The magician’s form and performance is an underlying factor for the Reds midfield to function effectively and efficiently.
Philippe Coutinho sat out the first month of season’s fixtures owing to reasons best forgotten now. His absence barely affected results though, with Liverpool qualifying for Champions League in superb fashion, and also winning all their league games aside of the opening day draw at Vicarage road.
This also led many a fan to claim, albeit complacently – and erroneously may I add – that the Brazilian would have to earn his place in the squad given the form and fortune of his mates.
The Reds’ new summer signing Mohamed Salah getting off to a blistering start also helped further in dulling memories of what O Mágico brings to the side.
His return to the pitch came during the home leg of the Champions League game against Sevilla and that was followed up with a fairly consistent run of games.
Coutinho has let his feet do the talking and has notched up 6 goals and 7 assists in just 13 games. Needless to say, that is an impressive return, given that he had to work on returning to match fitness due to a prolonged absence.
This run-in includes a home leg of the Merseyside derby and also an away trip to top four North London rivals – an in-form-at-home Arsenal.
In this piece, we take a look at why his form and more importantly, consistency, is imperative for the Reds to do well and probably break into the top four sooner rather than later.
Creative fulcrum in midfield
Liverpool’s woes in defence and midfield have been written about enough already; Coutinho’s presence in the central area of the pitch is not only a relief but also pivotal.
It is from the deeper areas of the pitch that he pulls strings best; with more of the green visible to him, he can envision space and also create time and scoring opportunities.
He is the axis around which the creative force at Liverpool thrive, no matter how flattering the score-lines may seem without him.
Coutinho’s partnership with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané proved fruitful last season and there is evidence of the beauty of those.
However, it is the magician’s linkup with Salah that caught everyone’s eye during preseason. There was breathless anticipation even though it was just preseason, for the Egyptian had a telepathic understanding with Coutinho.
The Brazilian’s passes are beautifully weighted and often optimize space and time when there is neither.
The start to these two wreaking havoc on opposition defences may have been delayed, but fans will certainly hope for the two to combine effectively and propel the attack.
Moments of magic: Difference maker
He is a marked man, Coutinho, especially in central midfield. That does not deter him from taking his opportunities or going for goal.
The diminutive import from Inter is not only a creative genius, but also a difference maker.
In just his third appearance of the season, he racked up a goal and assist against the Foxes, a revenge fixture following the League Cup ouster at the hands of the same opponents.
It was also his goal that helped Liverpool hold Spartak Moscow away in the following game.
He can conjure goals and scoring opportunities out of seemingly inane and ordinary passes, as he has shown us time and again.
A reminder of this was served at Newcastle, with a stunning curler into the net with neither the defence nor the keeper having a chance at saving it.
Until then, the hosts had managed to neutralise the Liverpool attack but Coutinho’s moment of magic was a thunderous blow to the hosts.
It is indisputable that Philippe Coutinho provides Liverpool with an unmatched attacking and creative thrust; he is not called the magician for nothing.
For the past two seasons, no one has doubted the Brazilian’s ability to make it big and become world class. What stands in the way though, is inconsistency.
There are games where he goes completely missing or is unable to make his presence felt – as the ones against Sevilla or Chelsea recently.
In what is otherwise a lacklustre Liverpool midfield, Coutinho’s not-so-great performances can be quite glaring. He must therefore, summon his powers and give his all to ensure that if not superlative, his outing is not sub-par.
It is improbable that he will put in a 9/10 performance every game but when not on song, it has to be a 7/10 and not a 5/10.
Liverpool’s upcoming fixture list will have a definite bearing on the table come the end of the season. It is, therefore, essential that the Reds do everything possible to notch up as many points as possible and make the most of squad depth.
In all this going smoothly and to plan, the Brazilian magician will certainly have his say. Hence, it is critical for him to have influential outings on a regular basis for the next month and over the course of the business end of the season.