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Gerrard's Injury Setback, Formations, and Other Monday Notes

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It's Monday, which means you probably don't need an excuse to get your drink on. But just in case you do, that's a current picture of Steven Gerrard there on the right. We're pretty sure it's not a Halloween costume. But more on that in a little bit…

* Against West Bromwich Albion, having Henderson tucked into the middle worked at both ends of the pitch. Yet on a number of occasions when the Baggies did manage a spell of possession, he displayed the same tendency to chase into the centre of midfield that early in the season led to trouble by leaving his fullback isolated. While it didn't lead to any problems when he went wandering on Saturday, it has to be acknowledged that that had less to do with the play of Henderson or Johnson and more to do with West Brom not offering the sustained attacking threat shown by sides like Sunderland early on.

After all, there was much talk after the Norwich match about how if Liverpool had only won, the massive gulf between midfield and defence and the lack of any real defensive steel from either Adam or Gerrard would have been a non-issue. And here

, perhaps, there is a sign of just such a situation playing out, as Henderson's performance at times showed the same weaknesses he was rightfully criticised for early in the year and yet with Liverpool winning those faults have become much easier to overlook. Over on Oh You Beauty, however, Nate is primarily concerned with the offensive side of Saturday's game—those positives that were exploited instead of the negatives that weren't—and the way in which the combination of Johnson and Henderson on the right contrasts to that of Enrique and Downing on the left, and from that standpoint there does seem far more room to take encouragement from the developing pairing.

Still, in the short term at least, it's a duo that could easily be found out by stronger opposition, with many of Saturday's perceived positives in attack becoming extreme negatives in defence depending largely on the outcome and regardless of any virtues the approach itself might have—or lack. The possibilities of Dalglish's emerging, lopsided, preferred formation spoken to by Saturday's approach are intriguingly broken down as one would expect, but that those early season weaknesses quite obviously remain can't be overlooked, because for all the good that was on display at the Hawthornes, against stronger opposition Henderson still seems likely to leave his fullback exposed. Then, the topic for discussion would have been Henderson remaining a defensive liability instead of an exploration of attacking promise, with the performance itself largely the same.

* Moving on from West Brom tidbits to news of Liverpool's academy prospects, as Jack Robinson has signed a new contract with the club that signals his continuing integration into the first team. With Jose Enrique appearing to solve the club's left back needs at least in the medium-term, there have obviously been fewer chances for Robinson this season than there were towards the end of the last, but with Fabio Arurelio's contract running down there's a good chance the 18-year-old could find himself as Enrique's primary back up come next season.

After last year, many would have thought of Robinson as being only steps away from regular first team football, and that may not be the case any more, but at a position where most players don't begin to peak until their mid-twenties, Robinson has plenty of time to refine his skills and grow into the eventual starter most seem to think he will become. In fact, as Damien Comolli points out, Robinson's biggest competition for the starting left back role at Liverpool in the future is more likely to end up being a younger developing fullback instead of any current senior player, with Brad Smith in particular pushing hard at a position that seems as though it could be well stocked for the next decade at least:

We've got one or two more good [Academy] left-backs who are probably as good as Jack was at their age. There will be competition for Jack in a few years. The most important thing is that there's talent coming through. Hopefully the future of the club is bright on that side.

* Back with fully established first team players—or at least ones who would be established if they could stay fit for more than five minutes—there's news on the Steven Gerrard front. And it doesn't look good. It also doesn't offer nearly as many opportunities for smutty double entendres as his groin dong. Leading up to the West Brom match, talk was that he'd picked up a slight knock to his ankle in training. Then it became an infection. And now he's been seen leaving hospital on crutches and with a cast on his right ankle that runs nearly up to his knee.

At this point, it's almost certain that he'll miss the game against Swansea on Saturday, with about the only silver lining being that after that it's time for the latest interminable international break, with England set to play a meaningless friendly against Sweden and to be slaughtered in a meaningless friendly by Spain. After that, however, Liverpool faces Chelsea on the road, Manchester City at home, and then Chelsea on the road again in the League Cup in a week and a half stretch poised to play a massive role in determining the longer-term success or failure of the 2011-12 season.

We'll be back with breaking news as the day moves along—especially if it gives us the chance to talk infected groins instead of ankles—but in the meantime, while you sneak "fun" sized bags of candy you really don't need and try to figure out how to cope with this latest injury setback news…