Following the match against Southampton, manager Brendan Rodgers was quick to point to Lucas' return as key in his side's newfound balance. The continuing lack of any kind of a convincing Plan B a year on from his initial injury, though, remains worrying.
"The idea here is to build a team that has a method to it," began Brendan Rodgers, reflecting on the more balanced performance seen from his Liverpool side over the weekend against Southampton. "We are trying to build an identity here so that over the next couple of years people can come and look at Liverpool and say 'this is how they play.' We pass the ball, we move the ball, we interchange, and we defend as one."
As for the why behind that improvement, the manager was quick to land on an answer: the return of Lucas.
"You see with Lucas, all of a sudden, you put the right profile of player in the right position, and it frees up your offensive threats. He gives us great stability when we haven't got the ball, he intercepts, his transition is good and he gets the ball back quickly.
"With the midfield working like that it gives your two full-backs the chance to go and join in," added Rodgers, explaining the positive impact of Lucas' return on his teammates. "I thought Jose Enrique was unplayable [on Saturday], and Johnson too. So you see those two bombing on, you've got your controlling midfielder protecting the centre halves in that defensive triangle, your two advanced midfield players joining in in Joe and Steven, and then you've got your front three.
"That gives you a real creative threat, and I felt we had that. [Against Southampton], especially in the first half, was probably the first time it was really there systematically and relentless."
Joe Allen agreed with his boss, talking to the Liverpool Echo about the added comfort Lucas' presence gave him as he pushed his game further up the pitch: "I had that security of knowing that Lucas was there. It gives you the chance to express yourself further up the pitch, and try to get involved in creating and scoring goals."
It all, of course, does pose the question of whether there remains an over-reliance on the Brazilian midfielder if even an at times rusty performance after an extended layoff can be the difference between the imbalance of the past few months and a match that saw Liverpool put in what manager Brendan Rodgers considers the best performance he's so far seen since arriving at the club.
Any side will always be heavily reliant on its best players. There's nothing especially new or revelatory in that idea, no matter that most minds tend to drift towards offensive flair when cataloging the best and most important. Yet no matter who it is, one might hope for there to be some kind of method—some kind of Plan B, whether that means other players or employing a different tactical approach—to allow a side to at least partially work around such a player's absence no matter where he might play.
Liverpool, it would seem fair to say, remain without any kind of a Plan B for when Lucas is absent—a problem that has stretched across the tenures of a few managers and through two transfer windows while the Brazilian has struggled though his injury issues. Whether the club will find some kind of alternative to a healthy Lucas any time soon, then, remains a worrying question. Rodgers and the club, however, get another chance to show if they have any kind of Plan B in their back pocket almost immediately—though this time the problem is replacing Luis Suarez, Liverpool's other seemingly irreplaceable best player, with the Uruguayan set to miss the trip to West Ham through an accumulation of yellow cards.
Hopefully there can be a somewhat better method of compensation found for Suarez' impending absence than has so far been found for Lucas', though at least this absence is only likely to last ninety minutes plus stoppage time.