As Liverpool grandly set about the task of replacing Luis Suarez over the summer, the presence of several proven match-winners in their squad already was key to allaying fan fears of an imminent disaster at Anfield.
Daniel Sturridge was still there to score goals, Raheem Sterling was rapidly turning into the best young player in Europe, and Philippe Coutinho wasn’t far behind the England international.
A couple of months into the new campaign, Sturridge has spent most of it in the physio’s room, Sterling is exhausted and Coutinho has apparently dropped completely out of favour.
It is not surprising the 19-year-old is in need of a breather, as he has quickly become the key man for Liverpool in their post-Suarez era.
Sterling leads the scoring charts with three league goals, has registered the second most assists with two and is averaging the most key passes (2.6) and completed dribbles (2.9) in the Reds’ squad.
Even with the teenager in their side Liverpool’s form has been so poor that their odds of finishing in the top four have slipped to 11/10, and if Sterling is now rested someone else will have to come to the fore.
That man must be Coutinho, who has been bizarrely poor so far this campaign after being a key part of the Reds’ success last term.
The Brazilian averaged the 11th-most key passes per game in the Premier League last season with two, and notched five goals and seven assists in 33 appearances as Liverpool came within a whisker of claiming the league title.
That form was also apparent during pre-season, where Coutinho was especially impressive as Brendan Rodgers’ side dismantled Borussia Dortmund 4-0.
Once the league started however, the 22-year-old scuttled so deep into his shell that his manager has been forced to drop him a couple of times already.
Coutinho is yet to register a goal or an assist in the league, and has created just four chances in his five appearances.
The raw talent is still there, and with Sterling set for a brief stint on the sidelines, Coutinho must step up and become the team’s main playmaker.
He has been granted the perfect place to start, as Liverpool head to a hapless QPR side in their next match, a game they are heavy 3/5 favourites to win.