Mohamed Salah, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk have all been signing of the season contenders after joining Liverpool. But after so many hits, there’s been a key miss.
Liverpool reached the halfway point of its Premier League campaign with its 0-0 draw against Chelsea earlier this month. The result left the Reds ninth in the table, seven places and 12 points adrift of where they were at this stage in 2021/22.
Liverpool’s collapse has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, in tandem with Arsenal’s stunning title charge.
A number of journalists at The Athletic said as much as they reflected on the first half of the campaign, with Jürgen Klopp’s side featuring in other categories too.
One picked out Crysencio Summerville’s late winner for Leeds United at Anfield in October, ending a Premier League home unbeaten run in front of fans that stretched back to April 2017, as their favorite moment. Liverpool fans would certainly disagree, having seen an all-too-rare open-play goal for Mohamed Salah rendered redundant by the last-minute drama.
And another said the Reds had been involved in one of the games of the season when they went down 3-1 at Brentford at the start of January.
But Liverpool also got an undesirable mention when it came to the ‘worst signing’ discussion.
You might assume that a journalist or two nominated Darwin Núñez, the potential club-record signing who has only managed five goals in his first 14 Premier League appearances and missed more big chances than anybody else.
But no, it was a forgotten man in Arthur who was named instead.
“Liverpool needed to beef up their midfield this summer and the form of their midfielders plus some injuries meant that on deadline day they went for the Brazilian as a stop-gap signing from Juventus,” Ahmed Walid recalled. “One month and a single 23-minute first-team appearance [it was actually 13] later, he needed surgery on a thigh injury and is yet to return to action.”
Liverpool is so used to producing signing-of-the-season contenders, be it Salah, Sadio Mané, Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Luis Díaz or Ibrahima Konaté. The Reds have previously been the envy of the rest of the Premier League when it comes to the success rate of their transfers, but now the narrative around the club has been turned on its head.
There are principally two ways in which you can look at signings — one with hindsight, and one without.
The former is concerned with how the player has fared, but the latter is concerned with the idea to sign him in the first place.
With Arthur, the issue isn’t performances. That’s because there haven’t really been any. We’d only be looking at the 11 passes he played in his one outing for the club as a late substitute in the 4-1 Champions League defeat to Napoli.
While there were initial concerns about Arthur’s level when he arrived — he hadn’t in any way lived up to the hype of an $89m (£72m/€82m) move from Barcelona to Juventus — the risk has backfired in a different way.
Arthur’s injury record was another big worry as Liverpool hurriedly did the deal. Since December 2017, he’d missed 52 matches with a whopping 18 separate injuries.
Most of them were minor, with only two keeping him out for more than five games, but it was the frequency that should have had alarm bells ringing.
In the circumstances, Liverpool could have cut its losses in January and sent Arthur back to Turin but they may retain hope that he can make a positive contribution.
Klopp said prior to the FA Cup trip to Brighton that the 26-year-old would rejoin team training in ‘two, three weeks’ if ‘everything is well’. With the player already undertaking extensive running work, the end of his lay-off is finally in sight (via This is Anfield).
Maybe Walid will be eating his words at the end of the season. But it feels unlikely, particularly as Arthur will need a ‘proper build-up’ before he can log significant minutes.
And besides, much of the damage is already done. This was a signing of critical importance for Liverpool, and that’s also a factor in Walid’s judgment.
The Reds should have proactively addressed their glaringly obvious midfield weakness earlier in the January transfer window — that much is clear — and their options were always bound to be limited when they performed such a late U-turn. It was August 26 before Klopp admitted the club had recognized the error of its ways and decided to go for a midfielder.
But even in that time, it could still surely have found someone who, at the very least, alleviated its crippling issues and helped them to limit the damage this season.
In the end, it went with a player beset by one of the very problems that forced it into the market in the first place — injuries. The transfer was flawed from its conception, and the midfield woes have continued to hinder the likes of Salah in finding their previous ‘best signing’ worthy form.
With Klopp ruling out any further activity after the Brighton defeat, Arthur will remain Liverpool’s only midfield addition of 2022/23. He was its one and only attempt to solve its biggest problem.
And, for reasons beyond the player’s control, it has failed miserably. Where Salah was once proof Liverpool was the best in the business, Arthur is the unfortunate evidence of a slipping status.