The most conspicuous losers in a frantic final day of transfer activity, Liverpool have left themselves with two main strikers for the first half of the season, and as Luis Suárez demonstrated against Hearts in midweek, one of those is neither clinical nor prolific. It is true that Samed Yesil, the teenager Rodgers has just signed from Bayer Leverkusen, has been hailed as the new Didier Drogba in some quarters, but the old Drogba cost Chelsea £24m eight years ago. It is optimistic in the extreme to imagine Liverpool have beaten the world to a player of similar quality for the princely sum of £1m. At that price Yesil could yet turn out to be what Americans like to call a value pick, though even after his capture Rodgers was all too plainly trying to move heaven, earth and Andy Carroll to bring in Clint Dempsey.
While cynics might point out that Liverpool might as well do without Carroll and his wages, since the number of goals he contributed last season was so small as to make little difference, it is the failure to snap up Dempsey that has left the club looking exposed. Now we can all see why they call it the transfer window. Everyone stares in and cannot help but notice that Liverpool could not manage a £6m bid for a player who had set his heart on joining them and spent most of the summer trying to engineer a move, even after banking £4m from the sale of Charlie Adam to Stoke.
What to make of that is the real puzzle. Either Liverpool are completely skint, which seems unlikely, or the Fenway Sports Group are enthusiastically embracing the spirit of Michel Platini's financial fair play long before there is any real need to and when their direct competitors – if the club are serious about regaining their place in the Champions League elite they will most likely have to get ahead of Chelsea and Tottenham – are boldly stocking up while they can. Perhaps FSG are simply wary of the whole deadline day experience, following the unnerving £35m for Carroll business, or possibly they are reluctant to trust a manager's judgment ever again after giving generous backing to Kenny Dalglish and seeing the results frittered away.
Arguably Dalglish, rather than Liverpool, has emerged as the biggest loser in the window just closed. In addition to the massive hit the club has just taken on Carroll, his signature signing, Adam has been bundled out of the door half-price after a single season, Jordan Henderson was offered as part of a swap deal but refused to go, and Stewart Downing has been told his future is as second-choice left-back. One can fully understand American owners being traumatised by wastage on that sort of scale, and even sympathise with their argument that large amounts of money ought not to be spent on 29-year-old players with limited resale value, yet in Premier League terms – heck, even in moneyball terms – Dempsey for £6m represented a bargain. Now Liverpool have missed him and Spurs have eagerly signed him up, the same Spurs who have already beefed up their attacking line up with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Emmanuel Adebayor and Moussa Dembélé, not to mention keeping hold of Jermain Defoe when everyone thought he was about to leave. That last detail may not turn out to be insignificant. Any sort of injury or loss of form suffered by Suárez or Fabio Borini is likely to leave Liverpool wishing they had held on to Dirk Kuyt or Craig Bellamy for a little while longer. Summer transfer business is not all about splashing the cash on new faces.
Dramatic as deadline day always is, even without its traditional adornment of Harry Redknapp issuing updates through his car window, the best business tends to be done in advance. Chelsea spent most of their £80m early in summer, and having brought in Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, Sir Alex Ferguson could also afford to sit back and let the rest of the Premier League rush around in the final few hours. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the summer was Manchester City not doing the same thing. Roberto Mancini has been complaining for weeks that the last few days are not the time to conduct good business, and though he will be pleased at the arrival of Javier García and Maicon, many people are mystified by his preference for Scott Sinclair over Adam Johnson and the general response to the recruitment of Richard Wright was one of hilarity.
Elsewhere, Tottenham kept up their reputation for doing brisk business on deadline day with the capture of Dempsey and Hugo Lloris, while Arsenal predictably did no business at all. Spurs missed out on their main target, João Moutinho, a player André Villas-Boas was probably correct in claiming could have made a "direct impact". Viewed in those terms, Southampton and QPR will be hoping Gastón Ramírez and Esteban Granero will be the sort of single signings that can galvanise the whole team, and most neutrals will feel two clubs who expect to spend most of the season in the bottom half of the table deserve some sort of reward for enterprise and ambition.
In terms of value, Fulham may just have pulled off the coup of the summer by landing Dimitar Berbatov for £4m. If the Bulgarian plays as well as he did last time he was based in London he will be a more than acceptable replacement for Dempsey with a £2m surplus in the bank. Stoke released the purse strings on the last day too, and Steven Nzonzi should turn out to be a shrewd signing for £3m. Nzonzi and Junior Hoilett were consistent performers in an ailing Blackburn side last season, and when the latter's price is established by tribunal QPR could also have made a smart purchase.
While total spending in the summer window might have been around £10m short of the £500m record set in the silly season of 2008, it would be foolish to run away with the idea that clubs are acting more sensibly or living within their means. Look beneath the surface and all the worrying trends are upwards. Net spend this summer was a record £250m, up by £70m on last year; £10m more was spent on deadline day than a year ago, and a colossal £300m in transfer fees went abroad, according to Deloitte almost 50% up on the 2011 level. Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Spurs and United each spent more than £30m, and between them those clubs accounted for more than half the total Premier League spend. So that is the true top five. Good luck to Liverpool in trying to break in, though Newcastle United, everybody's favourite moneyball team, managed it in some style last season. If Yesil turns out to be the new Demba Ba, Liverpool will be laughing.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © NathanF