Saturday's draw at Newcastle sapped a good bit of the optimism that had been building over the international break; it didn't erase the fact that the international break was over, which would have been impressive in its own right, but it did remind us of the very serious concerns plaguing this Liverpool side. The schedule's about to get much, much more difficult for Brendan Rodgers' side, and their failure to take advantage of being a man up for 50-plus minutes was a disappointing start to the weekend.
One of the few positives, however, was the performance of Luis Alberto after coming on for the injured Mamadou Sakho in the 63rd minute. His introduction changed the team shape to a 4-4-2, and he occupied a spot on the right side of midfield with license to drift inward and dictate a good bit of the tempo. He didn't change the match completely, but he did provide a good bit of what the squad has been missing with Philippe Coutinho out through injury, and he certainly made a case for increased minutes--and possibly a start next weekend--as the fall progresses.
He was exactly as advertised; smart and freakishly not bothered with the ball at his feet, capable of finding time and space for himself when there otherwise wasn't any, and forward-thinking enough to create a threat or two against a side that had parked the bus entirely over the final third of the match. Despite not playing as a number ten, the qualities he displayed seem to fit awfully well in a spot currently occupied by a player whose skillset is a far better fit for a wide role than one through the middle.
Rushing Luis Alberto along isn't going to do him any good, but on today's evidence he's got plenty to offer, and with a Coutinho-shaped hole in Liverpool's creative department he might just be the man to pick up some of the slack.
Video by MrBoywunder