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Why Liverpool are right to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Reuters

Philippe Coutinho is closing in on his long-awaited move to Barcelona from Liverpool in a deal worth £142 million, according to BBC Sport. The Brazilian international was desperate to move to the Catalan club during the summer, but a transfer couldn’t be agreed between the two clubs.

As the months have passed since, it seemed inevitable that he would eventually move to the Nou Camp and it is a positive that the saga is now reaching its climax. The 25-year-old will sign a five-and-a-half-year deal with Barcelona with a buyout clause set at £355 million.

Liverpool fans will be feeling disappointed that their team are losing a very talented player, but taking everything into consideration, this could turn out to be a great piece of business. They signed Coutinho for £8.5 million in January 2013 and he helped them grow back into a Champions League club.

The eye-watering profit shows why the board have agreed to the transfer, but for it to be great business, they must spend the money wisely.

How big of a loss will Coutinho be for this Liverpool side?

The Brazilian international may be joining Barcelona for a larger fee than the one paid for Luis Suarez in 2014, but this sale will be easier to recover from for Liverpool. They showed that they didn’t need him in August as they beat top-six rivals Arsenal by a huge 4-0 score line in his absence.

There is no doubting that Coutinho is a fantastic player and has established himself as one of the best in the Premier League during the last 18 months. However, Jurgen Klopp hasn’t built the side around the midfielder and it may have been for this very reason. There was always a chance that he would leave and the test is now how they can regenerate using the finances brought in.

A quick look at Coutinho’s stats from this season show that he remained committed to the cause and it is difficult not to be impressed by them. Across the Champions League and Premier League, he contributed 12 goals and eight assists, with a goal involvement every 73.2 minutes.

Barcelona will be hoping that he can maintain that level in Spain, but Liverpool can easily compete without his contribution.

Goals haven’t been a problem for Liverpool this season, as they have averaged 2.6 goals in the two major competitions. Coutinho played his part in that, but they have three other excellent attackers in the squad.

Sadio Mane (102.2 minutes), Roberto Firmino (91.5 minutes) and Mohamed Salah (74.4 minutes) all have a worse goal involvement than the outgoing Brazilian across the two major competitions. However, with all three in the team, the Reds won’t struggle for goals and the money brought in needs to be spent on the problem areas in the squad.

It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the creative void. Coutinho was averaging 3.24 chances created in the Premier League this season. He was the most creative Liverpool player by some distance.

The return of Adam Lallana may have nudged the club into selling as he could be the short-term solution to take up the advanced midfield role. He would be the first to admit that he isn’t as good as the player leaving the club, but he is a consistent performer and he will offer a lot more defensively.

The simple solution would be to buy a like-for-like replacement, but the money should be spent on the problem areas and the attack isn’t one of them.

Riyad Mahrez and Thomas Lemar have been linked in recent days. Both are very good players, but they would cost a lot of money and would still represent a downgrade.

If the club spend it on the defence, they can end January with a better team than they started the month with.

How should they spend the money?

The signing of Virgil van Dijk has already been completed and he has gone some way to improving the defence, but more investment is needed in this area. Although Joel Matip is an accomplished centre-back, he does make too many errors to start in a team with ambition of winning major honours.

Manuel Akanji has been linked with the club and he is thought to be one of the brightest talents in Europe. It would be difficult to sign another top centre-back in this window for a reasonable fee, but the Basel defender would be a shrewd purchase.

A position that could be strengthened during this window is goalkeeper, as Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have both proven themselves to be short of quality for Liverpool.

Stoke City‘s Jack Butland and Roma’s Alisson have been talked about as potential targets. Either would represent an upgrade. If a quality goalkeeper is brought in before January, the Reds’ chances of challenging for trophies this season will significantly increase.

Emre Can is likely to follow Coutinho out of the door in the summer and that will leave Liverpool short in central midfield. This money could be used to bring in a quality option there. The one profile they are currently missing is a ball-winning midfielder that enjoys sitting deep and anchoring the midfield.

Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho has long been linked to the Premier League and he is a player that would benefit from working under Jurgen Klopp. With Naby Keita arriving in the summer, a player like the Portuguese midfielder would be a great complement in the middle of the park.

Tottenham and Liverpool have both shown how not to spend money gained through the sale of a big player in the past. The Reds must learn from those mistakes and make sure they distribute the money across the right positions.

The defence and central midfield positions need to be the priority. This is an opportunity to shape the squad in a way that Klopp prefers and a like-for-like replacement for Coutinho would be a waste.

At the time of writing, the sale isn’t as devastating as some are making out. The Reds can emerge from January with a better team if the money is spent well.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Liverpool

Steven Gerrard called incoming Liverpool star Alisson ‘world-class’ in April

Liverpool will complete a world record move for the Brazilian this week.

Mathew Nash

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Liverpool are set to give the fans what they want by signing a new goalkeeper. A world record fee has been agreed with AS Roma for Brazilian number one Alisson this week. Liverpool will pay the Italian side £67 million for the 25-year-old. Sky Sports report he will undergo a medical this week and a deal will then be finalised.

