For Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, the return to competitive action of Philippe Coutinho was a silver lining amid the cloud of defeat against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
After almost seven weeks on the sidelines following a shoulder injury, the Brazilian playmaker featured for the whole of the second half as the Reds searched for a result in North London.
Despite prompting a number of presentable chances, the No. 10 was powerless to overcome the hosts — who consolidated their Barclays Premier League advantage with a 2-0 victory.
While the manager was understandably disappointed by the failure to convert those opportunities, he declared Coutinho’s comeback to be “great news” for his team in the coming weeks.
“Young Philippe was excellent when he came on — wonderful feet, great on the ball and gave us a foothold in the game,” the boss told Liverpoolfc.com. “He’s a player that can control a game; he has got that wonderful gift and ability to control. You saw his imagination, looking for those passes to penetrate. It’s great news for us.
“He has only really been back training with the team in the last few days after getting medical clearance. For him to get 45 minutes will be really good for him.
“Another good week next week and hopefully we can introduce him into the game next weekend.”
After maintaining faith with the 3-4-1-2 formation which had reaped rewards during the past month, Rodgers combined Coutinho’s arrival into the game with a switch to a more orthodox 4-4-2.
Explaining his thinking, the Northern Irishman continued: “We’ve played well in this system — it has worked well for us. And I was just reluctant to change that.
“We had identified the areas that could possibly hurt us when you play that system. Every system has a vulnerability to it. With 3-5-2, it is on the sides.
“I felt that they were getting a little bit too much joy, they have got good movement in their team and the players isolate well, numerically, on the sides.
“We went in 1-0 down, so I felt that if we brought on Coutinho, played narrower with Jordan [Henderson] narrow to give us four in a central area, it allows us to retain the front two — who obviously can score goals.
“I’ve got to give praise to the players, they kept going. We were 2-0 down with over half an hour to play. Arsenal had better control of the game. They have got good technicians so they can control the game.
“But we were always in the game because we created chances. The only disappointment was that, in good positions, we failed to capitalize on that. Overall, they probably deserved it.
“We’re disappointed with the goals that we conceded, but we’ll reflect on it and look to get three points now against Fulham.”
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