Liverpool: Where Should Philippe Coutinho Be Played for Anfield Success?
Philippe Coutinho has been a wild success at Anfield since joining in January.
The £8.5 million man has lit up Liverpool's side with attacking flair and forged a superb partnership with both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in a matter of three short months.
It's fair to say he was a little bit of a gamble given his age, price and the potential adaption period to the physicality of the English Premier League, but he's prospered instantaneously, adding a dimension Rodgers' side was truly lacking.
After an incredible performance against Newcastle United, in which the Reds recorded a convincing 6-0 win, Brendan Rodgers has urged fans to temper their expectations of the young, improving playmaker (via LiverpoolFC.com):
He's had an outstanding performance and people can see why we brought him in. He's 20 years of age and fits the culture of what we're trying to do here.
He's technically strong and he's a very humble boy. He works hard, you can see the effort in his game, the pressure, the intensity, so he fits in really well, but there's a long way to go.
He came with a reputation of being a killer-ball merchant, a man who would always look to thread it through, and Inter Milan fans enjoyed his attacking, incisive approach in and around the box.
He's quickly proven he can handle the kicks and knocks in the league: Defenders and midfielders are trying to rough him up, but no one can stop him. Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa have also been torn apart by the little wizard's vision.
Rodgers has used him as a No. 10 behind the striker and as a left winger in a 4-2-3-1-esque formation.
Both positions have seen him impress, but which is best?
It's a debate that will dominate the team discussion leading up to the Merseyside derby, and yet his position could differ once more when Luis Suarez is reintroduced to the lineup next season.
Looking at Rodgers' squad and formation options, the role on the left looks a good bet for him to prosper in long-term, be it in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3.
Flanks-wise, he plays a Shinji Kagawa-esque role: He's not a true wide man, staying five feet infield whenever possible, and he likes to drop in behind the full-back.
Taking advantage of that space is crucial, and that gives him the few seconds required to get his head up and find the striker's run.
And boy, can he pick out a run.
With Steven Gerrard as a deep-lying playmaker and Suarez and Sturridge on the field, Coutinho will rarely be locked out of the game. No team can expend that many players to man-mark, and fairly or unfairly, Coutinho is often viewed as the least dangerous of the three front men.
The Brazilian has adapted superbly and provided the X-Factor Rodgers' system was lacking—he favours possession, but allowances must be made to create clear-cut chances.
Coutinho has the skill set to play as a No. 10 or as a central winger, but Anfield success for him lays out on the left for the time being.
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