Liverpool were handed a cruel blow with Harvey Elliott now facing months on the sidelines, but the show has to go on and a trio of Reds have a role to play.
As Elliott crumpled to the ground in obvious agony, the pain was felt throughout the Liverpool camp for a bright talent now facing months on the sidelines.
And that ultimately led to questions of what next.
Liverpool’s squad depth has been heavily debated throughout the summer and more so once the transfer window closed with only one new signing arriving.
Jurgen Klopp does have options at his disposal, however, to cover the loss of a player who seized his moment when it was there for the taking.
“We will play football without him, but we will wait for him as well because he is a top player,” the manager said post-match.
It speaks volumes of the 18-year-old’s position in the squad but as is always the case, injury opens the door for others and Liverpool need to see their options grab it with both hands.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones are just three of those who can make an impact and ensure there is a silver lining to it all.
A triangle reshuffle
The loss of Elliott sees Liverpool lose out on a new ‘triangle’ that earned Klopp’s praise after the draw with Chelsea, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah completing the new look right-hand side.
The chemistry between the trio offered a different edge to the Reds moving forward, with the manager having pointed out that “the triangle on the right-hand side worked pretty well” with the understanding only to improve week by week.
That is temporarily on hold and while Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Thiago will likely be a much-used combination, with games now shifting to one every three games the squad will need to be utilised.
This is where Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Jones come into play — a trio who combined have accumulated 233 minutes in the four games to date this season.
The Scouser, however, has yet to take to the field but a path continues to be laid out in front of him and now it is time for Jones and his teammates to step up.
Keita did impress in his two starts against Norwich and Burnley but he has proven significantly more efficient on the left of Fabinho, with Klopp now needing to question a straight swap or a midfield shuffle to make use of the players at his disposal.
Typically, Liverpool’s right-sided midfielder is the most advanced of the midfield three and Henderson could be earmarked for the role first and foremost, with both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jones a suitable option depending on the opposition.
They won’t necessarily offer the same dynamism that Elliott provided and they will have the all-important rhythm Klopp so often speaks about to find, but they can certainly do a job – with the No. 15 likely to dovetail minutes in both attack and midfield.
It would leave Thiago and Keita rotating on the left, a position Jones has previously proven his worth in, and James Milner also offering the fresh legs that have long been on Klopp’s mind.
“We will use each source, each leg we have and we’ll try to be as successful as possible,” the manager said of the run of seven games in 21 days preceding the trip to Leeds.
Elliott’s injury is certainly one that Liverpool could well do without at the start of a relentless run, but with Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Keita, Milner, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Reds have the personnel to more than cover his absence.
The challenge now is for the likes of Keita, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain to seize the moment as Elliott did throughout the summer and the start of the season.
The No. 8 and No. 15 both have their doubters after respective battles with injury in recent years, but after a full uninterrupted pre-season, they can now remind the masses just what they can offer to this Liverpool team.
Their time is now.
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