HomeEPL - TeamsArsenalPhilippe Coutinho Compared to Juan Mata & Santi Cazorla

Philippe Coutinho Compared to Juan Mata & Santi Cazorla

Since the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, the role of Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho has become increasingly important. The 22 year old Brazilian is now the chief creator in what is a young Liverpool side including players such as Raheem Sterling (20), Alberto Moreno (22) and Javier Manquillo (20). Coutinho’s job as “the brain” of the side (as referred to by his manager, Brendan Rodgers) has been a much more difficult task this season with the absence of not only Luis Suarez but also of Daniel Sturridge – coupled with the drastically poor goalscoring form of £16m man, Mario Balotelli.

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As such, Coutinho’s form appeared to dip at the start of the season with limited pace ahead of him – barring the early appearances from Sturridge – and the evergreen but still incomplete Sterling coming in from the left. This led to many questioning the ability of Coutinho to go up to the next level. The level inhabited by seasoned professionals such as David Silva, Samir Nasri, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla. Creative midfielders who have won trophies and consistently performed week-in-week-out for several seasons. It is against two of these creators that I will compare Coutinho. Juan Mata, rediscovering his form at Manchester United, and Santi Cazorla, one of Arsenal’s better performers in a stuttering campaign, are the two players I have chosen to go up against Coutinho as I believe them to be similar in playing styles – the three players can also play out wide, which means their skill sets are similar.

In this comparison, I will be using statistics from Squawka to help us understand how and where Coutinho has fallen off from last season – if he has at all – whilst also seeing how far behind the league’s elite he really is. So, let’s see who is enjoying the best season from a (mostly) statistical point of view.

Philippe Whotinho?

Coutinho is a shell of his 13/14 self.
Coutinho is a shell of his 13/14 self.

Chance creation and all round imagination are two of the most important objectives on these players’ to-do-lists. Creating clear chances, being neat in and around the opposition box and being able to beat a man are the three skills these three do better than most. First of all, we’ll look at chance creation and who can bring the most to their team. The first thing we immediately see is that Coutinho has become a fraction of what he was last season whilst Cazorla is out in front with an average of 2.64 chances created per 90 minutes played (p90). Mata also registers well here with an average of 1.77 p90. Coutinho’s 1.18 is far too low for a player of his ability but this figure sadly reflects the drop in quality in Liverpool’s side from last term. Last season, Coutinho was creating 2.48 chances p90, which shows how the change in Liverpool’s personnel and the constant changing of the overall system has helped to reduce Coutinho’s all round play. Arsenal’s man continues to have the beating of his opponents in the key passes p90 metric with a high total of 2.46 whilst Coutinho is again way down on his 13/14 average of 2.21 with 1.04. Mata’s total is lower than I expected for him but still much better than Coutinho’s 14/15 figure.

The only area in this table where Coutinho actually improves on last season is his successful take-ons percentage. The increase is small and it’s also doubtful as to whether he can maintain it, let me explain why. Coutinho’s 14/15 successful dribbling percentage is up from 57.84% to 59.04% – that’s good, except Coutinho’s 13/14 season column contains 2326 minutes compared to just 1217 so far in 14/15. So, although Coutinho has improved his dribbling statistically, he has played much less because we’re only half way through the season which means he’s had less time to have bad games and therefore lower his figures. This is all the more worrying because the less time a player has to ruin his figures the better – the fact that his stats are so slow compared to last season is worrying because of the amount of extra minutes played last term. Hopefully, with the return of Sturridge and an uplift in form in 2015 these figures will recover but it’d take a lot to bring them close to his 13/14 levels.

Comparatively, Cazorla, again, excels with a 67.21% success rate. For once, Mata comes in third with just 43.75% of his take-ons proving successful. It must be noted that Mata barely dribbles. The Spaniard has only completed seven take-ons this season, which is very low compared to Coutinho’s 49 and Cazorla’s 41 – this means that Cazorla and Coutinho could actually be closer if they’d both attempted the exact same amount of dribbles (Coutinho has attempted more dribbles, which means he’s likely to have failed more times therefore potentially hurting his percentage).

Mata makes up for this with his goalscoring, however. The United midfielder has already bagged five goals during this campaign compared to Cazorla’s four and Coutinho’s paltry two. Liverpool supporters would certainly like to see Coutinho score more goals although to expect a massive surge is perhaps unrealistic baring in mind he only scored five in a free-flowing Liverpool side during the 13/14 assault on the Premier League title.

To conclude, I think we can see that Coutinho has struggled for consistent form this term. There have been positive flashes for the little Brazilian – such as the 4-1 home win over Swansea City – however, he cannot be included in the elite bracket for Premier League creators just yet. Coutinho relies too much on having runners ahead of him which is something he has to work or he faces becoming a one trick pony with through-balls being his only option. His dribbling is excellent, that much is clear, and at 22 he will certainly be able to reap more profit from this skill in the future when he becomes more adept and experienced at finishing once he creates the space for himself by ghosting round opposition defenders. Sadly, Liverpool’s poor striking options appear to have limited Coutinho and perhaps wasted what could have been a big season for the Brazil international. Hopefully 2015 will see the return of Daniel Sturridge so the little magician can dazzle us with his through-balls once again.

Zak Forster
Zak Forsterhttps://twitter.com/ZakForster_AI
| Liverpool fan living in Manchester - imagine | Follow me on Twitter for views and opinions on all things football - @ZakForster_AI |
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