Football

Philippe Coutinho: The new Steven Gerrard?

Coutinho arrived at Liverpool in January (©GettyImages)
Coutinho arrived at Liverpool in January (©GettyImages).

Daniel Sturridge scored a hat-trick against Fulham and as brilliant as that was, it would be unfair and outright ridiculous not to acknowledge the role a certain young Brazilian played in his contribution.

Philippe Coutinho arrived at Anfield in January almost completely incognito. There was no hype, no over the top press coverage nor much commentary by pundits. It must be said, the last major January arrival to Anfield was one Andy Carroll and it looks like people have learned from the hype that accompanied the £35m signing. However, the lack of hype has been a blessing in disguise for the lad.

Coutinho arrived from Inter Milan as a prodigious talent deemed to be more suited to street football or indoor FIFA tournaments but not league football. He was too ‘pure’ they said. What they at Inter did not realise was that the street-nature of his game was what catapulted one Ronaldinho Gaucho to the top of world football, so much so that at some point he was heralded as the greatest of all time.

Coutinho, not quite the exact replica of his counterpart, shares similarities with Ronaldinho. Both have quick feet, glide and worm their way past opponents with the ease of a player with street football ingrained in them. He skips past challenges like a certain Argentine, Lionel Messi, but the difference is: with Messi it is a more diagonal movement with bursts of pace; Coutinho, on the other hand, while packed with pace, would not mind having to beat an opponent while trotting.

Against Fulham, he wanted the ball and was willing to come far deeper for it, springing attacks from the halfway line in the absence of Steven Gerrard.

Coutinho came to collect the ball from the centre-backs and either popped a simple pass to a teammate or drove Liverpool forward himself as the key player in transition for the visitors.

He created the second for Sturridge when he cut inside from the left, took a shot which was deflected to the unmarked striker. Soon thereafter he played an exquisite chipped through ball with the outside of his right boot to enable his teammate to complete his first hat-trick for the club. Against Newcastle previously he had done more of the same. A sumptuous dinked through ball between two defenders set up Sturridge again. He is beginning to develop a good understanding with both Sturridge and Luis Suarez and he has only been there for roughly five months.

His ability to thread the ball through the eye of a needle is one that has been showcased on numerous occasions already this season. The assist at the weekend represented Coutinho's 10th accurate through ball since moving to Liverpool, with an average of 0.83 per game the most of any player in the Premier League.

In addition, when only taking his figures in England's top flight into account, of all players to have reached double figures for accurate through balls across Europe's top five leagues, only 4 players have a greater success rate at finding a teammate from through ball attempts (71.4%).

However, it's his passing game that is surely in need of the most work. Gerrard is well known for his impeccable passing accuracy, both long and short. Coutinho has not yet displayed that level of accuracy or boldness to go for 40 or 50 yard passes but with time and focused development in that area, he could and would improve. Playing alongside the icon that is his captain should be apprenticeship enough.

Coutinho has created more big chances per game than any other player in the League. That is a remarkable feat considering he has only had a few months to acclimatise. In a creative sense an average of 1.5 key passes per game may not seem overly convincing but the quality of chances that he's laid on have been superb at times.

Half of his 18 key passes this season have created clear cut opportunities for teammates, with an average of 0.75 per game in that regard the highest in the Premier League. In turn the youngster has picked up five assists already, with 0.42 per game again at the top of the pile in England's top flight this season.

Coutinho is by no means the finished product - in fact, he is yet some way off that mark. However, the only way for him to go is up. The rest of the league is sitting up and taking notice as his stock rises and his coach must persist with him Playing time is what he needs most and with the start he has had, I can confidently say that he will be one of the players to look out for in the coming seasons.

Inter’s decision to release him now looks more ill-advised than ever before.

 

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
Premier League

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