Philippe Coutinho began this season where he left off the last. An impressive performance against what was a physical Stoke City side showed that Coutinho has adapted well to life in the Premiership, even though many thought the physical battle would be too much for him.
On joining Liverpool, Coutinho was handed the number ten shirt, which became available after Joe Cole left for West Ham. This seemed like a bold statement at the time, but his performances in this particular red shirt have left no doubts as to his talent as an advanced play-maker, and as a true number 10.
Coutinho has started many games for Liverpool from the left side of the pitch, and in the first game of this season against Stoke he lined up in this position in what was effectively a 4-4-1-1 formation when Liverpool were defending.
Despite taking up the left sided berth when defending, it’s a different story when Liverpool have the ball, when Coutinho is encouraged to do what comes natural to him, as he drifts into a more central position. He’s very effective at cutting inside onto his right foot to play through balls into the strikers, run at defenders, or try a shot on goal himself.
The image below shows Coutinho’s action areas during the game against Stoke, courtesy of Squawka.
Coutinho will also drop deep to receive the ball in order to try and inject some life into Liverpool’s attacking play, and when the Brazilian can combine with Steven Gerrard in the centre of midfield, you can feel the excitement from the fans.
Between them, there aren’t many passes Coutinho and Gerrard can’t play, and they form a potent creative threat from any situation. You can see the strikers’ eyes light up as soon as one of them receives the ball, as they know there’s a good chance they’ll be played in on goal.
As Brendan Rodgers looks to reinforce his first XI before the transfer window closes, it’s obvious that he’s been looking for another left sided attacker in order to move Coutinho into a central position permanently.
A player like Willian would have been ideal when it comes to allowing Coutinho more freedom, but it looks like this particular Brazilian will now be signing for Chelsea. Rodgers’ recent comments about the player only move to back this up, and suggest that he might be frustrated at the club’s failure to stump up the money for Willian.
There is still a week left in the transfer window, so you’d imagine there’s time for a couple more attempts to land this type of player, but should Liverpool’s lack of European football mean we fail to make a higher profile signing, we can rest assured that Coutinho will perform his number 10 role, even from the left as a false 11!