Michael Baddeley discusses whether or not Jurgen Klopp should return Coutinho to the side and where he should be deployed.
Since Luis Suarez left Liverpool, we have had one player who has stood out above the rest. He’s not been Suarez-good but he’s been good enough to constantly be linked with top European sides. Of course, I’m talking about our Brazilian magician, little Philippe Coutinho.
For the past two years, he’s won Fans Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, Goal of the Year and Performance of the Year. He’s been nothing short of phenomenal. Eye-catching footwork and screamers on a regular basis are just two the impressive features of his game.
We’ve seen him feature in several positions in many different formations; behind the striker when he first joined the club and in Rodgers last full season, he was moved into a midfield three in the 2013/14 season and is now used on the left-hand side of a forward three by Jurgen Klopp.
A lot has been made of the 4-2-3-1 formation with Mané, Firmino and Coutinho behind Sturridge. However, it seems that Klopp wants to play a 4-3-3 with Mané on the right, Coutinho on the left and Firmino as the false 9.
He didn’t feature this weekend in the 4-1 mauling of Leicester. Mané, Firmino and Sturridge were used as the forward three and they were exceptional. You could tell from minute one that they had an understanding, everything just clicked and they were brilliant throughout.
Not only has the performance from this weekend given Klopp a headache, but it has prompted many fans to discuss whether Coutinho is a starter or question if he could be pushed deeper.
Which brings me to the ultimate question.
If Klopp were to push Coutinho back then who would he replace?
It’s obvious Klopp likes to have at least one attack minded player in his midfield three. He’s currently got both Wijnaldum and Lallana, however, Gini hasn’t been given the licence to roam that far forward and has been used as the deep-lying playmaker whilst Hendo is sitting the deepest of the three.
Lallana has had an explosive start to the season and Wijnaldum has put in some performances that have gone under the radar. But Wijnaldum will no doubt make way when Emre Can returns, meaning all signs point to Lallana here, he would be the only man Philly could replace.
A midfield of Can, Hendo and Coutinho would be very reminiscent of that midfield three from the heartbreaking 2013/14 season. Can sitting deep, Hendo as the deep-lying playmaker and Coutinho as the more attacking option. It would certainly add more creativity, allow us to feature all four of the attacking quartet as well as having enough defensive coverage.
Then there’s the “is he a guaranteed starter?” discussion.
I have two things to say on this!
Firstly, how do you drop arguably our best player and someone who fits in with our gaffers style of play just because of one good game without him?
Secondly, It’s not even worth contemplating the thought. If it was several good performances then I’d agree. But for now, I just can’t see how people would think about it. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction to one good performance.
Like I said earlier, he has become a headache for Klopp. But no doubt this will be a headache Jurgen will love! He has so much attacking talent at his disposal meaning he might not waltz straight into the side like he used to do but he still pips it as the guaranteed starter for me.
So where does he fit in?
He’s currently being used on the left-hand side, however, I think many will agree his best position is in the centre. There’s always the possibility that Klopp could drop him a little deeper and do with Coutinho what Guardiola is doing with Silva.
But I personally can’t see it happening, not with Klopp working on a front three of Coutinho, Firmino and Mané all Summer.
It’s a threesome that works well with and without the ball. They will press when needed, have the patience to pick the right moments and will be able to play free flowing, fast, counter attacking football against the teams where we won’t see as much of the ball. Something Sturridge doesn’t fit into. Thus being the reason why Coutinho will ultimately replace him.
Studge might return against the teams we are clearly stronger than. But I can’t see it being at the expense of Phil, not with how influential he’s been to Liverpool in the past few years.
Then there’s the Lallana factor when considering a deeper role. Coutinho might be a superior player, but Klopp seems to love the Englishman, he provides more energy and his defensive work is a lot better than Phil’s.
I personally would like to see Coutinho in the deeper role because he’s done it before to a very high standard. But is it really worth jeopardising what Klopp has worked on? If we are stronger as a team with him on the left then leave him there, simple as that. And yes that is alongside Mané and Firmino.
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