When the team sheets appeared online prior to kick off on Saturday, there was a giant glaring question mark looming over Jon Flanagan's name. Forced into the unavoidable and unenviable position of suddenly being thrust into a match without warning, Flanagan's inclusion sent ripples of panic through vast swathes of Liverpool fans.
It wasn't just that Flanagan hadn't featured for the senior team since an FA Cup match in January, it was also that his participation was forced at the last minute against an ascendant Arsenal. Flanagan's performance turned out to not be the most disastrous on the day, and while for many he's still not the ideal deputy for Glen Johnson, the youngster was happy to get some time on the pitch despite the loss.
“It was great to be back in the team and get the chance to play but it would have been more enjoyable if we had got a decent result,” Flanagan said in an interview with the Liverpool Echo. “I only found out I was playing a couple of hours before kick-off. We had a team meeting beforehand and it became clear that Jonno was struggling.
“The manager told me I was starting and I just had to make sure I was ready. It had been a long time since I last played in the Premier League. There were a few nerves but once the game started I was just focused on getting into the game and doing my job for the team."
Flanagan, like most assessing his involvement, thought he "did okay" on the day, but having not played in the Premier League for eighteen months, it's becoming very clear that the defender is in the same predicament as many of his young colleagues who have had trouble breaking into the side in any meaningful way.
“I’ve just been training hard, giving 100% and trying to force my way into the manager’s plans," Flanagan continued. “Hopefully I can get another chance and keep showing what I can do. If I don’t get another chance then a loan is certainly a possibility. Everyone wants to play games.”
Liverpool's injury woes at fullback being what they are, it's not completely unlikely that Flanagan's services may be called on again in the future. But with Martin Kelly being a serviceable right back in a pinch — and perhaps a surprise non-starter on Saturday given the situation — Flanagan's season still seems very much in the air.