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How £50m Diaz deal, Elliott's return and Liverpool's resilience helped Klopp beat the January blues

4:00 PM MYT 02/02/2022
Luis Diaz Colombia 2021
The Reds were able to strengthen their squad and overcome the month-long absences of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to boost their hopes of success

Those who feared that January would be the month in which Liverpool’s season came off the rails needn’t have worried.

Because, as we head into February, the Reds look to be in a stronger position than ever.

Sure, there was a little deadline-day frustration. 

A proposed deal to sign Fabio Carvalho, the exciting Fulham teenager, collapsed at the last minute, the Reds simply running out of time to complete the necessary paperwork on Monday evening.

But when all is said and done, Jurgen Klopp can be satisfied by the way his team – and his club – have started 2022.

Without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita for most of the month, Liverpool have managed to progress in both domestic cup competitions while simultaneously keeping their Premier League title hopes flickering. 

They have a Carabao Cup final to look forward to, and a good chance of reaching the fifth round of the FA Cup when they entertain Championship side Cardiff City on Sunday.

And, importantly, they were able to add to their squad in January too.

Carvalho isn’t coming – not yet, anyway – but Luis Diaz is, the Reds moving quickly, and a little unexpectedly, to pip Tottenham to the Porto and Colombia winger’s signature. It was, as it turned out, one of the biggest deals of the window.

Diaz, a 25-year-old who has made huge strides in Portugal over the past 18 months, should add plenty to Klopp’s side. 

A right-footer who plays on the left, he will provide competition for Sadio Mane, in particular, and allow Klopp to better juggle his attacking options as Liverpool seek to attack four competitions in the coming months.

Depth has long been a concern, particularly in forward areas, but with Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino staying at Anfield despite interest from elsewhere late in the window, the Reds look well-stocked for now.

Salah and Mane will be back once the Africa Cup of Nations is concluded this weekend, Diogo Jota is flying and Roberto Firmino remains. 

Even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has filled in on the right flank during the last month, is in good form, while teenage prospect Kaide Gordon will surely benefit from the first-team exposure he has received in recent weeks.

Then there are the midfielders. Harvey Elliott made an encouraging return to action in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Wrexham at Kirkby on Saturday, scoring and assisting during an hour-long run out.

The 18-year-old should play some part against Cardiff, and Liverpool hope that Thiago Alcantara will be able to return to team training this week after a hip injury that has sidelined him since December.

Keita, too, is back from Afcon, where he performed well in an average Guinea side, and suddenly Klopp may have some brutal decisions to make. Namely, who does he leave out of his 20-man matchday squad?

Liverpool allowed two players to leave on deadline day, both on loan to clubs chasing promotion from the Championship. 

Nat Phillips, whose opportunities have been almost non-existent this season, has moved to Bournemouth, where he will relish the chance to play regularly, while Neco Williams is off to Fulham. An opportunity for the young right-back to step out of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s shadow, for sure, but also, perhaps, a potential sweetener in any future negotiation for Carvalho.

Williams’ departure does, ostensibly, leave Liverpool short at full-back, although Klopp would have little worry about asking either James Milner or Joe Gomez to fill in there if necessary. 

Longer-term, the development of Conor Bradley, already a full international with Northern Ireland at 18, will be watched closely.

It promises to be an intriguing few months, and an intriguing few weeks. 

Liverpool return to league action against Leicester on February 10 and then play two of the Premier League’s bottom four sides, Burnley and Norwich, before the month is out. 

They also have the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie away at Inter, before finishing with the Carabao Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea.

Exciting times, indeed, for Reds supporters. Having been frustrated in December and fretted over January, what will February bring for the men from Merseyside?