Dave Tindall assesses how Liverpool’s summer signings have bedded-in in this week’s Red Letter – and quickly backs Jurgen Klopp’s decision not to sign big-name players.
During the summer transfer window, it’s fair to say that a lot of Liverpool fans were casting envious eyes at the business being done elsewhere.
Did we lack ambition? Why couldn’t we be in the market for the superstar players?
The persistent mentions of Mario Gotze were about as glamorous a name as Liverpool were linked with…. No need, said Jurgen Klopp, it was all about building on the strong base we already had and making smart additions. Evolution not revolution.
As the points, goals and eye-catching stats build up, it’s fair to say most of us have complete faith in what he’s doing.
There were changes, of course, but most were focused on the exit door with 13 first-teamers leaving over the summer. Mamadou Sakho is doing a great job of trying to make it 14 after his latest piece of idiocy on snapchat.
The seven that did arrive – a not insignificant number it has to be said – were probably met with slight indifference when viewed as a collective.
But several of the new boys have hit the ground running. They’ve come into a side brimming with energy, verve and confidence and their efforts have added a new dimension and helped us make a hugely encouraging start.
So let’s have a closer look, see what they’ve brought to the table and, with teacher’s hat on, give them an early assessment and mark out of 10.
Sadio Mane (9 out of 10)
At £30m, it seemed Southampton had squeezed plenty out of this latest sale to LFC but Mane has been one of the Premier League’s best players this season. A goal in the 4-0 friendly win against Barcelona set him up for the flying start and, in five Premier League appearances, he’s contributed three goals (a stunner at Arsenal and strikes in both home games against Leicester and Hull) and an assist.
He had a hand in four of our five goals in the League Cup stroll at Burton and in the one game he missed through injury…. yep, we lost at Burnley. In the whoscored.com stats table, he’s ranked as statistically the fifth best forward in Europe behind Neymar, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Roberto and Antoine Griezmann.
Fluid, fast and fearless, we’ve landed a gem. Well done the scouting team, Mane is a perfect fit.
Joel Matip (8 out of 10)
He’s tall, elegant, good on the ball and we got him for free! What a bit of business this was by Klopp. An early comparison? It’s high praise but his calmness in possession reminds me of Alan Hansen.
I did like Sakho for his warrior spirit and all that but his gangling style suggested something horrible was around the corner even though most of the time it wasn’t.
By contrast, Matip spreads calm. The Cameroon defender was nearly foot-perfect at Chelsea (his only error going to ground too soon for their goal) and, as the season goes on, he should help grow the clean sheets and nod a few in himself form set-pieces (he’s our tallest player and we’re aiming for him).
The former Schalke man talks a good game too. Asked about Diego Costa, he said: “If an opponent tries to talk to me during the game, really, I don’t give a f***.”
Georginio Wijnaldum (7.5 out of 10)
Like Mane and Matip, the Dutchman has immediately become a first-team regular – although not in the role we thought. My impression of him at Newcastle was that he popped up with goals but didn’t do a whole lot else. It’s almost the exact opposite of that at LFC with Klopp putting him in centre-midfield and cashing in on all the clever touches and movement he developed in Holland.
Far from being a luxury, he’s solid and quietly effective, moving well, threading the play and justifying what looked a hefty £23m fee. He’s also provided two assists in his six Premier League starts.
Notably, he’s already registered over a third (331) of the total passes (964) he managed in the entire season at Newcastle so Wijnaldum is much more involved. I also like the fact that he looks like a member of Brazil’s 1970 World Cup squad. Retro.
Ragnar Klavan (7 out of 10)
“Who?” we asked when news broke that Klopp had signed the Estonian for £4.2m from Augsburg in July.
Klopp revealed he’d been on his radar for a long time and would have bought Klavan for Borussia Dortmund had they needed a centre-half at the time.
As usual, our German boss hit the nail on the head when saying: “In the beginning a few people were surprised with the name because not a lot of Bundesliga is watched in England. But there are no questions about his quality anymore.”
It’s true, Klavan is decent on the ball, defends first and has done everything asked of him, even popping up with a goal in the 3-0 League Cup win at Derby. With Sakho still acting like a drama queen, Klavan’s quiet, uncomplaining acceptance of his squad player role is refreshing.
Loris Karius (6 out of 10)
It’s hard to give a rating at this stage as Karius hasn’t really had to do anything since Klopp did what we all suspected and made him our new No.1 after waiting for his fellow German to recover from a pre-season injury.
So far, Karius has been a virtual spectator, doing lots of clapping of goals in the 3-0 win at Derby and 5-1 rout of Hull. It’s clear that he’s good with his feet and, despite his youth, comes with pedigree having been voted the second best goalkeeper (behind Manuel Neuer) in the Bundesliga last season.
Our third choice stopper, Alex Manninger, succinctly describes Karius as “a modern goalkeeper who makes the game as quick as possible.”
He plays on the front foot, is more shouty than Simon Mignolet and his positivity and aggression is very much in the Klopp mould. Nice hair too.
Marko Grujic (6 out of 10)
Signed in January for £5.1m but immediately loaned back to Red Star Belgrade, the Serbian has seen very little action to date. Late appearances from the bench against Burnley and Hull are his only taste of Premier League action although he did play the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 League Cup win at Derby.
He gave us a glimpse of his talents with three goals in pre-season but his likely role this season is what we’ve seen so far – cameos from the bench and Cup games.
Thankfully, he’s another who sees the bigger picture. “For the first season I just want to learn from these guys. I think next season will be the one where I show what I can do.” His size, stature and eye for goal suggest he could definitely be one to watch.
Alex Manninger (0 out of 0)
The 39-year-old might come on as a sub when we’ve won the title with two games to spare (wink) but otherwise his role is to pass on some sage advice to Karius.
So there we are. They can’t really be classed as a ‘Magnificent 7’ as Manninger would be an extra and a couple of others would only deliver the odd line.
But Mane, Matip and WIjnaldum have certainly helped give all Liverpool fans huge optimism in this early stage of the season.
In whoscored.com’s offensive stats, we’ve had more shots per game (19.5), more shots on target per game (7.2) and more dribbles per game (14.5) than any other side in Europe.
We made a mockery of the doubters that thought Hull were classic banana skin material and we have the perfect chance to bag another win at Swansea on Saturday before heading into one of those pesky international breaks.
Our new boys are a huge part of this early success and hat’s off to Klopp for buying players to fit and enhance a strong and existing philosophy.
Forget trying to crowbar a superstar, it’s all about the team baby.
Dave Tindall (@davetindallgolf)