An encapsulating and enthralling Merseyside adventure full of twists, turns, sudden banks and stoppages, has sailed on and into the migration of a Catalan ghoulish nightmare. In this player analysis, we will be using and comparing Coutinho’s stints at both Liverpool and Barcelona using statistics and derive strengths and weaknesses from them.
It has been well documented that once Liverpool fan-favourite Philippe Coutinho has not exactly had the best of times under the lights at one of the most cultural and historic football clubs in the world in Barcelona. The Brazilian has struggled to hit the kind of form that he discovered at Anfield under the likes of Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp.
However, there are many factors as to why the 27-year-old opted to leave to play his football in the north-west of Spain and to fulfil his “childhood dream” of playing at the Nou Camp. The ‘back injury’, the rumoured tantrums and hissy fits. All of which left a sour taste in the mouth of Liverpool supporters and effectively fell out of love with the Brazilian forward as a result.
At the same time, there are many comprehensive reasons why Jurgen Klopp should indeed take any given opportunity to capture his former player into his grasp and to take hold once again of one of the most talented players in Europe on his day.
Of course, the 2018/19 season will be one that he will want to forget as quickly as possible due to the reasons why he went there. But there are still those factors of his game which leave Liverpool fans thinking “what if?”
There is no doubt that Coutinho left Liverpool to win trophies, which is understandable considering the calibre of player that he is, plus the fact he’s gone on to win five trophies in just two seasons in Spain, but this does not tell the whole story.
Coutinho played his best football at Liverpool without question. Who Scored recorded that the Brazilian scored 13 goals and tallied seven assists during his final full season at Anfield, joint alongside Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino who notched an impressive 11 strikes, helping Liverpool to go on to score 78 goals throughout the 2016/17 season.
Liverpool and their instrumental front threes have been alive and kicking now for years, with a 4-3-3 attacking formation which has become iconic in the way that the Reds play, move, and attack with high intensity and pace, as well as press the ball in such a manner which simply has not been seen in the Premier League before. Jurgen Klopp can certainly take a lot of the credit for that but it’s the players that effectively put the tactics into practice, they will have the light of praise shone down onto them.
Coutinho, Firmino and Mane played such a huge part into getting Liverpool back into the Champions League that season, and combined were such a massive threat going forward and also worked just as hard dropping in deep to support the midfield. The passing was such a huge part of their game that season and blew teams apart at the best of times, Coutinho himself had a pass success rate of 83.9%, with an average of 2.1 key passes per game and 2.3 long balls, further illustrating the qualities to the 27-year-old’s game.
The season after, the Brazilian left in January after scoring seven goals in 13 games as well as six assists. Mohamed Salah came into effectively replace him which tells its own story. But as far as squad depth goes, and with statistics like he produced the season before leaving, its more or less a no brainer to bring Coutinho back into the fold, even if Transfer Markt value the Brazilian at £81m.
Since making the move to the Mediterranean coast, his performances have failed to catch the eye of the Nou Camp faithful, and there has been a real lack of consistent first-team football for Coutinho and he continues to be outclassed by teammates Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Last season he started just 22 games and came off the bench on 12 different occasions, scoring just five goals and assisting twice.
Despite his passing accuracy being as high as 87.9%, this is glossed over by the lack of creativity up the field that he had, signalling perhaps a lack of confidence or some other psychological factor. With his key pass average at just 0.9 and his crossing at 0.2 average per game, this just isn’t the same Philippe Coutinho that football fans loved to watch at Anfield week in week out.
Many will take the moral high ground and stand by their word that Coutinho should never play for Liverpool again; maybe they’re right when it comes to the manner in which he left. But for sheer quality, tenaciousness and his extra creative spark that he’s provided with Liverpool down the years, it’s something that the Reds could really do with if they want to challenge for the Premier League title once again. He would add that extra strength in depth to make Liverpool fans’ dreams that little bit more, in the hope that the gold and silver trophy is finally lifted at Anfield in May.