It is a bold move from Liverpool, who for a number of seasons have suffered with mediocre goalkeeping performances from Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.

Alisson is considered one of the best keepers in Europe and keeps Manchester City’s brilliant Ederson Moraes on the bench for his country.

He is certainly highly-rated by one former Liverpool player and legend. Steven Gerrard is a big fan of the player.

He spoke highly of the goalie whilst working on BT Sport as a Champions League pundit last season.


“This fella does deserve the praise he is getting of late. He makes world-class saves, he’s up quick, he makes second saves. A world-class keeper no doubt.”

– Steven Gerrard talking of Alisson’s quality in April 2018

 


Of course, Liverpool came up against Alisson and his Roma side in the competition. Over the course of two legs, the Reds put seven goals past the Brazilian. It led some fans to question whether Alisson was actually the right man for Liverpool.

But Liverpool needed a keeper with pedigree. Karius is simply too error-prone and his confidence must be at an all-time low after his Champions League final woe.

Liverpool fans will hope Alisson can live up to Gerrard’s ‘world-class’ tag and his price-tag next season.

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Three alternatives for Liverpool with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain out for the season

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Photo: Getty Images.

Amid what felt like a positive few days for Liverpool, fans were brought back down to earth by the devastating blow that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is unlikely to return from injury in 2018/19.

Jurgen Klopp confirmed the news after the midfielder suffered damage to his posterior cruciate ligament, anterior cruciate ligament, and medial ligaments in a challenge on Aleksandar Kolarov in a Champions League semi-final against Roma.

Oxlade-Chamberlain underwent successful surgery only a few days after the incident but is not expected to be available for selection and fully fit until the 2019/20 season.

“It feels like now is an appropriate time to tell people that for Ox this coming season will be about focusing on recovery and rehab. We have known this from pretty much the day after he got the injury and after the successful surgery, we were sure of it. There has been no change, the new information is that we’re now giving more detail publicly. But the truth of the matter is that we are preparing this season knowing he will not be with us on the pitch for competitive matches for the majority of it. If we do see him back this season it will be a bonus.”

Jurgen Klopp broke the news to the club’s official website.

The news comes as a real negative for Klopp, who will be busy planning how to get through the campaign without one of the team’s best performers in the tail end of last season.

His absence will open the door for three other men at Anfield though…

Georgino Wijnaldum

The arrivals of Naby Keita and Fabinho looked to be a major concern for the Dutchman, but with Oxlade-Chamberlain ruled out it seems unlikely that he will be moved on this summer at least. Quietly efficient and often producing in big games, he has been one of the first to have a finger pointed at him in frustrating results against lower level opposition.

With such high quality additions, Wijnaldum falls into the category of a player without the glamour of the likes of Keita but lacking the status of Jordan Henderson or James Milner. At times he has had his biggest impact in a more advanced midfield role, and whilst he lacks the injured man’s energy, he could be an option.

Nabil Fekir

Despite a deal seemingly being called off, Dean Jones of Bleacher Report has suggested that a move could be back on and Fekir would take up the role of natural playmaker as the attacking option in Klopp’s midfield trio. Whilst he may not be a direct replacement for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he would be the closest to filling Philippe Coutinho since he left in January and the former Southampton man really stepped up his game.

It could be a big ask for Fekir arriving at a new club after such a short pre-season following a successful World Cup campaign with France, but there is little doubt that if he joins Fekir would be the highest quality alternative in his place.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Adam Lallana

Lallana was a favourite with his hard working attitude playing into Jurgen Klopp’s system perfectly, but the last season was a difficult one for the midfielder as he suffered a number of injury set-backs and never really got going for the Reds.

The most natural replacement in a midfield three given that it was the role he occupied before Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived from Arsenal, he may have a refreshed chance to make his claim this season.

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Adam Lewis could follow in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s footsteps for Liverpool

The 18-year-old has been in fine form for Liverpool and England in recent years.

Mathew Nash

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Liverpool have an absolute gem on their hands in the form of right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 19-year-old was incredible for the Reds last season, playing 33 times. Such an impressive campaign eventually saw him make the England squad for the World Cup in Russia.

But could they have an equally impressive breakout talent on their hands for the other side of the pitch?

Adam Lewis just put in a fine performance at left wing-back for England’s under-19s, as they defeated  Turkey 3-2 at the European Championships in Finland.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The 18-year-old will no doubt be catching the eyes of the Liverpool first-team staff with such performances.

The former academy captain made his way into the under-23 set-up last season and is now looking like one of Liverpool’s star young players.

He is a devastating attacking full-back. In his 37 under-18 league games to date, he has 12 assists. Steven Gerrard was a huge fan and the sky’s the limit for Lewis.


“Going forward, I haven’t seen anyone as good as him at that age, in terms of quality and what he can deliver in the final third.”

– Steven Gerrard on Adam Lewis’ potential

 


Andrew Robertson is currently Liverpool’s number one left-back and rightly so. But there is no reason why Lewis could not usurp the error-prone Alberto Moreno to be his back-up next season.

 

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