Will Liverpool place more faith in Philippe Coutinho or Roberto Firmino next season?
There are a great deal of unknowns about how Liverpool will line up this season in the attacking half of the pitch after bringing in Sadio Mane and Gini Wijnaldum. They already possess two very talented forward players in Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, both of whom will be vital this season as they chase an elusive top four spot.
The pair of Brazilians will be playing different roles in the Liverpool attack this season, with Coutinho being utilised as a facilitator. He is the side’s most creative player and likely to be used in a central area behind the main forward. The former Inter man will be expected to create chances for the likes of Mane, Wijnaldum and Firmino. Nobody else in the Liverpool squad has the ability to drop deeper and control matches like Coutinho, making him arguably the squad’s most important player in the transition phase.
The Brazilian has now been at the club for over three years and already accumulated over 100 appearances for Liverpool. It is incredible that Coutinho is only 24 and this highlights how his impressive his achievements to date are. After three full seasons as a regular, this campaign could be his time to push on and challenge for the various individual awards on offer.
Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez are seen as the star attacking midfield players in the division, but there is no reason Philippe Coutinho cannot outshine all four this season.
Coutinho is a well-rounded player, excellent on the ball and very difficult to defend against. He can run with ease in possession and beat players, or he can drop between the lines and play defence-splitting through balls. Moreover, Coutinho has one of the cleanest strikes of a football from distance and is always a goal threat when given space outside the area.
The Brazilian international struggled with injuries at times last season, but if he stays fit, he will be one of the best players this campaign.
Many Liverpool fans expect Roberto Firmino to be more important than Coutinho in the attack, after his incredible development under Jurgen Klopp last season. Over the first few months, Brendan Rodgers failed to extract the best out of Firmino, and the Brazilian was labelled a flop in some sections of the media.
However, he quickly turned it around after the managerial change and played a prominent role in the club’s run to the Europa League final.
He finished the season with ten goals and seven assists in the Premier League, which is a decent return, especially given his lack of impact across the opening months. Many believe he will beat that haul this term and emerge as Liverpool’s biggest goal threat.
There are questions about where he will play under Klopp this season, with the ex-Hoffenheim man capable of playing as a main forward or behind the striker.
The signings of Mane and Wijnaldum have increased the possibility of Firmino starting as the side’s main forward ahead of Daniel Sturridge. Klopp could line up with a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Coutinho and Mane playing behind Firmino.
The midfield trio would include Wijnaldum, who would be given the freedom to push on and join the attackers when Liverpool are in possession. This would be exciting to watch with Liverpool boasting plenty of pace in their side.
Firmino is likely to be preferred to Sturridge as Klopp’s first-choice striker as he is a harder worker in the press, something that the German demands from his forward players. However, Divock Origi and Danny Ings will provide stiff competition too.
Also, the Brazilian will give the side a more fluid front-line with the possibility of rotating positions throughout the match. In this role, Firmino will be expected to score goals, but he did display an encouraging degree of anticipation and movement last season.
It is clear that the two 24-year-old Brazilian attackers will be crucial to Liverpool’s chances this season. Both will be given huge roles in Klopp’s side, but Coutinho is more important to Liverpool for me. If he doesn’t play well, then Liverpool’s transition phase will suffer and the amount of chances will dry up.
Liverpool simply do not have anybody as good as Coutinho at creating chances, but in Sadio Mane, Daniel Sturridge and even Divock Origi, they have goal-scorers capable of filling Firmino’s shoes.
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