It was Liverpool's problematic position for much of the season.
The Reds have squeezed 27 points of the Premier League from a possible 33 so far offered to keep looking for a first title in what will be 29 years in May.
Manchester City – for all their glory of attack and defensive excellence – has yet to disappear from Jurgen Klopp's gaze as a result.
For now, City is perfectly in sight and Liverpool even have the chance to overtake them on Sunday when they entertain the most loyal defense of the division in Fulham before the Manchester derby.
For some, however, glass remains half empty.
Much of the focus – and in some circles, the ira – has focused on a midfield that is said to be spark-free and devoid of creativity.
These accusations resisted Tuesday night while Liverpool was working in Belgrade, deprived of the talented talents of Xherdan Shaqiri who had been left on Merseyside after making himself the number 1 enemy in Serbia for his politically charged celebration for Switzerland at the World Cup.
Klopp on Henderson and Keita's fitness
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Liverpool's midfield, for better or worse, is a new aspect of the options that Klopp could call 12 months ago.
While the Reds manager was still able to count Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can as Liverpool players, Klopp also made a mistake and also fired Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
And despite the summer arrivals of Fabinho and Naby Keita, the fact that Klopp was ready to sign an almost £ 50 million deal for Nabil Fekir suggests that he knew an additional spark in the engine room could be needed during a typically arduous job. and full of campaign commitments.
For different reasons, Liverpool, at one time or another in the last 12 months, wanted all four to be part of the Reds midfield.
As such, Klopp is unable to call any of them while trying to rediscover the verve of attack that Liverpool made their mark last season.
It may have been so different in the engine room.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was arguably in the form of his career when he had cruelly finished his season in April.
Here is the versatile English national who finally had the chance to play the role of offensive midfielder after years of hard work under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
A harmless tackle near the touchline saw him suffer severe long-term damage to his knee, putting an end to his campaign immediately and causing him to lose the Champions League final and the World Cup.
Klopp would have revealed in July that Oxlade-Chamberlain would also have to lose most of the 2018/19 campaign when the energetic midfielder slowly returned to fitness.
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"It seems that now is the right time to tell people that for Ox this next season will focus on recovery and rehabilitation," Klopp said.
"We knew it from more or less the day after we had the injury and after the successful surgery, we were sure."
Consider the launched bomb.
Oxlade-Chamberlain will return to this part of Liverpool and eventually add the boost, pace and power he showed on a weekly basis in the second half of last season.
However, this view will not be available quickly and will be given ample opportunity to get fully fit before you expect it to contribute significantly.
Coutinho was on track for his best season ever as a Liverpool player, when Barcelona played its power game for Brazil in January.
The offensive midfielder was so often the Liverpool midfield orchestra director, who regularly supplied the devastating three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, but also won a dozen goals.
However, Barça, who had moved away from Liverpool with confidence the previous summer, returned at the end of the year and spilled millions of pounds to bring him to the Nou Camp.
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Liverpool kept the powder dry while assessing potential replacements and instead reinforced its backline with a £ 75m deal for Virgil van Dijk – a move that was organized prior to Coutinho's exit.
Klopp admitted to being reluctant to lose his n. 10, but it made no sense to hold him against his wishes for the second half of the season.
"It's not like we had a speech and Phil said that my head is somewhere else," Klopp said. "It was clear after talking that it would not work, we knew it when the club tried everything."
Can's summer start was not as strong as Coutinho's, nor was she lost as much as Oxlade-Chamberlain, but losing a 24-year-old German midfielder for nothing was unpleasant.
Liverpool and Klopp never wanted to leave Anfield, but after making their interest known soon enough, the former Leverkusen man opted for the Merseyside trade for Turin as he joined the Juventus Italian giants.
"I want to say thank you to all the inhabitants of Liverpool, my coaches, the staff, the staff behind the staff, the fans, everyone," he said after leaving.
"I will always remember with a smile and a piece of my heart will always be in Liverpool, it was a great honor for me to play Liverpool." I hope to see you again one day.
Again, Klopp was of the opinion that he wanted his compatriot to stay at Anfield beyond his contract, saying, "We have to create a situation where players want to stay – that's all we can do as a club, as a team and as a manager. "
Can did only three departures for the Serie A champions since the move.
The saga of the transfer of summer.
Nabil Fekir's proposal to move to Anfield was canceled at the eleventh hour in dramatic circumstances, when Lyon stubbornly interrupted the negotiations with the Reds.
The French international should have joined the Reds before Les Bleus embarked for the World Cup in June, after the club's medical staff flew to Paris after a break in the negotiations.
A second opinion on a long-standing knee problem was wanted by Liverpool and, despite having conducted television interviews at home with LFCTV, Fekir remained with OL.
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"L 'Olympique Lyonnais informs the negotiations with Liverpool and Nabil Fekir for the transfer of the captain of OL who has not succeeded and that Olympique Lyonnais has decided to end this negotiation tonight at 20:00," he read a statement in June.
Despite two months to return to the negotiating table, an agreement never materialized and Fekir remained the captain of Lyon when the transfer window of the Premier League was closed in early August.
The World Cup winner is once again in great shape for Ligue 1, with four goals and as many assists in 10 appearances.