Since the departure of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho has emerged as the new Liverpool sensation.
His invaluable contribution for the Reds’ has made him a subject of interest among several top European sides for quite sometime now. Although he was brought by former boss Brendan Rodgers, the Brazilian midfielder has been equally successful in Klopp’s style of display and proved to be the game-changer as well as match-winner in several occasions.
But a few questions have been raised since Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Premier League champions Leicester City where their fluidity in attacking third was applauded by ‘The Tinkerman’ Claudio Ranieri and his custodian Kasper Schmeichel. Surprisingly, Klopp rested Coutinho against the Foxes and the fans witnessed a new dimension of Liverpool attack with the trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana behind striker Daniel Sturridge.
Klopp will definitely be in dilemma whether to field the winning squad against Chelsea this Friday or to start Coutinho, who proved to be the game-changer last time at Stamford Bridge.
So let’s have an analysis of his strength, weakness and what he is capable of :
How he strengthens the Reds Line-up:
Coutinho, popular as “little magician”, has all attributes to be considered as a superstar of football. He can single-handedly turn the momentum of a game with his majestic dribbling skills, shooting ability and long range efforts. For example, Liverpool have already seen his best during this campaign in their opening fixture against Arsenal, when his breathtaking free-kick left the Gunners custodian Petr Cech spellbound completely against the run of play. Coutinho changed the fate of the game and the Reds eventually won 4-3 as he netted a brace. Although he started as a number 10, Klopp shifted him to left hand side and since then he has terrorized the defense of all big guns – Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.
His weakness and limitations:
Coutinho has to improve a few things as soon as possible. He has proved himself a big game player, but his performance against smaller sides is not yet up to the mark. Also, his defensive work-rate is minimal and does not track back to help his defense to deal with counter-attacks. Burnley switched to ultra-defensive tactics and Coutinho failed big time to break the defense and wasted way too many opportunities unnecessarily with long range efforts.
Daniel Sturridge, however, has been more effective in such kind of scenario with his intelligence, ball skills and off the ball runs to break the opponent defense. Since the arrival of Sadio Mane who has been in stunning form along with Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino, who started the campaign equally impressively, Klopp now has a big task ahead how to rotate his attackers and although it might sound improbable, Coutinho’s place might be jeopardized if he does not fix his deficiencies.
How he can evolve:
Klopp prefers those who are capable of playing in different positions to suit in his ‘heavy-metal’ style of football. He has used Daniel Sturridge much wider than his usual position, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson as defensive screens instead of playing them box to box. Roberto Firmino has adjusted to it and has been effective in several roles: False 9, centre forward, winger and also as a number 10. Coutinho needs to explore and start seeing himself as an all round footballer who will be efficient enough to play in multiple roles. Also, he should try to play more centrally in order to contribute further against sides who usually park the bus.
However, Coutinho is one of the biggest stars of Liverpool as well as Premier League. The ongoing competition among the Reds’ attackers will improve his quality and help him to overcome his limitations and deploy his mastery.
Photo by Steve, Reading