Richard Buxton: Liverpool can thrive without Coutinho
Liverpool's flying attackers show why Brazilian's departure won't be felt
Who really needs Philippe Coutinho?
Despite losing their supposed leader, Liverpool are still producing heavy metal hits.
Ending Manchester City's unbeaten EPL run in a 4-3 win yesterday morning (Singapore time) sent out a resounding statement to the footballing world.
The Brazil international had often excelled in games against the English champions-elect, scoring more times against them than any other opponent he had faced for Juergen Klopp's side.
But Barcelona's gain is not necessarily Anfield's loss, particularly given Coutinho's convenient susceptibility to injury once the current and previous transfer windows opened for business.
Parting with their most prized asset should, by logic, have derailed the Reds' season but the playmaker's pursuit of a move to the Nou Camp offered few guarantees that he would not have continued to down tools for the rest of this month, even against his favourite nemesis.
Coutinho was not missed against City; what he previously offered in mercurial ability, Liverpool have already overcome with multi-faceted firepower.
Although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is unlikely to be held in the same esteem, he already appears more than capable of filling that midfield void.
A positional shift has transformed the former Arsenal man, producing a greater goal return in 20 league games under Klopp than in each of his seven prior seasons at the Emirates Stadium.
Diligence has been central to Oxlade-Chamberlain's current renaissance at Anfield. His hefty £35-million (S$63.8m) price tag had demanded a blistering start.
One goal and an assist against Pep Guardiola's previously unassailable City vindicated his, and Klopp's, methods.
Elsewhere in his forward lines, the Liverpool manager is also well-placed to enforce the core values which saw him regenerate several Borussia Dortmund sides despite their talismans regularly being picked off by the higher powers of European football.
Arguably, only Harry Kane's unprecedented run of form can deny Mohamed Salah the EPL Golden Boot for this season, while Sadio Mane's profligate spell appears to have ended as the pair were allowed to run riot at City's headless defence.
Coutinho's compatriot Roberto Firmino is also showing why one Brazilian is better than two; growing into a player who would rival some of his predecessors in Anfield's iconic No. 9 shirt.
Replacing the few with many has not always paid dividends for Liverpool.
When Luis Suarez departed in 2014, they did not - to borrow a phrase from football's lexicon - sell Elvis and buy The Beatles; they replaced him with a tone-deaf tribute act.
A handful of slow-burners in Adam Lallana and a want-away Emre Can did little to absolve the parade of misfits that disgraced Merseyside with their presence following the Uruguayan's departure.
Fortunately, their current approach will not leave as great a dent in Coutinho's £142-million fee.
Recruitment, however, remains a necessarily evil down the road.
Simon Mignolet is still not the solution to Liverpool's goalkeeping woes and neither is Loris Karius, after shipping three goals against City.
The German stopper appears no closer to succeeding Mignolet than he was in trying to stop Leroy Sane's first-half equaliser.
A lack of continuity has not helped Karius, with his first signs of susceptibility prompting Klopp to briefly enforce the club's once ruthless succession policy.
Mignolet was on the receiving end of the same treatment but both ultimately found themselves back in the fold before time.
This summer must deliver an end to that current self-fulfilling prophecy.