Please put your hands together for the end of the international break. Goals were scored. Reputations were elevated. Many shoulders were shrugged. And now the time has come to focus once again on Liverpool’s Premier League aspirations.
Those players who left Merseyside to link up with their national teams are returning to training at Melwood, preparing for a highly-anticipated match against Manchester City on Saturday.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at the Liverpool training ground for the first time on Wednesday and will certainly have his heart primed for at least a spot on the bench for the big bout. But that may be a bridge too far for the England midfielder who will need time to acclimate to Jurgen Klopp’s tactical madness.
But don’t be surprised if, at least temporarily, Ox gets into the squad ahead of Liverpool’s most recent headache Philippe Coutinho.
Opinions abound on how the club should reintroduce Coutinho into the team. Starts on the bench in the league. A stretch of games with the reserve team. Seamless transition right back into the thick of it. But it remains to be seen what Klopp’s intentions are with the once-beloved Brazilian.
Personally, I’m finding it difficult to become too invested in the decision. If Coutinho plays against City the team will be well-talented enough to win. But likewise if he doesn’t. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino played excellently against Arsenal supported by a midfield of Jordan Henderson, Wijnaldum and Emre Can. Arsenal were devestatingly poor but Liverpool executed their gameplan to expose the Gunners weaknesses perfectly.
No two games are the same, but there has been little to no evidence that Coutinho is the lone difference maker that he has been for the last couple of seasons.
If Klopp’s stance is to bring Coutinho along slowly that may appease many in the fanbase who would seek some form of retribution for the player’s unwelcome antics. And there’s an argument for the manager sending a message to the squad that insubordinate behavior will not be tolerated.
But ultimately Liverpool held onto Coutinho for his skill and talent on the pitch. So that’s happening at some point. And since we’re going to have to deal with it sooner or later perhaps an away game would be an advantageous moment to get him into a red shirt and get the first wave of inevitable boos out of the way before he hits the Anfield pitch.
Regardless of all that, we still have our excitement about this team to deal with. The match against Arsenal seems a long time ago now but the waiting for more controlled mayhem is almost over.
What changes, if any, would you make to the squad for Saturday?