 0 1 1 2 6 -4 1 Belgium v Iceland Denmark v England Grp C: Grp D: Grp E: Kazakhstan Belarus (0) 1 Aimbetov 62 (0) 2 Bordachev 53, Lisakovich 86 League B - Group 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 2 0 1 1 2 3 -1 1 Grp Six: LEAGUE A GROUP 3 P W D L F A GD Pts Czech Republic Scotland (1) 1 (1) 2 League B - Group 1 France v Croatia Sweden v Portugal Grp Seven: Grp Eight: Kazakhstan Albania 2 1 0 1 3 2 1 3 2 1 0 1 2 1 1 3 Pesek 11 Dykes 27 Christie 52 pen Grp F: Austria Romania (1) 2 Baumgartner 17 Onisiwo 80 (1) 3 LEAGUE C GROUP 1 Grp G: Grp Alibec 3 Grigore 51 Maxim 69 Belarus 2 1 0 1 2 3 -1 3 Cyprus v Azerbaijan Luxembourg v Montenegro Israel Slovakia H: (0) 1 Elmkies 90 (1) 1 Grp Nine: Lithuania 2 1 0 1 1 2 -1 3 Duris 14
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