With a crowded December ahead, the returns of Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, Philippe Coutinho, and Jose Enrique couldn't have come at a better time. All will benefit the squad in some way, with three of the four operating as established starters prior to injury and the fourth--in this case Allen--only in need of a chance to again prove his worth. Allen's going to have wait, it seems, and while Johnson and Coutinho are relatively uncontested in their respective postions, Enrique will have to nudge past Aly Cissokho to regain his spot after the Frenchman has started each of Liverpool's last four league matches.
On current form that doesn't seem too difficult a task, as Cissokho has been taken off early in each of Liverpool's last two matches (at the half against Arsenal, on the hour against Fulham) and generally looked ineffective as both wingback and fullback. His struggles haven't deterred him from wanting to push on at Anfield, however, and he's hopeful that he'll be able to parlay his temporary deal into something longer-term after the season is over:
"It's a great source of pride for me every day to be able to play with players like this and to represent a big club like Liverpool. It's a source of pride for all the coaches I had as a youth player. Of course, I am very happy to be here and I hope to stay here.
"To start with, when you want to play in a team like Liverpool, you have to expect that there's going to be high level of competition for each place, whether in central defence, midfield or in attack. Everyone in the team is disappointed not to be competing in European competition, and every player wants to give his best to ensure that the club is up there in the qualifying positions at the end of the season. It's very engaged, and it's non-stop. It's surprising to see that even with those teams in mid-table, as well as those nearer the top of the table, there's never a let up in the tempo, and they all play at the maximum level right up to the last minute of the match."
That last point is one that's been of concern in recent weeks, with the player lacking in execution and looking off the pace on more than one occasions. He's still getting up to speed, as his comments clearly indicate, but with Enrique's legend growing with each Cissokho wobble, it's hard to see how much more time Cissokho will be given to adjust.
As with others on the fringes of the first team, the coming weeks will be critical for carving out a niche in the squad heading into the new year. For Aly Cissokho, it's also a case of fighting for a permanent move come next summer. Plenty can change between now and then, and while it's not all going to come down to a few shaky performances in the first few months of the season, how he pushes on from here will no doubt determine if he has a Liverpool future beyond May.