When the final whistle blew on Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace, Liverpool knew that they had played their final Premier League game with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, and Naby Keïta missing due to the Africa Cup of Nations.
For many, there had been major concerns about the month the club would be without three of their best players. Looking back at their results now, it seems safe to say that while it was a challenge, those concerns didn’t come to pass.
“We did it without them, but that made it so intense,” was manager Jürgen Klopp’s reaction following Sunday’s match. “You have to create, if you want, kind of a new football if you don’t have that speed on the wing which Sadio and Mo have.
“If you don’t have that all of a sudden you have to change how you get in these areas, and the boys did really well. Ox again on the scoresheet, Diogo not to stop, Bobby’s work-rate is second to none. The boys really put in a proper shift.”
In the absence of their AFCoN stars, Liverpool played a pair of league games and five in all competitions. They won four and drew one—the first round of their League Cup semi-final against Arsenal—while advancing to a cup final.
In those five games, they scored 12 goals and conceded twice, earning maximum points in the league and seeing their gap to leaders Man City shrink slightly after the Abu Dhabi sportswashing front dropped points in the league.
It might be too early to say the league title race is back on, but anyone who thought losing players to AFCoN would end the Reds’ season was shown that, just maybe, they should have had a more faith in Klopp and the rest of the squad.