Premier League: Grading Philippe Coutinho's Full Liverpool Debut vs. Swansea
Brendan Rodgers hopes Coutinho can sharpen Liverpool's offence—much like Sturridge has done since joining from Chelsea—and intends on using the 20-year-old sparingly across his first few weeks with the club (via ITV Sport). Luckily for the Merseyside outfit, the home fixture against Swansea proved to be the perfect moment for Coutinho's introduction.
Observing Coutinho's Performance
Despite recent losses to West Bromwich Albion and Zenit St. Petersburg, Liverpool have played some exceptional football since the turn of the year. Coutinho slotted into a side that fancies itself against anyone at Anfield.
His first real moment of prominence came as Luis Suarez lined up a free kick in the early stages. The tiny Brazilian looked dainty as Kemy Agustien and Ross Bartley pushed him aside, indicating physicality could be a problem as the game progressed.
Similar to Oscar at Chelsea, clever movement and technical ability soon quashed any suggestion of a player who will struggle in England's top division.
Coutinho had a chance to open the scoring with 25 minutes on the clock. Daniel Sturridge's fantastic burst into the box was met with a stern challenge from Agustien. Referee Howard Webb could have easily given a penalty, but the ball kindly dropped to Coutinho, who should have slotted into a gaping net from 12 yards.
Shortly after this incident, Coutinho weighted a fine pass through the Swansea defence and into the gloves of Michel Vorm. Daniel Sturridge was inches away from latching onto a deft delivery that took the visiting back four completely out of the game.
Liverpool's second half glut took just 16 seconds to get going after the restart. Luis Suarez—who was inspirational throughout—played a pacey ball into Coutinho's path. The youngster received the pass with confidence, shimmied in front of Swansea's final defender and powered the ball past Vorm's grip.
Suarez pulled the strings once again two minutes later. Coutinho latched onto a fine ball across Swansea's goal, but couldn't convert from inside the box. Although under pressure, he will be disappointed with his failure to finish, and probably overthought the opportunity too much.
Ten minutes after this—with Liverpool cruising on the hour mark—Coutinho was substituted.
A Statistical Breakdown of Coutinho's Performance
As expected, Coutinho's debut is best summarised with offensive statistics. The attacking midfielder hit the target with one of his five shots, which just so happened to add a second goal for Rodgers' team.
He completed one dribble and contributed 23 passes—the least amount of any outfield Liverpool starter. Out of these passes, 78 per cent found a colleague. This was the second lowest success rate of any Liverpool player, with Jose Enrique completing 77 per cent.
From a defensive perspective, Coutinho made one tackle and one interception.
How do you rate Coutinho's performance against Swansea?
Final Comments and Grading
Brendan Rodgers will be extremely pleased with Coutinho's first start in Liverpool colours. The 20-year-old was lively in a one-sided match that was dominated by the Reds' more experienced players.
Coutinho was fairly effective moving forward. He showed intelligent movement and an eye for goal—although he really could have netted a debut hat-trick. A handful of passes went astray when under pressure, but at this stage, Coutinho's potential is there for all to see.
One thing's for sure: the midfielder will face tougher tests immediately. Michael Laudrup set his side up with no intention of winning this game. The likes of Michu, Ashley Williams and Chico were missing as the Welsh outfit rested key players for the upcoming Capital One Cup final.
Overall, nobody can argue with Coutinho's effort. Liverpool fans should be excited to see more in the near future.
Do you agree with my assessment of Coutinho's debut? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter:
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.
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