FSG speak of the ‘virtuous cycle’ at Liverpool but missing out on the Champions League would have the opposite effect, writes Paul Gorst.

The proof will be in the pudding for Liverpool when it comes to judging whether the mid-season Dubai trip was a success or not.

Jurgen Klopp and his players have spent the best part of the last fortnight in the United Arab Emirates, largely working on the tactical and technical details that they hope will propel them firmly back into the top-four race after Christmas.

Those around the camp this past week have spoken about it being the ideal mixture of all elements of Liverpool’s usual types of tours. While the initial weeks of summer are firmly fixed on commercial commitments and activities with official club partners, the latter weeks are more football-oriented for Klopp and his staff.

And while the Reds accepts that a club the size and scale of the one he manages will always have to satisfy the global sponsors who are responsible for so much of the revenue – particularly for a self-sufficient model like Fenway Sports Group’s – it is the hard yards and double sessions of the long days in Evian or Saalfelden that really light his fire.

These past few days in Dubai have been a happy medium, to an extent. Liverpool have undertaken only a couple of commercial-based events, such as a meet-and-greet with a handful of first-team members at the team’s hotel on Tuesday or a Q&A and book signing session with assistant boss Pep Lijnders last week.

A team trip out to the Dubai desert to ride camels and test out dune buggies was a welcome evening of respite, too, but in the main it’s been focused work at the Nad al Sheba Complex.

The Reds have endured a difficult opening three months of the campaign and there is no time to waste as they stare up at the top four with a seven-point deficit to make up on Tottenham Hotspur, who occupy that final slot.

Evidently, then, there is work to be done but the signs are heartening from the Reds’ perspective. Darwin Nunez – who scored seven of his nine goals to date in a little over a month before the break – looked sharp and aggressive upon his return to the squad against AC Milan on Friday.

Thiago Alcantara purred in midfield and Joel Matip and Naby Keita are back and ready for selection again as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Ibrahima Konate and captain Jordan Henderson get set to re-join the fold alongside Brazil pair Alisson Becker and Fabinho.

The prospect of the January transfer window opening is perhaps the wild card of the pack. It’s unclear given FSG’s uncertainty over their long-term future as owners just what will be available to Klopp and outgoing sporting director Julian Ward when the player trading can begin again.

Although given the manager’s subtle August admission that he would like to take more risks at times in the market and the fact that stop-gap emergency arrival Arthur Melo has featured for just 13 minutes since he joined on deadline day, there is a legitimate school of thought that says Klopp deserves more from FSG at the start of 2023.

And given what the talented Ward has already achieved in his 12 months in the role – both informally and officially – restricting his recruitment department to scraps would be a desperately disappointing way for him to sign off after over a decade at the club.

Whether Messrs Henry, Gordon or Werner see it that way remains to be seen but with the club on the market and the Boston-based organisation exploring their options around either external investment or a full-blown sale, it could very well be better to speculate now to accumulate later.

A failure to provide the manager and sporting director with whatever their requirements may be in the winter window could yet lead to this squad missing out on the riches of the Champions League next season. For an ownership group who speak so effusively of the ‘virtuous cycle’ at Anfield, such a setback would have the exact opposite effect.

FSG’s January transfer gamble – whether that is to loosen the purse strings or to continue with the squad as it is now – could have long-lasting ramifications either way.

What happens next at Liverpool this season – both on and off the pitch – will be fascinating.



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