Liverpool remained top of the Premier League table after their entertaining 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday night, but the truth is, they were lucky to escape South Wales with a point.
The Reds dominated the first 45 minutes, even after falling behind to a half comical, half cracking goal by their former midfielder, Jonjo Shelvey.
But in the second-half it was a different story altogether, like the case has been in all of Liverpool’s matches so far this season.
Swansea slowly began to take control of the game, as Liverpool fell ever deeper and failed to get to grips with the Swans’ pretty passing.
By the end of the game, the Reds were holding on grimly to the point they were ultimately relieved to secret back to Anfield.
Why did Liverpool lose control so badly? The answer is that midfielder Philippe Coutinho was removed from the fray- testimony to the young Brazilian’s growing significance to the Merseyside club’s plans.
Coutinho was injured after a meaty challenge from Ashley Williams, and manager Brendan Rodgers admits that was the moment when the Reds’ tempo switched from attacking to shrinking back.
"I thought the assessment was simple. In the first 65 minutes, we were very good, both with and without the ball, and we looked really in control for that first 25 minutes,” Rodgers told Sky Sports after the game.
"We showed great character to come from behind so early on in the game, but probably young Coutinho going off disrupted the flow of our game.
"I haven't seen the tackle. He's very sore in the changing room, and we're hoping it will only be bruising."
Manchester United’s hunt for a playmaker, and Arsenal’s record transfer fee spend on Mesut Ozil confirms the value of players who can dictate the tempo of games.
Coutinho is such a player, with his vision, movement and confident quick feet. Even last season’s top goalscorer, Luis Suarez, seems likely to be shunted out wide when he returns, to leave Coutinho free to dictate terms from the centre of the park.
If Liverpool hope to make the most of their relatively easy upcoming run of Premier League matches to remain top of the table, they will need Coutinho to shrug off his aching shoulder and return to action as quickly as possible.