We’ve all done it; made excuses for a new signing in a foreign country and constantly claimed that they need the now mythical “time to settle in.”
Some players, and they don’t even have to be foreign ones, even hide behind that excuse for as long as they possibly can during their time at a new club. Liverpool have been no stranger to such players over the past few years, but it appears that their new Brazilian No. 10 isn’t one of them.
As he made clear in an interview on Sunday (The Telegraph), Philippe Coutinho has settled into Liverpool life quickly―and it is showing in his performances on the pitch.
Although only 20, Coutinho brings Liverpool a greater experience in the attacking third than they could call upon for the majority of the first half of their season.
The first few months of the campaign saw Brendan Rodgers regularly call upon the teenagers Raheem Sterling and Suso to play either side of Luis Suarez.
There is little doubt that the youngsters are prodigiously talented, but the pair are also tactically raw.
Coutinho, having played for Brazil and in the top leagues in his homeland, Italy and Spain, brings more of an understanding of the top-flight of the game, and crucially he retains more of an ability to link up with a fellow gifted performer in Suarez.
Rodgers has used his new Brazilian signing in different roles already during his brief Liverpool career.
In matches such as the home wins over Swansea and Tottenham when Daniel Sturridge was chosen to start, Suarez drifted to the left of the attack and that meant Coutinho dropped a little deeper into midfield.
As he stated in that interview above he prefers to play from the left hand side, and so a potent trio of Suarez, Coutinho and Jose Enrique was formed down that side, often with spectacular results. Liverpool scored eight goals in those two games, all of those three players bagged at least one of them and the trio were involved in seven of the strikes―all bar Stewart Downing’s equaliser against Spurs.
Sturridge’s niggling injuries have seen the forward drop out of the side on occasion, with Suarez becoming the central forward, Coutinho moving up on the left and an extra midfielder added, such as Jordan Henderson or Joe Allen.
In the 4-0 win at Wigan this approach worked brilliantly, with Coutinho creating goals for Downing and Suarez inside the first 18 minutes, while the Brazilian also supplied a goal for Henderson at Aston Villa from this position with a sublime through ball.
Both approaches have had their positives then, and Rodgers is likely to alternate between the two depending on the availability of individuals for at least the remainder of this campaign.
Adding a player of the Suarez's quality will of course be difficult for Liverpool or indeed any other club to do this summer, but should the Reds recruit someone to replicate Suarez’s role on the right of the attack―a player with more of a forward’s instinct than Downing―then the attacking prowess of this side will be clear to see.
With Coutinho playing the deeper role and popping up in tandem with Suarez and Enrique―as Glen Johnson and Downing or the new recruit do the same job on the right―then the Brazilian’s role becomes even more key. He will take on an even greater responsibility than he has already shown he can handle.
His link with Sturridge will be key in this system, and with the thought of it no doubt whetting supporters’ appetites ahead of the new campaign then fans will want August to roll around as soon as possible.
Coutinho will be even more settled in than he already is by then, and he won’t want anyone to make excuses for him.
The signs are that they won’t have to.
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