Liverpool have been dealt a cruel blow as Harvey Elliott has been on the sidelines for months, but the show has to go on and a trio of reds has to play a role.
As Elliott slumped to the floor in apparent agony, the pain was felt throughout the Liverpool camp for a bright talent who has now been on the sidelines for months.
And that ultimately led to the question of what happens next.
Liverpool’s squad depth has been hotly debated over the summer, especially after the transfer window closed and only one new signing arrived.
Jürgen Klopp, however, has opportunities to compensate for the loss of a player who used his moment when he was within his grasp.
“We will play football without him, but we will also wait for him because he is a top player,” said the coach after the game.
It speaks volumes about the 18-year-old’s position in the squad but as always an injury opens the door to others and Liverpool need to see their options seize them with both hands.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Curtis Jones are just three of those who can make a difference and ensure that there is a silver lining.
A triangle reshuffle
Losing Elliott has given Liverpool a new “triangle” praised by Klopp after the Chelsea draw, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah completing the new look on the right.
The chemistry between the trio offered the Reds another advantage as the manager pointed out that “the triangle on the right worked pretty well,” with an understanding that it would improve week after week.
That has been temporarily put on hold and while Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Thiago will likely be a much-used combo, games will now be shifted to all three games that the squad must be used for.
This is where Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Jones come in – a trio that has accumulated 233 minutes in their four games so far this season.
The Scouser has yet to enter the field, however, but a path continues to be laid in front of him and now it is time for Jones and his teammates to step up.
Keita impressed in his two starts against Norwich and Burnley, but has proven to be significantly more efficient on the left of Fabinho.
Typically, Liverpool’s right midfielder is the most progressive of the midfield three and Henderson could be primarily intended for the role, with both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jones being a suitable option depending on the opponent.
They won’t necessarily offer the same dynamic that Elliott provided, and they’ll find the all-important rhythm Klopp talks about so often, but they can certainly do a job – with number 15 likely being both on attack and on in the minutes interlocking becomes midfield.
It would make Thiago and Keita spin on the left, a position Jones has proven himself in before, and James Milner also offers the fresh legs that Klopp has long had in mind.
“We will use every source, every leg we have and try to be as successful as possible,” said the manager of the seven games in 21 days before 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 staff to more than cover his absence.
The challenge now is for players like Keita, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain, like Elliott, to turn sixteen all summer and at the start of the season.
The number 8 and number 15 both have their doubters after respective injury battles over the past few years but after a full non-stop preparation they can now remind the crowds of what they can offer this Liverpool team.
Your time is now.