For all the talk of Liverpool's failures in the summer--didn't pay enough for Alexis Sanchez, didn't hold onto Luis Suarez, didn't hire Jan-Jan the hammer man to beat Daniel Sturridge into everlasting fitness--there's been a handful of players around whom there remains optimism and promise. Whether or not Brendan Rodgers uses them with any regularity remains to be seen, but the displays of Javier Manquillo, Alberto Moreno, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, and Adam Lallana have indicated that there's plenty of quality available. Some may take longer to produce it than others, and it might not have led to instant success, but there can be no doubt that there's talent there.
Of those names, it's been the treatment of Lallana that's been most confusing; injuries ruled him out of the preseason and meant his debut couldn't come until after the first international break, but whenever he's featured he's been superb, adding creativity and a forward-thinking mentality to an attack that's stalled far too often. Little coincidence that Liverpool have looked their best when he's included.
His inclusion hasn't been a given even though quality performances have, though, as Rodgers has had him in and out of the starting eleven regardless of the fact that the 26-year-old has maintained a high level of play throughout. Things seemingly reached the height of absurdity when Lallana was left on the bench for the duration of their must-win finale against Basel on Tuesday; an attack that looked out of ideas could have used Lallana's presence, and his exclusion was another mark against Rodgers.
It looks like it's time ease off in this instance, however, as news emerged late Thursday that Lallana was injured rather than dropped after suffering two cracked ribs against Leicester. He featured for 67 minutes against Sunderland before coming off and, despite receiving painkilling injections, was unable to recover in time to play a part in Tuesday's match.
Which now leaves him a doubt for Sunday's trip to Old Trafford, where Liverpool will have to be vastly improved if they're going to get a result against a Manchester United squad that suddenly can't stop winning. Little has gone right for Liverpool of late, but Lallana's presence surely makes them a better side, and hopefully his return can coincide with improved form to see them start to turn things around.