Liverpool has undoubtedly struggled this season, but its problems stem back to one summer decision that was made last summer. Jürgen Klopp has been made to pay.
On June 7 of last year, now 284 days ago, Real Madrid agreed to pay AS Monaco a fee of $85m (£70m/€80m) for Aurélien Tchouaméni. Four days later, the deal was confirmed.
It later emerged that Liverpool was very keen on the player as well. The Reds had made inquiries but were told that Tchouaméni wanted to move to the Santiago Bernabéu.
Rather than move for an alternative target, however, Liverpool instead chose to go after no one else. Jude Bellingham was not going to be available for another 12 months and until Arthur Melo was signed on a season-long loan deal, Liverpool was insistent that another midfield signing was not required.
It is safe to say that the decision has proven incorrect. This summer, even if Bellingham is signed, which is no guarantee, Liverpool will need to purchase at least one more midfielder on top of that.
Only the emergence of Stefan Bajčetić, who is now out injured for the rest of the season, has spared them from even more blushes and from suffering an even worse campaign than the one that has transpired.
Tchouaméni, clearly, is one of the top up-and-coming midfielders out there and Liverpool was right to believe him to be in the same potentially game-changing category as Bellingham.
But the allure of Real Madrid was strong and the player opted against a move to Anfield. That can happen, and the mistake was then not moving for another target instead — now needing to do at least two in the space of one summer, with a season in which more trophies could have been competed for now gone.
All of Liverpool’s issues — not just the lack of available and high-quality midfielders, but the knock-on impact on the defense and at-times-misfiring attack — stem back to that decision.
Failing to bring in another midfielder to supplement Jürgen Klopp’s ranks and improve the team in that position is what the issues elsewhere come back to.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has had to contend with more defending because of Liverpool’s lack of control and dominance in the center of the pitch, while the center-backs have been left exposed by a lack of protection in front.
The injury setbacks have often come because players have been overplayed, with one injury potentially leading to another, quickly becoming a spiral.
The attackers have missed chances because of the increased pressure on each shot thanks to a scarcity of opportunities and a feeling that a defensive error is not far away.
It is hard to escape the feeling, though, that the midfield is where Liverpool’s problems began. Like when it had no center-backs a couple of seasons ago only to recover when they returned, a quick upturn is more than possible with two or three midfielders brought to the club in the summer.
But that is not going to be cheap or easy, and it comes a year late with another season under Klopp essentially having been wasted — and Champions League football now under severe threat.