Philippe Coutinho – One Year on
This month marks 12 months since Philippe Coutinho sealed his dream move to Catalan Giants FC Barcelona, but just how successful has the Brazilian’s first year been and was it a case of the grass being greener on the other side?
In total Coutinho has played 33 games, starting 25 in which, he has scored 12 goals with 6 assists a slight drop in standards compared to Phil’s last 12 months at Anfield where he registered 15 goals and 8 assists in 32 games. So, what’s the difference, why has Coutinho struggled to replicate his scintillating form which earned him his move to Barcelona from Liverpool, I’m here to give you my views on why this is the case…
On paper Barcelona have a better XI than Liverpool so more chances, more goals/assists right? WRONG! The main reason Coutinho has struggled to replicate his Liverpool form is the simple matter that he is a small fish in a large pond. We all know that Barcelona’s talisman is the Argentine Lionel Messi, so it was fairly clear that Phil would not be the main man in the same way that he was in Jurgen Klopp’s system.
Both Liverpool and Barcelona have favoured the 4-3-3 formation in recent years each having their own versions of a ‘fab three’ with Coutinho operating the left forward role for Liverpool in the 16/17 season however the summer of 2017 spelled the arrival of Mohammed Salah from AS Roma and as a result a role change followed for Coutinho playing as the more attacking midfielder out of the three (essentially a free role). Even though we only seen this Coutinho for 6 months this was by far his best position, picking the ball up from deep, gliding past opponents and delivering the key killer passes into the final third.
With Coutinho seemingly being the main man for Liverpool this free role allowed him to be as creative as possible and gave him the chance to receive the ball on the half turn and drive at opposition defences’.
The signing of Phil Coutinho initially looked like a long term replacement for midfield maestro Andres Iniesta who had announced he would not be renewing his contract with Barcelona at the end of the season but as his tenure at Barca started to unfold it became evident that Coutinho was more of a direct replacement for his fellow friend Neymar who had left the summer before to join French Champions Paris Saint Germain.
Coutinho was once again operating the left-wing role in the 4-3-3 system thereby restricting his ability to roam freely across the entire pitch. As well as this Philippe faced the challenge of not receiving the ball as often as he did at Liverpool, well certainly not in the final third. Every Barcelona players first instinct is to look to pass to Messi whereas at Liverpool if Liverpool were struggling to break a team down Phil was the go-too ball and everything was fed through him. So, in all fairness to Coutinho he was not being utilised to his full potential.
When you compare Coutinho’s stats between this season and last season it makes for a painful view. This season he has managed just 4 goals with 1 assist this is in comparison to Messi’s 25 goal contribution, Suarez’s 15 and Dembele’s 11. With the little magician managing a total goal contribution of 5 so far this season It’s clear to see that this season is a real struggle for Coutinho. He has seen his playing time limited to sub appearances with his last 3 being from the bench due to Vidal and Dembele being preferred in the two roles Coutinho would usually start.
The Barcelona fans’ have already started to turn on Coutinho with many on social media demanding he turn his performances around or the £145 million starlet sold with some Spanish newspapers linking the Brazilian with a move to Liverpool’s north west rivals Manchester United. Inevitably rumours of a return to Liverpool have suddenly emerged dividing many LFC fans on twitter as to whether they would take him back as some label Coutinho as a traitor after he appeared to do his best to force his dream move, accused of faking a back injury only to be pictured days later training with the Brazil camp whilst on international duty.
My personal view is that selling Coutinho was a blessing in disguise with the fee received being marvellously reinvested to improve the squad and more importantly the defence. The £145 million Liverpool received helped fund the deals for Virgil Van Dijk (£75 mill) and Alisson Becker (£70 mill) both of whom have been integral parts of Liverpool’s title charge so far this season. I can confidently say that Liverpool do not need to resign Philippe Coutinho as not only did his departure help plug the holes in Liverpool’s leaky defence, but it also allowed the Egyptian King Mo Salah to take the lead role in the team. The Premier League table a year on speaks for itself.