Given the context that surrounded Liverpool’s visit to Newcastle on Saturday, the eventual 6-0 victory should arguably be given a lot more respect than it has been.
Following another week in which Luis Suarez had placed the Reds in the wrong kind of headlines, all eyes were on Brendan Rodgers’ side as they made the visit to a team desperate for a healthy victory to pretty much put to bed any lingering fears of relegation. In the event, Liverpool inflicted the biggest home defeat in 88 years upon their north-east hosts. They were ruthless.
Despite the lack of Suarez, despite the fact that they don’t really have much left to play for this season and despite the reality that it was the Magpies who needed the three points much, much more, Liverpool were superb at St. James’ Park. Much of that was down to one man.
Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva were all noticeably terrific on Saturday, but it was Philippe Coutinho who shone above them all.
The 20-year-old Brazilian turned in easily his best display in what has already been a lively Liverpool career at Newcastle on Saturday, when he was directly involved in three of Liverpool’s six goals and came close to grabbing one himself.
Since his arrival from Inter Milan in January―for what already looks to be a bargain £8.5 million when you stack it up against the money that the Reds have spent in recent years―Coutinho has shown the Reds what they were missing in their first six months under Rodgers.
Following the transfer failings of the summer window the Reds were left relying upon the twin elements of youthful promise―Raheem Sterling, Suso, Jonjo Shelvey―and the ability to recover lost confidence―Stewart Downing, Henderson―as they looked to provide support for the two established world-class attacking forces in their squad in Suarez and Steven Gerrard.
Too often there would be too much speed and not enough haste in the way Liverpool attacked in the first half of the season. Everything had to be done at 100 miles per hour or not at all.
With the addition of Coutinho, and indeed Sturridge, that extra second of time that the good teams need has become apparent.
It was visible in Coutinho’s passes to Sturridge that led to the second and third goals at Newcastle, where the Brazlian’s quality and ability to thread a through ball helped to establish Liverpool’s dominance and saw them cut an admittedly obliging home defence to ribbons.
On the touchline, Rodgers was beaming. He will no doubt be seeing Coutinho as the key addition to a squad he has now stamped his authority on.
The Reds boss has urged caution over Coutinho and is stressing not to expect too much too soon (LiverpoolFC.com), as he hopes that the midfielder will avoid falling into the trap of being built up in order to be knocked down, but it is hard to avoid waxing lyrical about him.
Going forward into next season, Rodgers will hope to add even more attacking quality to a side that is slowly beginning to take shape.
The battle to keep hold of Suarez might be the one that engages most of the football media over the summer, but the challenge to get in even more players who Coutinho can spark off could be just as important.
It is reasonable to believe that the Brazilian’s gradual introduction to life in England will only serve to stand him in even greater stead to make a big impact next season, and with that prospect sure to excite Reds fans worldwide, this looks to be a space to watch over the coming months.
Watching Coutinho can be a difficult job, though, as Premier League defenders are finding out.