Saturday evening could not have gone much worse for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp.
To lose your first Premier League game of the season in the manner in which the Reds did will take some time to get over, but there was also huge concern over the injury suffered by Cody Gakpo.
With Darwin Nuñez’s fitness a concern, The Dutchman was given the nod ahead of Diogo Jota to lead the line with Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz either side of him, but did not come back out for the second half.
This was not because of a poor performance. In fact, Gakpo played well as that link between the midfield and attack while capping off his half with the equalising goal on the turn.
Instead of celebrating his finish to level the match, Gakpo pushed his teammates off and dropped to the floor in agony.
Replays showed a twist of the knee before he powered his shot into the Tottenham goal. However it was an earlier foul by Spurs’ full back Destiny Udogie that caused the damage.
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Klopp revealed his number 18 had left the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in a leg brace, suggesting the injury could be a serious one.
“Has he done his ACL?” was a common question reflecting the anxiety social media.
It was certainly a possibility and it would have been a huge blow for Liverpool in a season where they need every bit of strength in depth they can muster.
The Reds star moved from PSV Eindhoven in January and has gone from strength to strength, after a tricky start in an out-of-form side.
Gakpo has now become sort of a new Roberto Firmino for the Reds and Klopp picking him at Spurs showed just how much faith he has in his player.
It was revealed on Monday that the Netherlands star had not suffered a serious knee injury and would likely be back after the October international break. There was a huge collective sigh of relief for Reds fans.
With Nuñez also carrying a knock and currently unable to start games combined with Jota’s history of injury, a long-term spell on the sidelines for Gakpo could have been catastrophic.
The Reds striker found his feet at the back end of last season and was many people’s preferred centre forward option ahead of the 2023/24 campaign.
He started the season in the starting lineup away at Chelsea. However, that was in an unfamiliar midfield role that clearly did not come naturally to him.
Now back as a ‘number nine’, Gakpo has been slowly playing himself into form – he scored three in four before his injury – and once again showing the Reds faithful what he can bring to this new-look Liverpool side as they look to propel themselves into Premier League title contention once again.
Replacing the famous front three of Firmino, Salah and Sadio Mane was almost an impossible task for Klopp and the Liverpool recruitment team after the success they helped bring to Anfield, but they have made a tremendous attempt at doing so.
The five senior first-team options at Klopp’s disposal now are as strong as the Reds have ever had.
Gakpo will be missed for the next two matches, but his absence only gives a chance to Nuñez to put a claim forward to be the regular starting striker in the front three.
Thursday night’s Europa League clash at Anfield will likely see Jota start, with his one-match suspension coming into play on Sunday afternoon against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Nuñez now needs to be wrapped in cotton wool with a huge game on the south coast approaching. The Reds will be desperate to put Saturday’s loss at Tottenham behind them with a win against Roberto De Zerbi’s side and the Uruguayan will need to be at his best.
Competition in the squad is healthy and only encourages players to take their chances when they are in the starting XI and that is exactly how Nuñez will be seeing this moment.
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The Reds newest number nine has been brilliant this season when on the pitch and offers Liverpool a different dimension with his pace running in behind. That is something the Brighton defenders will not relish playing against once Sunday comes around.
Like Liverpool, Sunday’s opponents have European competition to contend with on Thursday. After losing their opening Europa League clash, the Seagulls will need to take some points and De Zerbi may start with his strongest side.
Klopp, however, has the squad and the luxury of being able to make changes to allow his key players to come into Sunday’s match fresh and fully fit.