Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders insists no-one is irreplaceable after influential full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was ruled out for at least three weeks with a knee injury.
Liverpool’s winter break means he may only miss three matches – both legs of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham and the Premier League match at Bournemouth – and he could be back for the January 31 visit of Chelsea.
But it is Alexander-Arnold’s pivotal contribution to the way the team operates, stepping into midfield in his now well-established hybrid role, with two goals and eight assists this season which makes his absence so difficult to cope with.
However, Lijnders insists they will find a way to handle the situation, as they have already had to do with Mohamed Salah having gone to the African Cup of Nations.
“We have many weapons so there is no-one irreplaceable here,” said the Reds’ assistant manager ahead of the first leg against Fulham.
“Mo goes away, (Diogo) Jota steps up. If the best players are not there and you play really well – the second half against Arsenal – then that’s a really good sign and that’s what we’ve always done.
“We don’t rely on one, two, three or four players. We are missing three core players from our leadership group – Robbo, Trent, Mo – so that’s a blow of course.
“We now we have to find solutions without Trent as well but, again, this squad has so much talent, so much power, and as long as counter-pressing is there everything else is replaceable.”
Alexander-Arnold’s absence means Liverpool are now without the four players who have created the most chances per 90 mins for them this season, the others being Robertson, Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai, whose hamstring injury means he is not available to face Fulham.
The options appear to be bringing in 20-year-old Conor Bradley, who impressed at right-back in a 15-minute cameo at the Emirates, 19-year-old Luke Chambers or Owen Beck, recently recalled from a loan spell at Dundee, on the left and moving Gomez back to the right.
But none of these options would come close to filling the void Alexander-Arnold’s absence leaves.
“He creates a lot of flexibility from the back and he can play passes that the forwards really like, he knows how to decide games and knows when to put balls where,” added Lijnders.
“The squad has a lot of other qualities in my opinion but for sure we need to find new dynamics.”
There will be no resorting to the transfer window to solve what are deemed short-term issues as the management have faith in their youngsters around the fringes of the squad.
“We spent a lot of money in the summer. We really invested in the squad, the ownership really brought in the right players,” said Lijnders.
“Conor and Bobby (Clark) are not back-up players, they are part of our squad. They are young, hungry and made for games like this.
“Young players just need the opportunity. They don’t need criticism, they just need trust from the coaching staff.”