Breaking Down How Philippe Coutinho Will Fit in Liverpool's Attack

COMO, ITALY - JULY 24:  Correia Philippe Coutinho of FC Internazionale Milano looks on during the pre-Season training camp match between Calcio Como and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio G. Sinigaglia on July 24, 2012 in Como, Italy.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2013

On Sunday, Brendan Rodgers decided to experiment with an attacking 4-2-4 lineup that saw Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini all start the contest.

After Oldham knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup, 3-2, and Rodgers subbed Borini out of the game early in the second half, it was obvious the strategy hadn't entirely worked.

Enter Philippe Coutinho. The 20-year-old midfielder from Inter Milan was recently signed by the Reds, as reported by BBC Sport:

Coutinho is capable of playing out on the wing if that's where Rodgers wants to employ him. He's got the pace and ability to take on defenders one-on-one to flourish out wide. But where Liverpool could really use him is settling in behind the striker in a central, attacking midfield type of role.

If Liverpool goes back to Rodgers' traditional 4-3-3, Coutinho would look nice atop the midfield triangle, a role one would imagine the manager envisioned for Gylfi Sigurdsson this summer before the player chose to sign with Tottenham.

Or, if Rodgers continues to play a dual-striker system with Suarez and SturridgeCoutinho would fit in well atop the diamond in a 4-1-2-1-2 system.

Still, I think Liverpool is best off returning to a 4-3-3 system and using Coutinho ahead of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva. There, Coutinho can link up with Suarez and overlap with Sterling, Borini or Sturridge, all of whom like to cut in and play centrally.

If the chemistry is there, the interchange could be seamless, as Coutinho could give full-backs headaches by making runs down the wings. Still, given the creative nature of his game and ability to find teammates with incisive passes, he's best off in a central, playmaking role for Liverpool.

It would be nice to have a talisman in Liverpool's attack. Suarez should always be the focal point near the box, but Liverpool had no width on Sunday, bunching up inside and making the job for the defense much easier.

A player like Coutinho can spread the ball around, lead his teammates into the open spaces and give Liverpool's attack a much-needed dose of imagination. Too often this season, Liverpool's attack has been built around getting Suarez into space and letting the striker do his thing.

Coutinho is going to have to adjust to the Premier League, and at just 20 years of age may not be ready to step in and be a consistent first-team choice for Liverpool just yet. But the team should give him plenty of playing time, and this move to Anfield could be just what Coutinho needs to take the next step in his career.

He should fit in with Liverpool quite nicely. It's up to Rodgers and the rest of the Reds to make sure he does.


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