After Luis Suarez’s departure to Spanish giants Barcelona for a respectable £75mil; Liverpool need someone to step up to the plate during pre-season, it seems Phillipe Coutinho has done just that. During our tour of the states, the Brazilians performances were quite brilliant. Maybe he realises that this is his chance to really show the world what he can do; he’s no longer in the shadow of the genius that is Luis Suarez and that might just propel him onto greater heights.
Rodgers clearly rates him too, the Liverpool Echo have reported that the Liverpool boss is ready to offer him a new long term contract. And in a recent interview said that he’s the “Brains of the team”, which considering Coutinho has only had 1 appearance for the senior national side, his high praise indeed for the 22 year old.
Coutinho isn’t the fastest physically; but he’s always one step ahead of everyone else. Most players develop game intelligence as their careers progress; but it seems that he’s just born with it. He plays the game 5 seconds ahead of everyone else, and when he’s on form and playing well I think he’s just as entertaining as anyone else in the Premier League.
The problem Rodgers has is where to play the little magician. At the start of his career, he was deployed as a left winger where he enjoyed cutting inside onto his favoured right foot and interchanging with the other attacking midfielders. But in my opinion, his best performance for Liverpool so far came at Anfield against Arsenal when he played in a central position. Not only did he showcase his deadly through balls and his ability to glide past the opposition almost at will, but he pressed the Arsenal midfield tirelessly.
However, in the recent pre-season friendly against Borussia Dortmund; Coutinho was deployed in the left wing position and was absolutely sensational. He was pretty much given a free role and kept finding spaces around the Dortmund midfield. Once in these areas, he pretty much always used the ball efficiently and there was a real maturity to his game. His assist for the Sturridge goal was truly breath-taking, he wasn’t even looking the right way and he managed to play the ball into an area that Daniels speed was able to exploit.
The main difference between our squad this season and last season is the options Rodgers has at his disposal. Last year, we practically had a squad of 14 players who were good enough to be at the club and then 6/7 players who contributed next to nothing. But this year, our defence is looking much stronger already. The signings of Emre Can and Adam Lallana will boost the midfield, whilst the signing of Lazar Markovic combined with the introduction of Jordan Ibe to the first team and Suso recalled from his loan means that we’re in a better position in terms of squad depth already.
And it doesn’t really matter where Coutinho is played; he has the intelligence to play practically every midfield and forward position which must be brilliant for Rodgers, but I’d like to see him start in a central position. This could be in a 41212 diamond formation behind the strikers or in a 433, next to Henderson with Gerrard behind those two.
It seems that the situation is perfect for Coutinho this season. I think a lot of players will thrive in the absence of Suarez; last season everything went through the Uruguayan. But this year the emphasis will be on the team as a unit rather than getting the most out of the brilliant SAS combination, which is excellent news for the likes of Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.