Philippe Coutinho – Proving his class at last

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Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring against Hull City
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According to Jack Hallows, Philippe Coutinho is finally proving just how good he can actually be.

We’ve got a number of classy players at Liverpool now. Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane have all become key to Jurgen Klopp’s high pressing, intensive style of attacking play while Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Joel Matip, in particular, have been sublime in the more defensive half of the pitch, however, one player who has stood out above the rest – especially in the last handful of fixtures – is Philippe Coutinho.

Coutinho’s season started with a bang as he fired in a world class free kick against Arsenal and followed it up in the second half by thumping home Nathaniel Clyne’s low cross but he threatened to fall off in a similar manner to recent seasons – last season he scored against Stoke in the opening game of the season before failing to net for 12 games and the season before failed to come alive until Christmas. He was poor against Burnley, spurned two golden opportunities against Spurs and was on the bench against Leicester due to prior international commitments. Since his assist on our visit to Stamford Bridge, however, he’s been on fire.

He’s scored five and assisted a further five for teammates in all competitions so far and his recent displays have been nothing short of superb. A typical long range goal and assist against Hull was followed by a goal in the EFL Cup, a midfield maestro display against Swansea and a game against United where he was only denied the chance to be the match winner by the freakish outstretched fingertips of David De Gea. He’s now just come off the back of two man of the match performances in a week, firing in a superb goal against West Bromwich Albion and turning into a creative genius with 2 assists and 4 key passes in total against Crystal Palace.

It’s not just goals and assists, however, that prove that Coutinho has started to take the next step towards being the player we’ve all hoped he would be. His use of the ball has become more intelligent and he boasts an 84.5% pass success rate in the league, currently  averaging 51 passes a game with an impressive 2.5 key passes per game. His awareness has also been raised considerably. Playing with a consistent lineup in a consistent system will have helped but just look at the way he uses the ball. He knows where James Milner – or Alberto Moreno – are going to be behind him and his understanding with Roberto Firmino is at times freakish.

The Brazilian has also added an impressive defensive side to his game, averaging 1.5 successful tackles per match in the League – obviously taking notes from compatriot Roberto Firmino who is one of the best defensive forwards in Europe – and against Crystal Palace registered a total of 4 successful tackles. This drive to win the ball back for his team is a massive change for a player who even until late last season was labelled by a portion of the fan base as lazy when on the back foot.

He’s been hailed as the “Premier League’s best player,” by teammate Dejan Lovren, praised to no end by Jurgen Klopp, talked up by Brazilian legend Ronaldo and even Rio Ferdinand is scared of him. The best part is, at 24 years old, he’s still not anywhere near hitting his peak. What’s next for Philippe Coutinho? Nobody knows. Hopefully, though, for at least the time being, all of his successes to come are achieved in that Liverpool number 10 jersey.

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