Every so often, the Premier League is blessed by a seemingly alien talent. A player who quite simply, is something very special. A magician amongst the blacksmiths, if you will. These stellar performers who stand above the rest on so many levels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Each a different character to the next, all with the common factor of sincere quality. There are madcap genii such as Luis Suarez and Eric Cantona – the kind of player who goes from hero to zero just as quickly as he manages the opposite. The arrogant superstar, who is as much of a poster-boy as a match winner, prime examples being Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. The list goes on and on, all the way to the humble creator. This isn’t a David Silva piece however, and the man on this agenda is Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho.
Last season was more than an embarrassment for Liverpool Football Club. What it was; despite being papered over by two semi-final cup runs, was complete and utter failure. England’s biggest prodigy; namely Raheem Sterling, made himself the centre of attention in a saga which only cemented the club’s stature of second rate, and the departure of Steven Gerrard left one of the biggest teams in European history looking subsidiary to the status of one of their best ever players. And yet in spite of all this – the shortcomings, the humiliations – there was a shining light. Coutinho kept plucking away throughout the season, creating so many chances that even the least successful forward line in the history of football (Sorry Rickie, Mario, Fabio, and Co.) could edge into a European place come the end of the campaign.
Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling have all come before Liverpool’s current number 10 as the club’s driving force and their focal point in attack. Coutinho entered 2015/16 in similar fashion to the manner he ended the terrible 2014/15 campaign with a goal which can only be described as a freak of nature. It is clear that the diminutive play-maker is ready to take centre stage in a potentially rejuvenated Reds side.
In big games, in little games, in dire straights, Who you gonna’ call? Coutinho. The Brazilian magician struck against Bolton when Liverpool were almost completely bereft of options. He won Liverpool the game against Manchester City at Anfield once again when the Reds were on a charge back up the table. Despite looking weary after a spell of around 20 consecutive games in the starting line-up, he smashed home from long range at Southampton. Yet more moments can be recollected against Arsenal when the squad was struggling, QPR in the 90th minute, the sublime reverse half-volleyed assist to Sterling against Burnley, and running the game against Chelsea in the League Cup semi-finals. Almost everything the boy touches turns to gold.
After a third successive summer of “transitional” signings at Anfield meaning a further spend of £75million and then some for Brendan Rodgers, fans and pundits alike will be touting squad imports Benteke or Firmino to be the defining factor in Liverpool’s latest attempt at redemption. Unfortunately for said pundits though, they would appear to be incorrect. Instead it will surely be Coutinho who will settle the season for the Reds. Unless there is a serious mishap – in training, luck, and attitude – from Liverpool’s forwards this season, who are significantly better than those who led the line last time around, goals will be scored so long as the chances are created.
Opportunities for these strikers will be created in abundance by Coutinho, who made an impressive 58 goal-scoring chances for his lacklustre teammates last season in 35 appearances. Despite the contradicting nature of this following claim, it really is even more impressive that he managed to create 58 chances last season being that he was only six short of his tally of the previous year. Making 64 openings when he was feeding an undoubtedly world-class pairing of Suarez and Sturridge every game is an almost incomparable scenario to Lambert, Balotelli, Borini and the inexperienced forward Sterling in the most recent season. It further exhibits the dynamism added to his game and how he is continuing to progress that even when the team around him are not thriving, he can continue to excel in his role.
Admittedly, Coutinho has his flaws. Whilst his brilliance is evident in the extravagant, it is fair to say that he needs to work on the efficiency of his game. His five league goals last season were all phenomenal, but Liverpool fans will be the first to tell you that inside the box, he just is not clinical enough. His preference to shoot from range is enough to catch most goalkeepers out and it is a trick that any player would love to have in their locker. But he now must ensure that he is capable of adding goals when in a one-on-one situation with the ‘keeper, or when he comes into the box late on attacking a cross.
Rodgers has shown time and time again as manager of this Liverpool side that he loves to have a ‘main man’, a focal point, one singular player who the squad is built around which defines the style of football played. This year, as Coutinho shows the greatest potential to elevate himself and indeed his team-mates to the level that the Anfield side should be at, it is almost certainly the ex-Inter Milan trickster who is in line to be groomed by Rodgers. It will not have negative connotations for Liverpool however, and should he manage to fine-tune his assets – grab some goals in the box, create even more chances, improve his set pieces – Philippe Coutinho will not only be the perfect man to lead Liverpool’s revival, but he like many before him will be coveted by the Kop. The diminutive midfielder will soon earn himself either hero status or a move to one of the European giants who will inevitably start sniffing in the not too distant future.[interaction id=”55c4d84559fbca230507c6eb”] [separator type=”thin”]
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Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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