Is Philippe Coutinho's place in the Liverpool team under threat?
Things are looking up for Liverpool fans. The arrival of Jurgen Klopp rejuvinated a stagnant squad to such an extent that the Reds were able to make the final of the Europa League and Capital One Cup, as well as producing a number of excellent Premier League performances.
Although they are probably still a few players short of challenging for a league title, as last season’s eighth placed finish painfully highlights, a 4-0 win over Barcelona at a sun kissed Wembley stadium showcased the thrilling potential of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Adam Lallana, a rare good performer for England at the Euros was excellent, combining his desirable concoction of smart touches and boundless energy. Sadio Mane, scorer of the opening goal showed the sort of tactical excellence that will turn him into a really frightening player when combined with his electric pace. Roberto Firmino was his typical self, pulling the strings as the most advanced midfielder. New signing Georginio Wijnaldum, playing in a deeper role, showed flashes of the kind of talent that will surely flourish in a more advanced role.
But what about Philippe Coutinho? The 24-year-old Brazilian, often seen as integral to Liverpool’s exciting future, was relatively quiet as he has been all of pre-season. With so much competition for places in the side, is the diminutive midfielder’s once assured place in the starting eleven now under threat?
Well, it could be. Coutinho is a rare talent, and has probably been Liverpool’s stand out player since the departure of Luis Suarez two summers ago. He has a rare mix of excellent touch, skill and intelligence under pressure, but also has an absolute fire cracker of a right foot, and coming off the left he represents one of the most dangerous creative forces in the Premier League.
But Coutinho is not without his flaws. He’s not very quick, for example, and is also still a bit lightweight to properly deal with the rigours of the Premier League and Jurgen Klopp’s heavy pressing style. He is also far too reliant on his ability to shoot from distance, sometimes wasting opportunities to pass to try and bend in a stunner from 30 yards out.
Liverpool have had success in the past without Coutinho as well. Under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14, Coutinho was behind Raheem Sterling in the pecking order at the front of the diamond that took the Reds to within a whisker of the Premier League title. With so many other talented players competing for the same position, Coutinho could find himself in a similar position this campaign.
The beauty of Jurgen Klopp’s options in attacking midfield is that he can rotate Coutinho out for games where he may struggle, or the Brazilian is out of form, and not lose too much from the quality of the side. When on song, Coutinho is still an important, but not indispensable part of the side, but Klopp now has the option to leave him out on the occasions where Liverpool need a bit more physicality or the Brazilian is out of form.
His value to the squad remains very high, but Coutinho may be seeing some action from the bench this season if his form were to dip. He must ensure he is at the top of his game most weeks to keep his place in the team, and the idea of an improving Coutinho is a tantalising one for Liverpool fans. Whatever happens, he faces a big season.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Jakob Gustafsson
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