The turnaround in Liverpool’s season following their defeat at Manchester United has seen Brendan Rodger’s men bounce back in great form and what seemed to be another disappointing season in the club’s most recent history has turned into a charge for the Top 4. The whole Liverpool team has caught the wind in their sails and sailed as close as three points behind 3rd place since, but the rise of the team as a whole masks the return to form of one important player, Philippe Coutinho.
2015 has found the young Brazilian playmaker in sublime form as he has already directly contributed to five of his teams goals in the eight Premier League games since New Year’s day. His two most recent contributions underline just how well he is playing at the moment with a wonder strike against Southampton, and a great winning goal against Manchester City giving his team a very important victory for their quest. Coutinho is ravishing in Liverpool’s new formation 3-6-1 which accommodates two playmakers and one lone striker as well as two holding midfielders.
It has now been more than two years since Brendan Rodgers signed the relatively unknown but talented 20 year-old Brazilian starlet from Internazionale for what now looks like a bargain price of £8.5 million. He made a straight impact at Anfield with 3 goals and 7 assists since he was signed in January till the end of the season and impressed much of England. He continued his fine displays last season but his importance was overshadowed by the duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, and later Raheem Sterling, upfront, who nearly pulled Liverpool all the way to the club’s first title since 1990. In the season Coutinho gathered a total of 5 goals and 7 assists, not a bad overall turnout but considering the rate at which he bagged goals and assists during his first half-season with the club, it was still a slight decline.
Together with the whole of Liverpool’s team, Coutinho’s start to this season has been poor. The 22 year-old scored just one goal in the first 16 games this season. Since then his form and statistics have rocketed up. 3 goals and 5 assists in just 11 games are the result and the Brazilian has never looked better than he does at the moment. He runs at defenders with the ball and he can use his speed to dribble past them or his vision to pick out a teammate in a dangerous position. His passing ability in the Liverpool team can only be rivaled by the Reds captain Steven Gerrard. He has recently proved his potential and demonstrated that he also has the ability to be a match winner against Southampton and then Manchester City, a game in which he overshadowed one of the league’s very top playmakers David Silva (if not the very best).
The Brazilian is flourishing alongside Adam Lallana with the pair as the two creative midfielders and especially against the Citizens, Coutinho was at the heart of everything good Liverpool created. He was constantly on the move, wanting the ball and looking for space. After his post-match interview against Southampton, Brendan Rodgers said the formation favours both Coutinho and Lallana because it allows them to cut to the inside of the pitch into central areas with the wing backs staying out wide and offering solutions. That point was proven in the Manchester City game where both Coutinho and Lallana found themselves in acres of space in the pocket between the Citizens’ midfield and defense. Manchester’s 4-4-2 formation with 3 offensively thinking midfielders did not work out for Pellegrini once again with Fernandinho often being left alone to protect the back 4 on the counter.
For Liverpool’s first goal, the young Brazilian won the ball from Manchester City skipper Vincent Kompany and through Sterling the ball found it’s way to Henderson who’s Gerrardesque top corner curling finish is in with a shout for goal of the month. For Liverpool’s second goal, it was solely the brilliance of Coutinho, who again was found by Sterling just outside the box similar to the position of Henderson. With Nasri trying to close him down, the Liverpool man set himself up and unleashed another powerful curling shot past Joe Hart to give his team the victory.
Compared to his counterpart David Silva, Coutinho was more lively both offensively and defensively on the weekend with 4 shots compared to the Spaniard’s 1 and 4 successful take-ons with Silva only managing 2. Defensively the Brazilian starlet contributed with 2 successful tackles in dangerous areas out of 6, while the Manchester City playmaker has not attempted a single one. The most obvious and significant difference between the two players is their heat map. While with Coutinho we can see his movement is limited to his position as left attacking midfielder, David Silva seems to be all over the place in Pellegrini’s formation, mainly playing as a right winger where he started. While it is obvious that Coutinho has settled in well into his new position, David Silva is struggling to find himself in a 4-4-2 with his best performances coming from the role right behind the lone striker.
Coutinho has stepped his game up to another level recently and if he continues his displays, he will soon be considered as one of the hottest prospects in Europe. Already the price Liverpool has payed for him to Italian side Inter is laughable with Rodgers proving his reputation of having a great eye for talent. While it is the effort of the whole team that defines a success of a team, Philippe Coutinho is certainly one of the main men leading Liverpool in their campaign for a Top 4 finish in the Premier League. Based on current form which makes them the best team in the league over the last 10 games, the Merseyside team will be up there come the end of season.