Jurgen Klopp made it his priority this summer to ensure that Liverpool would no longer need to compromise at full-back.
During the final months of the previous season, it had become increasingly clear to the German that opponents were finally recognising the creative threat of his team’s two wide defenders.
And, while that realisation hadn’t made it any easier for teams to stop Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson, the Reds tended to feel the absence of either man keenly.
It isn’t that James Milner did a poor job as the usual stand-in, but rather that he did not represent a particularly good fit for replacing two men who have largely redefined full-back play.
On the left, the Englishman’s right-footedness made it hard to match Robertson’s knack of producing performance more reminiscent of a 90s Premier League winger than any defender.
And, though more comfortable on the right, Milner couldn’t quite compete with Alexander-Arnold’s expansive passing range, or make up for that by bringing the energy that would be expected from younger legs.
It was in recognition of those facts that Klopp resolved to bolster that particular area of his squad for the campaign ahead.
The first solution was found within, academy prospect Neco Williams being promised greater responsibility after impressing during rare first-team outings the year before.
Meanwhile, cover on the left was sought in the transfer market, Liverpool settling on Kostas Tsimikas having also weighed up a move for Jamal Lewis.
Surprisingly, though, neither player has featured much during a start to the season unlike any other in terms of fixture congestion.
For Tsimikas, that can be put down to a positive Covid-19 test during the first international break of 2020-21 and a thigh strain picked up on debut against Lincoln City.
But, despite suffering no such fitness issues, Williams has largely been stuck on the sidelines since featuring in that same game.
And, unfortunately for Klopp, the consequences of that decision reared their head this week at Manchester City.
Alexander-Arnold’s calf strain is no huge shock given that he has already clocked up 951 minutes for Liverpool across the first two months of the season, the fourth highest in the squad.
What is, in fact, surprising, is that Robertson, whose 1,084 minutes puts him clear of any of his colleagues, hasn’t yet joined his fellow defender in the treatment room.
While Klopp is right to question the Premier League’s decision to revert to three substitutions per match this season, it is also entirely fair to wonder why he has not taken alternative action to protect his players.
Leaving Alexander-Arnold or Robertson out for games against Atalanta and Manchester City was rightly not considered, but there were plenty of opportunities prior to that double-header to give them a rest.
That said, choosing the right moment to omit such key players is far easier said than done.
Get all the latest updates on Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury, plus breaking news and reaction to the draw with Man City.
You’ll also get the latest transfer talk and analysis straight to your inbox every day with our FREE email newsletter.
The good news, at least, is that Alexander-Arnold is facing only four weeks out, two of which are taken up by the international break.
Still, it is during that period that, as captain of Scotland, Robertson is likely to put another three gruelling games in his legs.
Williams and Tsimikas could face similarly testing periods with Wales and Greece respectively, but they should remain relatively fresh given their lack of action across the campaign as a whole.
As such, when they return to Merseyside after representing their countries, both players have every reason to hope for more frequent involvement in the games ahead.
Now is the time for Klopp to put his trust in that pair, even if it veering away from tried and tested is tricky with the usual pressure on results persisting even in this strangest of seasons.
As Alexander-Arnold’s injury showed, the Liverpool boss would only otherwise be forced into action as fatigued bodies succumb to the pressure.