Liverpool parallels of last season creep in as Jurgen Klopp will regret Naby Keita decision in Brighton draw

Numbers in the treatment room are creeping up and options in midfield are now limited.

<p>Naby Keita leaves the field injured during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Brighton. Picture:Shaun Botterill/Getty Images</p>

Naby Keita leaves the field injured during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Brighton. Picture:Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The disappointment and concern around Anfield when Naby Keita was slumped on the turf was palpable.

Everyone in the stadium knew something was afoot. His body language meant things looked rather ominous.

In truth, it had been somewhat of a surprise that Keita even started Liverpool's clash against Brighton.

A big blow

Only six days earlier, he'd been stretchered off in the 5-0 demolition of Manchester United. The ex-RB Leipzig man could count himself lucky to have not broken a leg or ankle from Paul Pogba's rash challenge that earned him a red card.

Yet Keita was deemed fit enough to feature against the Seagulls - and was having a key influence.

After one of his best games for the Reds at United, he was again proving Liverpool’s lynchpin.

The Reds raced into a fourth-minute lead through Jordan Henderson and it appeared Kopites were going to witness another rampant victory after putting five past the Reds Devils and Watford.

Then Keita broke down - this time with a hamstring issue.

Naby Keita receives treatment before having to come off injured in Liverpool’s clash against Brighton. Picture:PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

There were, of course, questions of why he was even playing. Some felt the situation was inevitable.

Even Jurgen Klopp might now regret the decision. If Keita's out for the long-term, he surely will rue such a choice.

But the reason why Keita was thrown back into the team was due to the dearth of midfield options available to Liverpool boss.

With Fabinho, James Milner, Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott all in the treatment room, the players Klopp could pick in the middle of the park were scant.

Let's not get hyperbolic. Last season, there was a genuine defensive crisis.

Three senior centre-backs in Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all sustained long-term injuries, leaving the likes of Jordan Henderson to fill in at times.

That's nowhere near the case for the Reds in the engine room at present. Only Elliott is out for a significant period.

Swing of momentum

That doesn't mean Liverpool don't currently have a predicament on their hands, though, and parallels of 2020-21 are starting to creep in.

When Keita limped off, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the only remaining senior option available on the bench.

And Keit’s withdrawl was why the momentum swung in Brighton's favour.

Liverpool lacked any sort of bite or needle that was required to thwart the Seagulls' free-flowing moves that only got slicker as the game wore on.

There was no-one to provide the shield in front of the defence and the home side got exposed too often.

Brighton will feel aggrieved they didn’t pick up another Anfield victory, having fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2.

Oxlade-Chamberlain's lack of regular action meant he struggled to get to grips with the pace of the game.

Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The England international’s cross that found Sadio Mane's head to put Klopp’s men two goals up was magnificent. That was the only memorable moment from Oxlade-Chamberlain, though.

Curtis Jones, meanwhile, had an afternoon to forget both defensively and attacking-wise. He got lost in the hustle and bustle of things.

Liverpool needed someone with the nous to snuff out the danger as Brighton persistently cut the hosts apart.

Keita was providing that, as well as making eye-catching forays into enemy territory.

Fabinho would have given such attribute but he's absent with a knee injury.

James Milner's a veteran whose know-how would have been valuable, although he's out until after the international break with a hamstring problem.

Even Thiago Alcantara, who's not an out-and-out holding midfielder, would have allowed the Reds to get on the ball more and dictate. A calf issue keeps him sidelined.

Tweaks required

There's no point whining over not replacing Gini Wijnaldum after his summer departure to Paris Saint-Germain. It's in the past, it can't be changed.

And based on Klopp's previous January strategy, he won't go out and get another midfielder when the window opens. Only substantial cash has been spent on Virgil van Dijk in the middle of a season.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

But Liverpool will be desperate to get bodies back. If that can’t be the case, Klopp needs to make the tweaks required with those available to him.

On Wednesday, the Reds face an Atletico Madrid side who'll be out for revenge after the Reds' rip-roaring 3-2 win in the Spanish capital a couple of weeks ago.

Should the midfield be as brittle again against Diego Simeone's reigning La Liga champions then they will indeed get their vengeance.