Neil Humphreys: Pool's performance must match spending
Liverpool's new signings must deliver against Spurs or Rodgers' spending will be questioned
TOTTENHAM v LIVERPOOL
(Tonight, 8.30pm, SingTel mio TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
For Liverpool supporters, there is a silver lining slithering through the cracks of Old Trafford.
Manchester United have spent more money than their oldest enemies and still perform with all the balance and flair of a one-legged chicken on a trampoline.
The Red Devils' woeful results have been covering the sins of two clubs.
United have spent more than any other Premier League club, but Liverpool aren't far behind.
As it stands, Brendan Rodgers has completed transfers totalling £117 million ($242m) - a figure second only to United's £145.9m, after they agreed a £14.2m fee with Ajax Amsterdam for Holland international Daley Blind yesterday.
Liverpool's owners showed Merseyside the money, but they've been rewarded with mediocrity. Their industry in the transfer market is yet to be matched on the pitch.
TIME TO MAKE A MARK
For Rodgers to escape ridicule, his new faces should take down Tottenham tonight. It's time to plant a flag for the fledgling Reds.
Liverpool's manager needs to see a reasonable return on his investment or his market spending will be questioned again.
The Reds have out-spent Chelsea by almost £40m. They've doubled Arsenal's outlay and quadrupled Everton's shopping spree.
That kind of cash is still unlikely to bring home the title, but £117m should be enough to buy victory in north London.
And yet, Liverpool followers do not overly expect. Merseysiders fear a minefield at Tottenham. Transitional sides are often fraught with tension and nine new players bring both potential and uncertainty.
Put simply, the north London fixture is a precarious one for Liverpool - offering an opportunity to excel against a top-four contender but also enough banana skins to humiliate both club and coach.
Until they earn a first, convincing victory, there is still a sense that they have bought the right players in the wrong positions.
In Mario Balotelli, they've signed the right player in the wrong head.
Liverpool's new larrikin has already endeared himself to the supporters by photo-shopping his face onto all four, mop-topped heads of The Beatles and posting the surreal image on Twitter.
The striker embarks on a new magical mystery tour every morning when he wakes up, but his ticket to ride is not without risk.
The Italian is blessed with skills that every coach needs and cursed with a psyche that no manager wants.
His public battles with centre backs will always play second fiddle to those he endures with private demons. The Premier League has missed the pantomime villain. But previous clubs rarely miss the footballer.
Rodgers believes his positive relationship with Luis Suarez gives him a shot at taming the beast within Balotelli, but there are discernible differences between the two strikers.
The Uruguayan's commitment to the cause was never in doubt. Balotelli is committed to the moment and very little else beyond that.
Should he make his debut at Tottenham, Liverpool's ninth signing will swagger out beneath a cloud of question marks.
And he won't be alone.
Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Emre Can must come together at some point to compensate for the loss of both Suarez and Steven Gerrard's legs.
While title rivals Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal purchased quick-fixes and parachuted them into action almost immediately, the Reds' reinforcements have mostly looked like squad fillers, rather than title contenders.
Rodgers will hope to change that perception against Tottenham.
Liverpool's questionable spending strategy will be further underlined if Spurs drop new signing Federico Fazio into the starting line-up.
The £8m replacement for departed centre back Michael Dawson is precisely the kind of like-for-like swop that Rodgers has been accused of not buying.
Dejan Lovren is the obvious exception, but fellow newcomer Alberto Moreno has struggled at fullback and the defence remains the obvious weak spot for the resurgent Erik Lamela to probe.
City laid down the template earlier in the week.
Stevan Jovetic and David Silva bullied Moreno and Glen Johnson mercilessly, highlighting the unpopular similarities between Liverpool and United.
It's an inconvenient truth for Reds followers, but the comparisons are unavoidable. There are too many midfielders with dubious quality and not enough defenders of proven pedigree; a squad description that works reasonably well at both Anfield and Old Trafford.
Nine players in, but the jury is still out on Rodgers' new recruits. At this stage, £117m has bought only scepticism and lots of questions.
One way or another, the result at White Hart Lane will answer most of them.
Spurs were a strong squad, had a worldclass player in Gareth Bale and they will have their reasons for bringing in their players. For us, i think it is pretty obvious we were very low in terms of our numbers and that quality and depth.
— Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers denies Liverpool’s signings are comparable to Tottenham’s spree last season
BY THE NUMBERS
9: Liverpool won both league fixtures against Spurs last term, scoring nine unanswered goals.
6: Before last season, Spurs had won six successive home games against the Reds in all competitions.