When Philippe Coutinho lay writhing in pain on the Anfield turf after a painful tackle from Didier N’Dong, Liverpool supporters felt their worlds come crashing down. The diminutive Brazilian has been the Reds’ creator-in-chief for the past few seasons, and to lose him to a nasty hit to the ankle was absolutely devastating.
Coutinho arrived from the Nerazzurri in the winter of 2012-13 season, with a reputation of an unpolished diamond. Over the course of four years, he has become an indispensable part of the best attacking unit in the league, and has arguably been Liverpool’s best player this season.
The playmaker has been often chided in the past for having the skills and tricks without the end product that matters the most – goals. However, under Jürgen Klopp, he has banished the haters and raised his game to another level.
As a constant attacking threat from the left flank, he has unleashed unstoppable shots rifling the back of the net far too often to count; you can see it coming, but there is nothing you can do to stop it. His short stature betrays the fear that he creates in his opponent’s eyes.
Along with Adam Lallana, Coutinho is one of the most creative and inventive players in the Liverpool squad. Boasting a record of 33 chances created, with five goals and five assists so far this season, he is a handful for opposition players to handle.
Recent reports emerged saying that the Brazilian might be out for four to six weeks due an injury to his ankle ligaments. This means trouble for the Reds as he will miss out on the crucial holiday period and a hectic playing schedule.
Although the injury to the Brazilian is a big loss to the team, Klopp has cause for hope. The Merseyside club boosted their bench strength over the summer, and players like Daniel Sturridge, Lallana and Divock Origi coming in to replace him seems encouraging.
Sturridge and Adam Lallana are both accomplished England internationals and will need to step up their game if they are to help Liverpool through this rocky patch. Lallana has already contributed with three goals and five assists, but will aim to be more clinical in front of the goal. He should be returning for the game against Bournemouth after a short lay-off due to a groin problem.
Sturridge, who has been a regular on the bench this season, will finally have a chance to show the German coach what he has been missing. Despite being one of the best strikers in the country, he has had limited chances because of the deadly attacking quartet of Mane, Lallana, Firmino and Coutinho. Coutinho’s absence should be an opportune moment for him to cement his place in the side as the lead striker.
Playing with Sturridge allows Liverpool to have a more direct approach for their attacks with him as the focal point. Their strength this season has been the mobility of their attacking trio and he will need to replicate that to be just as effective as the injured Brazilian.
Divock Origi is another young Liverpool striker who has been waiting in the wings for the right moment. Coming on as a substitute for Coutinho in the Sunderland game, he hammered the first goal to make a strong statement. Vying with Sturridge for a place in the starting eleven, Origi offers Klopp a more mobile and dynamic option to lead his attack.
Jurgen Klopp will have the January transfer window to make additions to his squad. With Sadio Mane leaving for the African Cup of Nations and Phillipe Coutinho injured possibly till the middle of January, bringing in one or two attacking options would be a good move.
Young academy players like Ben Woodburn and Ovie Ejaria have also been offered a chance to impress the boss with their performances, likely during the Cup games.
If they are to push for the title after the New Year, it will be crucial for Liverpool to maintain their momentum at this stage. With a congested fixture list during the holiday season, Liverpool will need to find a way to rotate the squad and hope for a shorter injury list.
In spite of a strong squad depth, the Phillipe Coutinho remains an invaluable player and Klopp’s Christmas wish is likely to be a speedy recovery for the ‘Little Magician’.
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