For club legend John Aldridge, it was the below-par performance of silky midfielder Philippe Coutinho which was most to blame for their poor first-half showing against Swansea on Monday evening.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he claims that "when Philippe Coutinho doesn’t play well, we don’t tick". Certainly, the first half against Swansea was a particularly underwhelming one with the Reds failing to find any form of attacking coherence.
According to Aldridge, it was because the game "bypassed [Coutinho], he just wasn’t himself and we suffered going forward".
Better without Gerrard?
Although the Brazilian has certainly had a fine run of form this season, notably scoring a handful of spectacular goals, it is the form of his younger team mate Raheem Sterling which has often been cited as the Reds' main attacking threat.
However, it is no surprise that Coutinho's finest run of form has coincided with club captain and emblematic playmaker Steven Gerrard's prolonged spell on the sidelines due to injury. Not only has he scored sublime goals against Southampton and Manchester City, reminiscent of Gerrard's own screamers, but he has also contributed to a new-found fluency in the Liverpool midfield.
It is his ability to maintain position in the centre of the park whilst simultaneously keeping his head up, searching for gaps to exploit in the opposition's defence and picking up excellent positions on the outskirts of the penalty area which has made the Brazilian central to Brendan Rodgers' plans this season.
A nightmare for defenders
In particular, it is the playmaker's willingness to run at defences with the ball which makes Liverpool's attack a far more daunting prospect when his name is on the starting XI sheet.
His silky skills, quick feet and blistering pace make him a nightmare to defend against. According to Aldridge, it is this ability to make life painfully difficult for opposition defences which was lacking in the first half against Swansea on Monday evening.
To put things into perspective, Sky Sports reported that Liverpool have won 22 of the 30 matches Coutinho has started in. However, their win rate drops from 73 percent to a staggering 46 percent when the Brazilian isn't in the team.
Food for thought which does seem to back up Aldridge's assessment...
Liverpool fans: do you think Philippe Coutinho is your club's most important player?
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