Why Philippe Coutinho is the most over-rated player in the Premier League
Not all footballers can be defined by statistics.
Certain positions on the football pitch are transcendent from the confines of goals, blocks, shots on target percentages and pass completion ratios.
Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso may not have scored as many goals as Frank Lampard, but all are more respected amongst their peers, and all will be remembered for longer in the annals of footballing history.
Steven Caulker remains one of the brightest young defensive talents that our country has to boast, irrelevant of his successive relegations from the Premier League with Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers, and regardless of any implications that may have had on his statistics.
However, there are some positions for which performance should be governed by numbers.
If you are a striker, you have to score goals. Your performance in the team is to a certain extent rendered obsolete if you are not sticking the ball in the bag of the net.
That is what you are there to do.
Playmakers hold a similar responsibility. In a modern 4-2-3-1 formation, it is the number 10, the central attacking midfielder, who is often excused from their defensive obligations.
He is the man who the team carries, with the reciprocal expectation that he repays the favour with creativity and end product.
In other words, the reciprocal expectation that he scores and creates goals.
It is for this reason that Philippe Coutinho is the single most over-rated player currently playing in the Premier League.
For a player in the team that he is in, and the liberties he is afforded through his position, his output is quite frankly not good enough.
In 31 Premier League appearances this season, he has registered just five goals and five assists.
That means that he contributes to a goal in one in every three appearances for Liverpool.
In two in three appearances in the Premier League he contributes very little.
I am not suggesting that Philippe Coutinho is a bad footballer. Far from it, he is a very good player, who is capable of influencing games far more than he currently does.
But the simple, unavoidable fact is that all of his peers from the five teams who are Liverpool’s immediate rivals in the league have out performed him.
Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea, Juan Mata at Manchester United, Manchester City’s David Silva and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen have all registered significantly more goals and assists than Coutinho.
Mesut Ozil at Arsenal has clocked up four goals and five assists in the league in just fifteen appearances.
Some of these players have frequently played in positions other than that number 10 role, but there is no hiding from the fact that, statistically, Coutinho is at the bottom of that particular little league table.
Further to this, Coutinho has been outperformed by a number of his teammates as well.
The controversial Raheem Sterling has scored seven goals and made seven assists, whilst Jordan Henderson, who has done a brilliant job at filling Steven Gerrard’s giant shoes, has got six goals and nine assists from a deeper position.
It is for this reason that Coutinho’s inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year was so baffling.
The team is voted for by the players, so it is obvious that the 22-year-old Brazilian is appreciated by those who know the game the best.
But is there any justification for claiming that Coutinho has even been his team’s best midfielder, never mind one of the two best in the league?
In any walk of life, if you do not deliver to the brief that you have been set, then you will be criticised and ultimately replaced by somebody who will do.
It is hard to imagine that Coutinho is in Liverpool’s team to do anything other than score goals and create opportunities for others.
Supporters of Coutinho will point to Liverpool’s striker woes, with their quartet of strikers scoring less between them than Everton’s regular back four.
But that has not prevented his colleagues from performing better than he has.
The best example of a world-class number 10 that we have in our league is David Silva – a man who has quietly excelled in an oft misfiring team.
The Spaniard has clocked up 12 goals and seven assists this year, yet few are talking of his performances.
It is all very well for Coutinho to look impressive as he darts past defenders and scores the occasional screamer.
But the best players take matches by the scruff of the neck – and this is reflected by their statistics.
In order for Coutinho to justify the praise which has been prematurely lavished on him this season, he needs to become the player who makes things happen for Liverpool on a regular basis.
If that does happen, imagine what players and pundits will make of him then?