“Being clearer in different situations or a little cooler,” Jurgen Klopp noted as he detailed how Liverpool could have made their assignment easier at Stoke City on Wednesday night, before Mohamed Salah came off the bench and eradicated the huffing and puffing by blowing the hosts away.
At Anfield four days prior, the Reds boss marvelled at Cesc Fabregas’ cerebral passing in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, saying: “I think nobody saw the space apart from him.”
His midfielders, in contrast, were caught up in shadows.
Even before that fixture, Klopp had lamented that his side “didn’t play football any more” in the second-half capitulation at Sevilla, in which Liverpool saw a 3-0 lead vanish to end the Champions League encounter on level terms.
“A team like us has to control the game with the ball,” was the German’s assessment afterwards at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan - an element they have largely failed at, not just in Spain, but in all the above-mentioned matches.
While the Merseysiders have not lost any of their last three tests, they have ceded the centre of the pitch during large swathes in all of them.
It is unsurprising, then, that ahead of Saturday’s visit to the Amex, Brighton and Hove Albion’s Liam Rosenior singled out Liverpool’s midfield as the department the hosts could look to exploit in his column for The Guardian.
The 33-year-old cited the absence of Klopp having a defensive specialist to offer greater protection to his rearguard, and while that is a valid point, the problems have come on the ball as well.
There has been a reduction in creativity, command, energy, clarity and pulse. Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho, James Milner and Emre Can have all been culprits.
The captain has averaged 35 passes per game in this period, down from 77 for the rest of the campaign. He has struggled in duels and his tackle count has severely dwindled.
The England international has floundered at the base of a malfunctioning midfield against Sevilla and Chelsea, while Wijnaldum has not been anywhere near his effective best either in the last three games or in the season entirely.
Coutinho’s passing accuracy, meanwhile, is at 73 per cent - 10% less than his usual standard, while Can’s has dipped even further - from 85% to 70%.
A slow Milner hasn’t helped with setting the tempo, so individually and collectively, there have been glitches in the unit.
With the schedule tightening, and as the top end of the table takes a more solid shape, this core issue needs to be quickly remedied.
The return of head-of-press Adam Lallana, which unfortunately only happens post-Brighton, will help with the verve, vision and all-round intelligence in the middle.
Henderson has proved he can operate with success as the club's No.6, but he needs to get a greater grip of those around him and demand better support both in and out of possession.
Salah and Sadio Mane are phenomenal cannonry, as they again illustrated when combining to kill off Stoke in midweek, but they require more from behind them if Liverpool want to continue moving forward.