Liverpool Transfer Rumours: Picking a Starting XI to Include Philippe Coutinho
Liverpool continues to work over the transfer window, with its latest target, Philippe Coutinho, reportedly set to make a move to Anfield in the near future.
Reds manager Brendan Rodgers is believed to be in final negotiations with Inter Milan for the talented Brazil international (per The Telegraph), who is thought to be the subject of an £8 million bid from the Merseyside club.
There is little doubting the ceiling and ability of the 20-year-old Coutinho, who would definitely thrive in the Premier League should he arrive at Liverpool. But how would he fit at the Merseyside club in terms of formation and tactics, given the players that the Reds already have on their squad?
Read on to find a Liverpool starting side to include Coutinho.
GK: Pepe Reina
Pepe Reina is a veteran of Liverpool and has done well to keep his starting spot from Brad Jones this season—at least in the important matches, anyway.
The 30-year-old has had a slip dip in form for mine this year, with some goals sneaking in every now and again that perhaps shouldn't have found the back of the net, but Reina is still an excellent starting choice for the Reds throughout the remainder of the year.
LB: Glen Johnson
Useful right across the Reds' defense is Glen Johnson, but the England international is most useful out on the left-hand side of the field as opposed to the right.
Johnson has averaged 2.3 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game this season, but has also contributed well in attack also—netting a goal and an assist from his 22 appearances this year.
The 28-year-old is arguably in the prime of his career and will have a place on the left- or right-hand side of Liverpool's defense for seemingly as long as he wants.
LCB: Daniel Agger
Daniel Agger also takes his usual spot in central defense, with the 28-year-old again consolidating his position at the back of the Liverpool starting side.
Whilst averaging the least amount of tackles from any starting player this season, Agger has chalked up an average of 1.5 interceptions per game, and has strong numbers in terms of total passes per game as well as pass-completion percentage per game (over 90 percent).
Remarkably, Agger is also tied for third in goals scored in the league this year, with just Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard netting more than the defender.
RCB: Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel has been one of Liverpool's best so far this year—dominating in both attack and defense right throughout the Premier League season.
The defender leads the team in aerial challenges won, clearances and blocked shots; he also has very strong numbers in terms of tackles and interceptions per game.
Skrtel doesn't turn the ball over at the back (averaging just once in every three games this year) and has a very strong pass-completion percentage of over 90 percent.
The leadership, physicality and direction that he brings at the back—all of which can't be measured in statistics—have made him one of the best defenders in the league this season and an integral part of Liverpool's starting side as a result.
RB: Andre Wisdom
Rounding out the back four here for the Reds is youngster Andre Wisdom, who has impressed greatly in his appearances so far with the club.
Recently handed a new long-term deal, Wisdom appears to be inextricably linked with the future plans of Rodgers at Anfield, and he will no doubt continue to develop into one of the finest right backs in the Premier League if he continues to grow at the rate he has done already.
Wisdom also ranks highly in tackles and interceptions per game—leading the other three defenders mentioned here in that category the season so far.
LCM: Joe Allen
Now we start to get into the formation and tactics that Rodgers would most likely shift to once Coutinho arrives at Liverpool, with the first major change being the permanent installation of two defensive midfielders into the formation.
Joe Allen isn't play as far down as the pitch as he was last season, but is still dominating opponents with his flawless passing game in midfield. He is the ideal man to anchor the side and play the holding midfielder role that the Reds need here—allowing the other midfielders around him to push further and become more involved in the attack as a result.
Plus he's excellent defensively, currently leading the club in tackles and interceptions per game.
RCM: Steven Gerrard
The other holding midfielder here is Gerrard, who has seen a shift further down the pitch under Rodgers this season—and to great effect as a result.
Bleacher Report's Liverpool expert Karl Matchett commented about Gerrard's shift back into the holding midfielders role, and how it allows better space for the likes of Suarez and company, and we could apply similar principles here if Coutinho arrived at the Merseyside club.
