IBWM StaffComment


IBWM StaffComment

22     Midfielder     Liverpool     Brazil

2014 has been…

There aren’t many attacking midfielders worth their salt that wouldn’t relish the idea of playing with Liverpool’s attacking players in front of them. During 2013/14 that meant having Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling tormenting a back line with their terrifying pace and all that Philippe Coutinho needed to do was find them with a pass.

The Brazilian was an unsung hero for Liverpool’s season and his unavailability at the beginning of this term has been a big blow even if many wish to focus on the immediate loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge to injury. Coutinho can make Liverpool tick when the others are struggling to get into the game and in the last 18 months, the 22 year-old has started to find his feet as a regular performer.

The Brazilian has the best touch at the club, pulling balls out of the air with just the flick of his boot and then immediately looking to drive the side forward. He is a natural risk taker with his passes, aiming to thread a needle through the opposition’s bank of defence. Had all three of Sturridge, Sterling and Coutinho all started the season in peak condition for Brendan Rodgers, the Northern Irishman may have avoided the many uncomfortable conversations he has had about his side’s ability to concede inexplicable goals and replace the seemingly irreplaceable Uruguayan that departed in the summer.

Raheem Sterling is frightening when he reaches top speed while Daniel Sturridge is no slouch. Coutinho is the player capable of consistently slipping passes into the gaps that will unleash the pair through on goal. Confident in both of his feet, chock full of tricks and with enough pace to shrug off the best covering midfielders, the Brazilian is a delightful footballer and a real asset to the Liverpool squad after stuttering around the European game with Internazionale and Espanyol.

His natural desire to be constantly going forward rather than put in a shift as a willing defender does mean he was often sacrificed in the face of supposed solidity last season. With Suarez gone from the club and the more hard-working Adam Lallana getting a run in the team, he should be able to cover for Coutinho and allow Liverpool to utilise Philippe in the tightest of matches.

Coutinho was unlucky, in our opinion, to miss out on the chance to play in a Brazilian World Cup for the home nation; but one strong season with Liverpool was never going to be completely enough to convince Luis Felipe Scolari that he needed him in his squad. On form he deserved a spot but Scolari shouldering massive pressure to lift the trophy, it’s hard to blame him for sticking to what he knows.

Philippe’s move from Inter to Liverpool in January last year was initially seen as something of a risk thanks to the £8.5 million price tag. Having moved from Brazil in 2010, he struggled to find his rhythm at Inter.

What's next?

Having joined Inter Milan from Vasco da Gama in 2010 before making the switch to Anfield in January of last year, the hotly tipped Brazilian needed time to adjust and understand the team ethos of the European game. He was guided initially by former Reds boss Rafa Benitez; but it still didn’t click for Philippe and he was allowed to spend the first six months of 2012 with Espanyol in Spain.

With Brendan Rodgers’ counter-attacking style, Coutinho looked like a natural fit and an understandable risk for a manager eager to rejuvenate a flattering giant. As everyone knows, things were rejuvenated much quicker than Brendan would have dared to imagine and Coutinho was one of many players that immediately found their rhythm in the system.

Our only concerns are that he picks up one too many injuries and probably doesn’t score enough goals. At 5ft 6 Coutinho is a lot smaller than most of the rival midfielders he’ll come face-to-face with and knocks are going to be part of his experience as an attacking threat. However, it would be super useful for both Liverpool and Philippe if he was able to work on riding over-eager challenges and doing the necessary strengthening.

As for the goals. That lies with the player. Recent interviews have suggested that he is aware of the failing and we’d suggest that with the recent flux of the squad, Coutinho will be presented with more chances in the coming seven or eight months. If he can start to drive up the goals tally, Liverpool won’t be waiting long to find their place in the top four of the Barclays Premier League once again.

"Coutinho created 65 chances in the 2013/14 Premier League; more than Juan Mata, Jesus Navas or Wayne Rooney." - OptaJoe

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