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 By Steven Kelly

Philippe Coutinho off to Barcelona, but Liverpool may not struggle for goals

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol goes through his Liverpool wish list in light of Philippe Coutinho's exit.
ESPN FC's Steve Nicol goes through his Liverpool wish list in light of Philippe Coutinho's exit.

Many ex-Liverpool players work in the media. On the whole, Alan Hansen, Jamie Carragher and ESPN FC's own Steve Nicol have been respected, even when critical.

They all had fairly successful careers themselves. If they gave opinions that didn't consist of fawning to recent managers or players, it was largely accepted, because not only were their views valid, they were believed to have the best interest of the club at heart.

That hasn't been the case this week with Danny Murphy, who irritated numerous fans with his views. His comparison of Naby Keita to Jordan Henderson led some to believe he'd not seen enough of the Leipzig midfielder -- on his way to Anfield in the summer -- to form a rational opinion.

It was his take on Liverpool's lacking a proper goal scorer that really ignited the ire of many: "To win the Premier League, you have to have a 20-goal-a-season player, and Liverpool don't have one."

Supporters were quick to point out that Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino already had 38 goals between them and the season's barely halfway through. Despite Sadio Mane's indifferent form this season, he also reached 13 goals last season despite missing an awful lot of football.

It is perhaps testament to the brilliant start Salah has made to his Liverpool career that people can't quite believe it is happening, or see it as a one-off he cannot repeat.

What regular watchers of the Reds know is that he has missed almost as many clear-cut chances as he's converted. Something in Jurgen Klopp's approach to football is clearly agreeing with Salah. Will the Egyptian keep going at this exceptional rate? It seems unlikely, but then so does the idea that he will soon begin to struggle badly.

Philippe Coutinho was sold to Barcelona, so unless Liverpool replace him with another exceptional talent, there will be no more references to their "Fab Four" forwards.

It should still be obvious to anyone that Klopp's chosen method of play is unlikely to rely heavily upon one man, even one as prolific as Salah.

Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring for Liverpool against Swansea.
Roberto Firmino has 16 goals and nine assists this season.

In their 31 competitive games so far this season, the Reds have amassed an outstanding 81 goals. It's quite myopic to suggest any deficiencies stem from a lack of goals.

Liverpool's style also has an impact on players who would normally be considered true strikers. Numerous attempts to incorporate the talents of Daniel Sturridge into the system have fallen flat -- so much so that the England man is now considered surplus to requirements and favourite to move elsewhere.

Divock Origi did have one scoring streak last season, lasting five games, but is now out on loan to Wolfsburg, and few expect him to return. Dominic Solanke has been given a few opportunities in the first team but hasn't scored yet. That might be down to youth and inexperience. Klopp might believe he's been unlucky and has time on his side to develop. Nobody expects Danny Ings to play any future role in the first team.

If there is any problem at all with Liverpool's forward line, it's that there is no logical substitute for Firmino, whose unselfish yet creative style is hard to replicate via the players already at Klopp's disposal.

Nicol's more sensible view of Klopp's predicament centred on accepting that Liverpool have few problems scoring goals and therefore some of the Coutinho fee would be better used helping recent signing Virgil van Dijk shore up gaps at the back.

He cited AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma as one of the players Klopp needed to snap up with the Coutinho money. Few believe the whole fee will wend its way into the German's hands, but at least Nicol recognises there is little need for Murphy's "20-goal man" up front.

Liverpool fans are also worried about an FA investigation into remarks Firmino might have made to Everton's Mason Holgate during the 2-1 FA Cup win last week. The moral issue takes precedence here, of course, but there would be a practical problem if the Brazilian were found guilty. Firmino has become an essential part of Liverpool's attacking play -- some might claim even more important than Coutinho.

Klopp still has enough options for the attacking midfield roles, with Adam Lallana coming back from injury and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting more games now.

If Klopp could find another player more like Firmino -- who contributes so much and has improved his finishing quite a bit -- then by all means get him. Most supporters, however, believe Klopp needs to strengthen in other areas before considering another forward.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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