Brendan Rodgers seems to be showing the rest of the Premier League how it’s done with 2 strikers on the pitch, whilst at the same time maintaining a creative flow in midfield. The Merseyside Derby is always important and no matter what will be crucial. However with both teams, Everton and Liverpool, performing so well in the league table and a goal of getting Champions League football this fixture in particular had extra weight on the players and managers shoulders. Goal Hungry Liverpool were the victors hitting the net 4 times from 20 shots compared to a wasteful Everton side whom were goalless from 19 shots.
With the usual big names on the scoresheet, Sturridge (2), Suarez (1) and Gerrard (1), the man in the number 10 role, Philippe Coutinho managed to stand out providing Liverpool with a tempo that Everton were unable to adapt to defensively, that ensured Liverpool when on the ball, which wasn’t a lot (39.1% possession), looked sharp and dangerous.
Breaking the Lines
Sitting just behind the strikers when attacking, allowing them to stay on their last man, the number 10 used through balls to try and create problems for Everton’s defence. The speed provided by the players around him makes it very difficult for a back four to play an offside trap and knowing Coutinho’s ability to find this man, Jagielka and Alcaraz were already on the back-foot. Two occasions in the game that proved to be problematic for Everton were first of all in the 32nd minute when Coutinho picked the ball up on the halfway line and ran at the back four to then find a gap between the full-back and centre-back where Sturridge was able to run onto the ball lifting it into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal. Secondly, Coutinho yet again picked the ball up on the halfway line ran at the defence and found a similar gap playing Raheem Sterling through whom then was brought down in the penalty area by a sliding Tim Howard whom tried his best to prevent touching the youngster.
Unfortunately the penalty was then missed by Sturridge. With Coutinho being very difficult to mark he managed to play a total 45 passes of which 35 were successful, a key figure gained from these stats that illustrates the players intension to use his speedy collegues is the fact 33% of his total passes were forward beating any other direction on the pitch by a significant 9%, and with the top of the table being so tight, such a desire to get forward and generate goals can be the difference in finishing 4th from 5th.
Confidence & Decision Making
The Brazilian’s confidence can be interpreted in different ways. 2 successful dribbles and 4 chances created are impressive pieces of evidence considering his side had such low possession (39.1%), not to mention his assist. All of this should clearly encourage the player to do more and increase his confidence levels. The space that Coutinho can create and conjure up from nowhere as seen in previous games when using his magic, you would think the stage set in the derby would be a perfect occasion to showcase all of his abilities in one, and such a lack of shooting, a total of 1, he isn’t doing himself any justice. It can be argued why would he be shooting with two world-class strikers playing in-front of him however the 21 year old needs to be greedier especially on counter-attacks.
Although Coutinho’s average position is shown in front of Steven Gerrard with Henderson and Sterling on either side without the ball Coutinho was often found to the right hand side of Gerrard with Henderson tucking in on the left. This showed a new disciplined side of Coutinho that hadn’t been witnessed before. He maintained this position without the ball and successfully won possession of the ball back, a joint highest, seven times. Coutinho also won an impressive five tackles in his new central role and won 56% of his 50-50 duels (19 in total – again impressive).
Overall, Coutinho played a crucial part in an counter-attack minded team and performances like these can only raise the profile of the young Brazilian amongst ever-passionate Liverpool fans. Being fairly new to derby’s and taking into account he’s a foreign player, for someone who might not understand the importance of the fixture he showed passion and desire through attack and also defensively. Helping Liverpool to regain a top four spot will surely help Coutinho’s campaign to perform in-front of his home fans at the World Cup in the summer.