Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers once again stressed a need for January investment, but it remains far from clear if the club has any ambition to find success this season or if new signings will only consist of further building blocks for the future.
Following Liverpool's loss to Swansea in the League Cup and again after their draw with Newcastle that kicked off November, manager Brendan Rodgers chose to make his issues with the current squad's lack of senior depth a major talking point. For those wishing for the days when everything could be done without the risk of being seen to air Liverpool's dirty laundry in public, what seems a tactic by the manager aimed at giving the club—and its owners—no choice but to invest come January could seem a touch unseemly.
On the other hand, of course, one need only look at the striker position, where the depth chart now jumps from Luis Suarez—one yellow card away from a ban in England—to 18-year-olds Samed Yessil and Adam Morgan and then to the manner in which the summer transfer window ended to recognise both the lack of options Rodgers has to work with as well as why he might feel a need to give the club's owners and key upper management figures a shove in the direction he thinks they need to go.
"We need one or two more players," he said, continuing what has now become an ongoing conversation for the manager following Sunday's draw at Chelsea. "It's as simple as that. That was our sixth draw, and in a lot of those games we've come back from being behind. We've got great character and resilience and survival instincts in the group, and we're dominating games with the ball—but you need materials.
"If we can hopefully get one or two in January who can help us at the top end of the field we'll turn draws into wins," he continued, before hitting directly at the crux of the issue: the need to find a clinical finisher to support Luis Suarez. Certainly the likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the Schalke striker who in rumours has been linked to Liverpool throughout much of the fall, would seem to fit the bill for a club seeking both a high conversion rate along with enough experience to make an instant impact.
However, with Huntelaar having turned 29 in August, he's clearly on the wrong side of his career arc for Fenway Sports Group, who after the failed big-money signings of more senior, experienced players such as Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam by Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli appear more entrenched than ever in an approach that looks to Arsenal's semi-successful youth policy under Arsene Wenger for their queues and in Liverpool's case at least offers little hope of short term success.
The problem for Liverpool—at least for those still hoping to see the club make a legitimate push for the top four this season—is that to get players in an age bracket that suits the owners who are also of a high enough quality right now to make an instant impact would require a massive outlay. And that's something the owners have been unwilling to commit to over the past two transfer windows following signings of the likes of Adam and Downing in 2011—and even then those big money moves were largely funded by the previous sales of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel as well as the club's first round of wage trimming under FSG.
"Last year the club finished eighth," said Rodgers. "If we can improve on that, that would be fantastic in terms of where we're at. That's the reality of where Liverpool are at, I'm afraid."
Some might see such an outlook as harsh or even defeatist, but following a second summer of trimmed wages that saw departing veterans like Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, and Craig Bellamy go largely unreplaced and a season that as a result has so far seen the club have to rely on multiple teenagers to be difference makers, it's hard to criticise it as actually being wrong.
"The supporters have been outstanding, the players have given me everything, and hopefully over the next couple of windows we can keep adding to the group, and then next season we'll be better for it. The supporters are very educated. It can't be easy for them. Most of us in the room know the great history of the club, but we can't keep looking in the rear view mirror and looking back. We have to go forward.
"If you're not going to have a massive investment that will make it happen very quickly, you've got to develop it. That's where we're at. The supporters, I'm sure, see that. They are being very lenient with myself and the team so far, and I'm sure they'll be frustrated at times, but you can see from today and every other game we've had, the support has been absolutely incredible."
In the end, it all leaves Rodgers, the fans, and the club in a situation with no easy answers: Liverpool, it is clear, at least need one or two more players who can make a difference right now just to be truly competitve. Yet the owners will be reluctant to spend any amount on players with little potential for resale while the manager himself appears to rule out the sort of investment that would be required to bring in a class of player who could make that sort of difference at a younger age.
The club needs a difference maker or two in January if they're to have a chance at winning now, it all seems to say, yet the club is "not going to have a massive investment that will make it happen very quickly," with Rodgers on one hand suggesting the club has no choice but to make new signings before taking a step back and painting things in such a way as to imply fans cannot realistically expect results for years. One route suggests at least a moderate ambition in the present; the other suggests yet another season of capitulation and deferral.
And so the wait for January, a time when the manager says investment must be made and new signings brought in—but not a lot of investment, and whether or not it's on the sort of player who can improve the club this season or on the sort who might improve it years down the road remains anybody's guess.