The returns of Jota, Alisson and TAA are most welcome ahead of title run-in

Liverpool are bringing back key players at just the right time.
Liverpool FC v Burnley FC - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Burnley FC - Premier League / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Liverpool have been so impressive throughout most of the season, that it’s easy to overlook how much has gone wrong for them.

Between numerous lengthy injuries to key players and poor officiating in key matches, the fact that Jurgen Klopp still has his side in the heat of the title race and in contention for the Europa League is an extraordinary achievement in itself, regardless of how this season finishes. 

Klopp’s men sit just one point behind Premier League leaders Arsenal, but perhaps would have been comfortably clear had the officials awarded them clear penalties in 1-1 draws with Arsenal and Manchester City.

The Reds were also on the wrong end of arguably the most controversial moment since the introduction of VAR to the Premier League when the video assistants failed to overturn an incorrect decision to rule Luis Diaz’s goal out for offside in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham. 

On top of that, injuries throughout the squad have deprived Liverpool of a full strength squad for most of the season.

The likes of Ibou Konate, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Alisson have all missed sizable chunks of the campaign.

Despite those complications, the breakthroughs of youngsters Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah as well as the versatility of Joe Gomez have enabled the Reds to maintain their challenges for the league title and in Europe after already lifting the League Cup in February. 

Liverpool coped exceptionally well with whatever blows this season has dealt, but their rotten luck finally caught up to them in last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Manchester United.

With the chances they had, their lead should have been well more than 1-0 at half time. Their wastefulness in front of goal cost them as two second half goals from the hosts left the Reds needing an 83rd minute penalty just to leave Old Trafford with a point. 

While Quansah’s error preceding United’s equalizer drew much criticism (not to mention despicable levels of abuse on social media, so bad that that he limited comments on his Instagram posts), that Liverpool found themselves level after 15 efforts on goal to United’s one says everything you need to know about the quality of their finishing.

Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz combined well for their side’s opener but failed to convert numerous chances thereafter, while Salah has yet to regain his sharpness in front of goal since his return from injury. 

As the Reds wasted chance after chance on Sunday, the Reds’ most clinical forward other than a fully firing Salah could only look on.

Diogo Jota has proven himself a more reliable finisher than Nunez, Diaz, or Cody Gakpo and Liverpool were crying out for him not just this past Sunday, but also against Manchester City a few weeks earlier when they dominated the second half, but ultimately had to settle for a draw. 

Much to the relief of Liverpool supporters and surely Klopp, the Portuguese has returned to training this week alongside Alisson and Alexander-Arnold.

He came on as a substitute in Liverpool’s shocking 3-0 defeat at home to Atalanta, but had too little time to make a difference after Liverpool’s starting front three of Elliott, Gakpo and Nunez once again struggled. 

Klopp will also be eager to name Alisson and Alexander-Arnold, neither of whom featured against Atalanta, in his first XI as soon as he can.

The performances of Caoimhin Kelleher and Bradley in their stead have been more than commendable, but the former two should be the clear choices in goal and at right-back as the season nears its conclusion. 

Liverpool’s failure to beat United last weekend means that they will now need to capitalize on Arsenal dropping points if they’re to reclaim their place at the top of the league.

The availability of first-team players who missed the last several months, particularly Diogo Jota, will give them the best chance of doing so.