After his recall from Derby County, it wasn't quite clear how Jordon Ibe would feature in Liverpool's setup, especially given the fact that he was cup-tied in both the FA and League Cup. Having featured in a wide forward role for Steve McLaren's side, Ibe returned to a Liverpool setup that didn't have such a role, instead deploying a lone forward with the support of two central playmakers in support and relying on wingbacks--typically Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno--for attacking width.
It was in that role that Brendan Rodgers decided to deploy the 19-year-old, giving him his first start against Everton and featuring him regularly from that point on. He quickly became an integral member of the side, providing a spark going forward and doing what was asked without the ball to provide defensive cover when needed. With he and Markovic set to challenge one another for the starting spot over the season's final months, the future, both immediate and longer-term, was looking bright.
And while the long-term future still does, shorter-term things dimmed significantly. In the wake of their Europa League exit it was revealed Ibe suffered an LCL injury that would rule him out for at least a month, halting his progress for the time being and leaving Rodgers without a suddenly critical squad member.
Four weeks later he's yet to return to full training, and in an update provided to the official website on Saturday, it looks as though he's in a fight to feature again before the end of this season:
"I'm enjoying it and hopefully I can push on now, keep doing the gym sessions and hopefully get back into training soon and play again. I was a bit nervous coming back because I hadn't been out on the grass for four weeks, but everything is going well.
"It was the ligament on the side of my knee and they said I could be out for six to eight weeks, but everything has gone smoothly from here and hopefully I can crack on now and get back in action. Things happen for a reason so hopefully I can just learn from this, build up the strength in my knee and come back stronger and hopefully be even better."
Combined with the injury to Daniel Sturridge, which could see him ruled out another month, it Ibe's continued absence will mean a return to the starting eleven for Markovic, with Raheem Sterling--who's back in Liverpool receiving treatment for an injured toe--the most likely candidate to fill in up top. Sterling had worked hard to replace Ibe, but his transition to the role was increasingly ineffective, serving only to underline how well he'd done in attack and how impressive Ibe's play had been.
Hopefully he's able to feature in some capacity in the next month and a half, but if not, there's enough quality and promise shown over the course of his season on the whole to feel good about his future.