Aaron Curry reviews the manner in which Liverpool have coped without Philippe Coutinho since the Brazilian picked up an ankle injury.
Almost everyone can see that Liverpool’s talisman Philippe Coutinho has been a catalyst for the impressive form over the season so far. Contributing to a massive number of goals already scored and helping to assist a fair few more – which is why it came as a blow to learn he would be ruled out for several months.
In a one-sided affair against Sunderland down at Anfield, the Brazilian suffered an ankle injury that left him writhing in pain on the turf. Of course, as people do, they instantly feared the worst and assumed that our title chances were finished from that moment onwards. We still carried on and comfortably saw the game out to a 2-0 win.
These doubters were proven right, to begin with, as Liverpool suffered somewhat humiliating results against Bournemouth and West Ham – a loss and draw respectively. Fans on social media platforms went into meltdown, when in reality, it was more a matter of player error, than missing out on our star man’s talents. Even after picking up one point from a possible six, we scored a total of five goals but conceded six in the process.
Almost a month down the line, and the Reds’ attacking potency has remained. Bumping our tally to an astonishing fifty goals in all competitions this season, thanks to the help of Divock Origi. The Belgian youngster is held in high regard around Anfield, for his work in the latter parts of the previous campaign. Most memorably against Borussia Dortmund, the 21-year-old scored two crucial goals that saw us through to the Europa League semi-final.
He has replicated this sort of form again, scoring five goals in as many games. An inevitable injury to Daniel Sturridge saw him drafted in and he helped Liverpool to keep ticking over. Going into the festive period six points behind league leaders Chelsea, and in second place, things do not look as bleak as they first appeared. It begs the question whether Coutinho is key, or whether it is the system itself. Whether it’s Divock Origi, or Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, or Sadio Mane, the system prevails and the team continue to slot the ball into the back of the net.
Speaking of Adam Lallana, he is another player who has helped Liverpool to thrive in Coutinho’s absence. The Englishman’s stand-out performance came at the Riverside, where he chipped in with two goals and an assist against Middlesbrough, brushing them aside comfortably. Playing in his new central midfield role, he is now one of five Liverpool players to have over five goals this season. This stat looks even more impressive when compared to the fact that on average, Liverpool score 2.4 goals a game with Coutinho in the side, and 2.4 without him.
So while Coutinho’s quality is not in dispute, the man who curled in a free-kick versus Arsenal on the opening day is not being missed as much as first feared. With Jurgen Klopp not placing the onus on one player to score all the goals, it means that the team is widely flexible and can easily adjust to injury “setbacks”. Each player seems to be able to play in at least two positions, as not only can they swap from game to game, but they are even seen to interchange mid-game.
Coutinho gave fans reason to be ecstatic recently, as he targeted a return to action against Manchester City, a day before the turn of the New Year – a team which our little magician just loves scoring against. But if this past month has taught us anything, it is that we are certainly able to cope without Coutinho more than people think.