Reds need to make a statement in January
ESPN analyst Kevin Keegan is one of English football's most respected figures and he will be writing for ESPNsoccernet throughout the season. As a player, Kevin represented Liverpool with distinction, winning numerous titles in domestic and European football, and was twice named European Footballer of the Year during his time at Hamburg. Kevin has managed England, Newcastle United, Manchester City and Fulham and is one of the most respected voices in the English game.
Liverpool are clearly a club in the ascendancy at present - after all, their predicament couldn't have been much worse in the dying days of the Tom Hicks and George Gillett regime - but if they are to continue their progress and re-establish themselves in the top four, they need to send out a strong message and make a big signing when the January transfer window opens.
They have new owners in NESV and need to push the boat out, even if they are forced to spend a little more than they should. You have to make a statement sometimes, and a big signing could be the catalyst to get Liverpool back into the top four again, and placate some of their current stars. After the busy Christmas period, I think Liverpool fans and players would like to be presented with one star signing.
Players need to believe in something: they need to believe in the club they are playing for, that it is run properly, and that the people running it are investing sensibly and wisely, but in a way that sends out a strong message. Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina will want the best players coming to the club, just as I did when I was a player. They will not fear new arrivals as possible competition; they will want them adding quality to the side.
After all, Liverpool at the moment have three world-class players and they need to recruit some more to become a top-four side again. That is a luxury that Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea already enjoy when everybody is fit. Although the spine of the team is good - Torres, Gerrard, Carragher, Reina - in other areas of the starting XI, you can strengthen Liverpool Football Club.
But this is not a new phenomenon. I've spoken to a lot of the ex-players close to the club and everybody knows that Liverpool have been in decline for a number of years - steady decline, not rapid. You looked at the playing staff and every year thought 'this squad isn't stronger than last year'. That again has an effect on the confidence of players and prior to the change of ownership I know if I was a big-name player there - a Gerrard, a Torres, a Carragher, a Reina - I would have thought 'hold on, if the club isn't going forward do I really want to be here?'
Key players need to be retained, but if Hicks and Gillett had stayed then the high-profile members of the squad would have been justified in considering their future. They wouldn't be now following John Henry and NESV's takeover and that's why Liverpool had to move as quickly as they did; with a lack of investment, the club were going to lose their crown jewels. Contractually the big players are committed to stay and I think they should do that.
|“||He is back to his best, and he needed to be ”|
|Keegan on Torres|
All the uncertainty certainly affected Fernando Torres, but it was not the only reason for his poor form at the start of the season. I think it has been a combination of things - it has been the toll taken by injuries and the exertions of the World Cup as well. Those two superb goals against Chelsea and his strike against Wigan on Wednesday night demonstrated he is back to his best, and he needed to be. He looked for a while like a player who didn't want to be at Liverpool.
At a huge club like Liverpool the pressure to score is all around you. You look at the newspapers, TV, radio, the websites - although we didn't have those when I was playing - and everyone is talking, you cannot hide. I had patches of two or three games - not long periods thank God - where you think, 'I'm better than that, I'm not at my best'. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and work your way out of the hole you are in. That worked for me every time.
Torres appears be to back in form but Liverpool still rely too much on him and Gerrard - that's the problem, and that is why they are not getting all the results they want. When you are playing the top teams, they have got five or six players that you want to subdue, and who can be match-winners, but with Liverpool it's only two and it's a lot easier to stop them tactically. You don't feel like you have a mountain to climb when facing them.