Jurgen Klopp’s usual response when asked about potential transfers is to roll his eyes and insist he is happy with his Liverpool squad.
But while the Reds manager plays down the club’s January plans, he may also recognise the opportunity to take a gamble that could make a difference to the destination of the Premier League title this season.
Liverpool are second in the table at Christmas having scored the most goals (41), recorded the best shooting accuracy (51.66%), played the most passes (10430) and faced the least shots (131) in the division.
They are also second for shots on target, shot conversion rate and possession and it reflects the way Klopp’s side have dominated most of their 17 fixtures so far.
The obvious concerns at this stage are whether the Reds could be put off their stride by injuries to key players, tiredness as the season drags on, or a defence that has conceded nine more goals than league leaders Chelsea.
Klopp prefers the Guardiola & Pochettino transfer approach
Klopp is in the same mould as Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino in the transfer market in that he rarely sees signing new players as the optimum solution.
The German has used his coaching ability to bring the best out of his players while also solving problems, which is best seen in the way James Milner has performed at left-back this season and Jordan Henderson as a defensive midfielder.
When it comes to transfer targets, Liverpool still operate using a transfer committee system with newly promoted sporting director Michael Edwards overseeing recruitment strategy, but Klopp has far more influence than his predecessors.
The successful summers signings of the likes of Sadio Mane and Joel Matip may encourage the club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, to push for January reinforcements, particularly as the club have been prudent with their money in recent years.
There are warning signs when it comes to January transfers intended to help with title challenges, most recently Wilfried Bony and Juan Cuadrado to Manchester City and Chelsea respectively in 2015.
Gambling for the Premier League title
But Klopp is not the type of manager to take an unnecessary gamble on a player who may not improve the side, shown by the fact he declined to sign a left-back in the summer, even after Alberto Moreno’s horror start to the season.
Klopp does want to add to his attacking options and bolster a squad that may appear overly reliant on his first-choice front four of Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Mane.
Liverpool picked up one point from their first two matches following Coutinho’s ankle injury sustained at the end of November while there is concern about how the team will perform when Mane goes to the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon in January.
Borussia Dortmund’s prodigious teenage winger Christian Pulisic is a long-term target and Klopp’s first choice to add to his attacking options.
The 18-year-old United States international is understood to be keen on a move to Anfield but Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc has ruled out a January transfer, saying “Liverpool don’t need to waste their time”.
Klopp is expected to wait until the summer before making a renewed £20m-plus bid for Pulisic, while a place in next season’s Champions League will also boost Liverpool’s attractiveness and financial power in the transfer market.
One potential option in January is Ante Coric, the Dinamo Zagreb playmaker who Liverpool have tried to sign in the past and is available for around £15m – the same price as his proposed move to Manchester City which fell through in August.
The club’s reported interest in Julian Draxler was short lived after Paris Saint-Germain agreed a £38.3m deal for the Wolfsburg attacking midfielder.
In midfield, Liverpool have slightly cooled their interest in Mahmoud Dahoud of Borussia Monchengladbach but are continuing to monitor his progress, while the Reds are one of a number of clubs to have heavily scouted Atalanta’s impressive 20-year-old Franck Kessie.
The battle for Van Dijk
One area where Klopp will want to improve his side is in defence. Milner is expected to continue at left-back at least until the end of the season but Liverpool are interested in Southampton defender Virgil Van Dijk to partner Matip.
Manchester City are also interested in Van Dijk and favourites to sign the Dutchman, who Southampton are determined to keep until the end of the season and have valued at £45m.
As for outgoings, Liverpool are willing to subsidise a portion of Mamadou Sakho’s £100,000-a-week salary to finally force the French centre-back out of Anfield after he rejected a loan move to Stoke in the summer.
Sakho has been frozen out by Klopp since being sent home from the Reds’ pre-season tour of the United States and is wanted by several clubs including Stoke, West Brom and West Ham – although he may look to return to France.
The future of Daniel Sturridge
One issue building up at Liverpool is Daniel Sturridge’s future, with the England international seemingly behind Firmino and Divock Origi in the pecking order and his style not best suited to Klopp’s high intensity style of play.
Third parties tried to sound out a potential move to Arsenal for Sturridge last May but the Gunners refused to even consider the £40m asking price.
Sturridge is unlikely to seek a transfer in January, but the striker – who is yet to score in 10 Premier League appearances – has barely hidden his frustration with his lack of playing opportunities.