A famous saying but one that does not apply to Liverpool Football Club these days. In fact, turning the phrase on its head offers more accuracy. At Anfield, the more things stay the same, the more they appear to change.
On the face of it, little at Liverpool has changed since their encouraging opening day win against Stoke but the early sense of euphoria garnered from their deserved victory last weekend has already worn off. Focus has quickly shifted from the positives of that first opening day win since 2008 to the negatives of their transfer dealings this summer.
Willian, their main target for the past couple of weeks, has joined rivals Spurs. The Brazilian becomes the third big name player to reject Liverpool’s overtures this summer, following in the footsteps of his former team mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan and his countryman Diego Costa. Make no mistake; Willian’s deferral to Spurs is a huge concern for Liverpool.
The London club, who missed out on Champions League football by a solitary point last term, have added Etienne Capoue (£9.7m), Paulinho (£17m), Nacer Chadli (£7m), Willian (£30m) and Roberto Soldado (£26m) to a squad that finished 11 points ahead of Liverpool. They are also in the running to add the fantastically talented Eric Lamela to their squad. On paper at least, they appear to be leaving Liverpool behind.
A top four finish is Liverpool’s target this season and realistically, they are not going to catch Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea. That leaves Spurs, Arsenal and Everton for Liverpool to overcome in their desperate race to get into the Champions League places.
Arsenal are currently in disarray and Liverpool will fancy their chances of overtaking their neighbours but Spurs could now be over the hill and far away. They are amassing a squad capable of challenging for the title off the back of Gareth Bale’s imminent world record transfer to Real Madrid.
Of course, football is never won solely by who has the deepest or strongest squad on paper, but the quality added at White Hart Lane this summer is disconcerting for Liverpool supporters. So too are the conflicting reports on the failings of the club’s business this summer.
The Liverpool Echo would have its readers believe that Willian had simply chosen Spurs over Liverpool due to his preference for living in the nation’s capital after both clubs had made offers for the player. Conversely, Tony Barrett of the Times and various other journalists have suggested that Liverpool refused to match Spurs’ offer of around £30m for the Brazil international. If that scenario is true (and many believe it is) then Liverpool and owners FSG have some answers to give.
If FSG decided that Willian wasn’t worth the money required to prize him from Russia then who advised them on this? Why bother to publicly pursue a player of that profile in the first place when other top European clubs with financial clout were certain to be in the running as well? Why, with Liverpool’s net spend this summer in the minus column, could the club not dare to pay slightly above their valuation for a player who could potentially transform their already impressive attack into a top class outfit? Questions, questions, questions.
What we do know is that Liverpool have failed again to complete a significant piece of business and in doing so, they have allowed a rival to strengthen and further increase a gap between the clubs that was already going to be difficult to bridge.
Liverpool have conducted some decent business themselves this summer (not least keeping hold of Luis Suarez) but there has been no real statement of intent to suggest that the Anfield outfit believe they can blast their way back into the Champions League this season. They haven’t captured a signing to excite their fans and demonstrate true ambition. They will claim that they have tried, but have they tried hard enough?
Two weeks remain in the transfer window and the Reds are yet to purchase a player for over £10m. Considering how desperate Brendan Rodgers has been to add a top class centre-half and another match winner at the top of the field that just isn’t good enough.
The Reds are an exciting side with bags of potential but to seriously mount an assault on Spurs and the rest of the sides above them in the pecking order this season, a statement is required. At least one top quality player is still required to take them on to the next level.
The way the summer has gone so far that player seems unlikely to arrive.