Liverpool’s midfield options dwindled further during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Brighton, a game dominated by a midfielder who left Anfield after Premier League glory…
On one hand, Saturday afternoon can be classified as a careless one, while on the other you do sometimes have to put your hands up and concede that Liverpool don’t have a monopoly on being able to play expansive and attractive football.
Sliding doors and all that. Throwing away a 2-0 lead at home and dropping two points should never be shrugged off, but there were some very defined forks in the road as we slid our way to what was almost a fortuitous point by the time the 94th minute ticked to its conclusion.
A game that morphed from what was looking set to be an easy three points into a struggle for a draw, losing Naby Keita to an early exit and having a third goal chalked off seemed to be body blows that we never really managed to assimilate.
From one extreme to the other, we travelled the distance from complete and utter early domination to being bossed in the middle of the park by Adam Lallana.
Lallana won all but one of the tackles he was drawn into and laid on the Brighton equaliser, before taking the acclaim of a Kop that he hadn’t been able to say goodbye to when departing the club as a Premier League champion.
It was a peculiar day, and one that came with a heavy slice of deja vu. Ex-Liverpool midfielders returning to Anfield in the colours of Brighton and enjoying a profitable afternoon, it was Jimmy Case, circa 1982, all over again.
Brighton deserved their point, and could easily have extracted more, as at 2-2, it was they who seemed the more likely to score again.
Their excellent start to the season is no fluke and a fine side is being built under Graham Potter, a man who is increasingly being linked with jobs that are traditionally higher up the footballing food chain.
Potter himself talked after the game about its oddities.
He felt his team were unfortunate to be 2-0 down, having created some decent chances of their own, yet he also acknowledged that Brighton benefitted from a kink in the fabric of the afternoon when Liverpool’s half-time break switched from the prospect of pondering a three-goal advantage and job being done to nursing just the one-goal lead instead, thanks to a vaguely fortuitous first goal for the visitors.
I would not argue against that synopsis. As much as football is a game played on a green rectangular patch of grass, it is also one that plays on the mind.
We feasibly fumed/sulked our way out of winning this one, incensed as we were that fate, the officials and VAR took against us.
Days like Saturday simply happen occasionally.
What does pose the major concern for us right now is the increasing sparsity of options in midfield.
Fabinho remains on the sidelines, Thiago is slowly working his way back to fitness, we lost Keita to a hamstring injury on Saturday, a problem matched by James Milner, while Harvey Elliot is a long-term absentee.
Given that Curtis Jones has only recently shaken off injury problems of his own, Jordan Henderson was missing for much of the tail end of last season and that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has fallen to the periphery off the back of a succession of far-from-insignificant injuries, then midfield is taking over the cursed nature of central defence from last time around.
Within this, the departure of Gini Wijnaldum gets an airing, in a similar manner to how some lamented the departure of Dejan Lovren last season.
Different players, different positions, different talents, yet the same theory.
Wijnaldum left Liverpool because there was a discrepancy between what the player wanted, and what the club felt it could offer. It is a situation we had been in before and will be again, potentially with the best player on the face of the planet.
Yes, Wijnaldum would be hugely useful right now, yet eight players contesting three places should be more than enough in a world where a ludicrous collection of events do not occur.
Tyler Morton will have watched on from the bench yesterday as an interested observer.
The only plus-point to the outcome on Saturday afternoon was that we didn’t replicate Man City’s travails, busy capitulating at home to Crystal Palace.
Although slipping three points behind Chelsea does not please the senses, I still can’t help but feel their defenders will eventually stop scoring, and that Thomas Tuchel will totally ‘Thomas Tuchel’ the whole concept of challenging for the Premier League title.
When push comes to shove, he is Thomas Tuchel.
Next up, Atletico Madrid return to Anfield, for what will be something of a surreal Champions League night both on and off the pitch, given the ire the two teams seem to provoke from one another – added to by the Covid connotations of the last time they came to Anfield, and of course, which still circulate and threaten.
We then take the trip to east London, to deal with West Ham and the conundrum that is Moyesball.
They, like Brighton, have started the season in fine form, and they will pose a defined test, yet their threat could be lessened by their requirements to play Europa League football on Thursday night in Belgium.
Beyond these assignments, there is the last international break of the year, which hopefully provides our midfield with the chance to regenerate, before a gradually improving Arsenal roll into town.