Liverpool defeated Leeds United 3-0 to stay level with the Premier League leaders as they prepare to open their Champions League account against AC Milan on Wednesday. However young prodigy Harvey Elliott was lost to a serious injury that will require surgery.
The Reds appeared to be firing on all cylinders in Sunday’s game at Elland Road lacking perhaps only the thoughtful rotational passing that Henderson would have brought, sacrificed for the incisive play of Thiago and the quick movement of Elliott.
Perhaps with three consecutive midweek matches approaching Jurgen Klopp was mindful to add a little rotation to his midfield and given how much of an impression Elliott has been making he may have felt safe in rotating out Henderson, with others to follow in forthcoming contests.
What seems to be a long-term injury to Elliott will put rest to that idea as Klopp will have to explore other midfield options to spell his main trio. Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely be called on again for sporadic starts; James Milner will be used whenever the boss can’t figure out what else to do, while Curtis Jones remains a long way from re-establishing himself in the first team.
Elliott’s dislocated ankle likely includes some bone breakage and ligament damage (the ligaments will be stapled back together), while surgeons will have to ensure that nerve and artery supply are properly restored. Not great for the player and how long the recovery will take remains to be seen.
Where does Elliot’s injury leave the rest of the squad?
From a squad perspective though it’s hardly panic stations in the midfield. Elliott had progressed further than most people had thought so his temporary loss only takes the central positions back to where most of us expected them to be when the season began.
The forward line, meanwhile, despite the absence of Firmino with a suspect hamstring, looks like it’s re-finding some of its most devastating form that had somewhat gone missing last season. Mo Salah seems to be developing from nicely saying “give me the damn ball and I’ll score” into “if I can’t get a look, I’ll get it to Jota or Mane”. Salah could yet evolve into an, even more, devastating forward if he can master the balance of selecting whether he is his own best option.
Sadio Mane meanwhile, short of success for some of last season, has clearly given significant license to let it fly. Management seems quite content to wait for some world-class touch to return and quite confident that it will. Mane too seems confident that if he keeps banging away that the goals will come and two have already
Diogo Jota meanwhile continues to terrorize defenses, both running at them from wider positions and penetrating through the central defenders in a way that the other Liverpool forwards seem unable to do. Jota brings something different to the Liverpool attack that provides options in breaking down stubborn defenses.
A defense that can mount a title charge and more!
Liverpool’s back-four looks set! Williams and Tsimikas are resigned strictly to back-up roles for now but should make appearances in the League Cup. Joe Gomez would like to push ahead of Joel Matip in the central defender position, but it seems unlikely Klopp will make the switch unless it’s forced. New signing Konate will likely be held in reserve while he gets used to the club but is also expected to feature in the League Cup next week against Norwich City.
Liverpool looks in good shape to challenge for the League title once again although there is certainly stiff competition emerging from West London (Chelsea) and from both sides of Manchester as City looks to retain and United seeks to reestablish relevance.
What’s next & How have we fared so far?
The Reds have a Champions League group of marquee names whose reputations are more impressive than the teams they can field. It’s unlikely Liverpool can select a significantly rotated team for any matches unless they can secure advancement before the last game, but at the same time, they should be able to get the better of everyone and win this group.
For those who question how well Liverpool is currently playing consider this:
1 – The team has lost only one of its last sixteen games (away to Real Madrid)
2 – In the same period their Premier League record is W11, D3, L0 (36pts);
Compare that in the same period of time to:
Manchester City – W10, D0, L4 (30pts)
Manchester United – W9, D3, L2 (30 pts)
Chelsea – W8, D3, L3 (27pts)
There is an exciting season in the making!