Gerrard is always a goal-scoring threat wherever he is on the pitch, so being further back won't take away that brilliant element from his game. But playing him as a defensive midfielder will help the Reds keep their shape and their possession game—pressing their opponents into making a mistake and then capitalizing on it with their strong attack.
LW: Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling, at just 18, has a very bright future ahead of him at Liverpool.
The young winger has blistering pace and a great ability to beat a man one-on-one, and has become an integral part of the Reds' attack this season as a result.
Sterling should have more than just the two goals and two assists to his name this season—wasteful finishing from both he and his teammates have kept those numbers down—but it should not detract from his strength as an attacker so far this year.
The addition of Daniel Sturridge will benefit Sterling further and further, as would the inclusion of Coutinho into the Reds' starting lineup. The pair will help the youngster work more efficiently with Suarez and not just look for the Uruguayan at every possible moment—something that will no doubt help the Reds' attack in the long run.
CAM: Philippe Coutinho
The central attacking midfielder or playmaker's role is exactly where Coutinho is most effective, and it's where Liverpool should play him in its starting side, should he arrive at the club.
In reality, the talented young Brazilian could line up anywhere in the Reds' attack, but it is through the middle that he is most effective. Being in the middle allows him to link up well with those around him and feed the likes of Suarez from behind—something that the Reds haven't really been able to do this season through the likes of Allen and Gerrard.
Coutinho would give them a genuine playmaker other than Suarez, and at just 20 years of age, a great long-term addition at Anfield for many years to come.
RW: Daniel Sturridge
With three goals in his opening three games for Liverpool, Sturridge must be given a permanent starting spot by Rodgers this year, and that position will likely come out on the right-hand side of the attack—pushing forward alongside Suarez.
Along with his goal-scoring prowess, Sturridge is completing his passes at a team-high 91.5 percent so far this year, and ranks highly in goal-scoring opportunities created for others this season.
The 23-year-old wasn't afforded the opportunity he desired at Chelsea, and now that he has it at Liverpool, he's taken hold of it with both hands so far.
Liverpool fans will simply be hoping that his attacking brilliance continues on for many years to come.
ST: Luis Suarez
Last but not least is Suarez, who dutifully takes his spot at the top of the Reds' attack here with one excellent midfield and attacking unit around him.
The addition of Sturridge and Coutinho to this starting side will alleviate pressure on him to find the back of the net and will also drag defensive attention away from him—allowing him more room to create and work his magisterial attacking skills this season.
Suarez might be averaging 5.9 shots per game, but his 16 goals from 22 appearances testify to the fact that it's worth it for the Merseyside club. He also leads the club in goal-scoring chances created for others throughout the year so far.
Any starting side and player additions are going to mean that some players miss out; you simply cannot fit 20 players on the field at the same time together, as much as you might like to.
This starting side is no exception to that, so let's take a look at some of the notable omissions from this Liverpool starting team to include Coutinho.
GK: The only other alternative to Reina is Brad Jones who, despite being strong this season, hasn't done enough to justify a permanent switch at the back from the Reds.
DEF: Jose Enrique has been hot and cold this season, but with the long-term signing of Wisdom, looks to have lost his starting spot out on the left-hand side of the field. Martin Kelly is also victim of this, though both are likely to make the substitutes bench.
MID: The presence of another midfielder means someone has to miss out, and the big losers here are Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva. Both have been superb this year and will likely rotate with the likes of Coutinho and Allen for starting positions and opportunities. Suso and Jonjo Shelvey still aren't quite constant first-team candidates at the moment.
ATT: Say what you want about Stewart Downing, but the man still continues to make the England national team—meaning that he must be doing something right. Sturridge's arrival and early success has likely forced him on the outer, with Fabio Borini another big loser from the success of both Sturridge and Sterling at Liverpool this year. Neither player deserves a starting berth more than the players mentioned.
How do you think Philippe Coutinho would work Liverpool's starting side?
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All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com