Following his January transfer from Inter Milan, Phillippe Coutinho is delivering some impressive performances for the Merseyside team, who have just moved into 6th place above their rivals Everton.
Against Wigan, he took just two minutes to set up Stuart Downing’s goal and later set up another for Luis Suarez, factoring in his goal in the 5-0 demolition of Swansea, there are serious signs of promise that the 20-year-old could become a key figure in the team.
He seemed to play as a left winger in the wins against Wigan and Tottenham, a position which has troubled Liverpool all year; resulting in traditional left back Jose Enrique moving to left midfield for a few games. Coutinho looks like a player who could fill the void and add a much-needed creative spark to remove Liverpool’s over-reliance on their main stars, Steven Gerrard and Suarez.
He looks calm and composed when he’s in possession and seems to have a bit of the Brazilian flair, but more importantly he is willing to track back to aid his left-back when required.
He helped Enrique to stop Wigan’s main playmaker, Shaun Maloney, who seemed to become frustrated with the attention he was receiving from Coutinho and his teammates.
The praise should come with caution, however. Players who have made an impact in their first season sometimes suffer from second season syndrome, where their performance doesn’t seem to meet the same standard.
This has been seen with players such as Jelavic from Everton, who has found goals and performances difficult to match from when he first arrived in the Premier League.
This is partially due to defenders and managers becoming wiser to the way in which these new players play and altering tactics accordingly to deal with them. Perhaps next season he needs to be aware that he may not be given as much freedom as he currently is and will have to adapt his game.
Overall, the signs are promising for Liverpool, as the reportedly reasonable £8.5m transfer fee for the Brazilian seems to be paying itself back already. However, these performances have come against much less prominent teams, meaning no disrespect to Swansea and Wigan; he has yet to prove himself against the stronger teams in the Premier League such as Manchester United or Manchester City.
However, in their 3-2 victory over Tottenham, Coutinho proved he was up to the challenge of playing in the bigger games. If he continues to perform at this level, he will become an exceptional player, especially as he still has time to mature professionally, and will surely become a fan favourite.
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