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What Loss of Philippe Coutinho to Injury Will Mean for Liverpool

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 16:  Liverpool player Phillipe Coutinho (l) gets past Leon Britton of Swansea during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2016

While there were plenty of positives for Liverpool to take from their 2-2 draw with Swansea City, not least of all returning to the top of the Premier League table, the big concern that the Reds were left with was the injury to Philippe Coutinho.

Having been crudely and purposely hacked down by Swans skipper Ashley Williams, the Brazilian playmaker battled on for a few minutes before succumbing to pain and having to be substituted.

As per Liverpool's official site, the injury arising from the challenge has resulted in a "surgical stabilisation" procedure needing to take place on Coutinho's shoulder, meaning he will be out for around six weeks.

A key member of Liverpool's starting XI, Coutinho's absence will mean a shifting around of personnel for the next few games.

While he has been playing from a left-sided role for most of the start of the current campaign, Coutinho's proper position is from the No. 10 role, as an attacking midfielder through the centre. He played most of the match against Swansea in that position, thanks to the arrival and debut of Victor Moses to occupy the left-sided place in the attack.

Liverpool's next game is against Southampton at Anfield, and the likelihood is that Iago Aspas will come back into the starting XI for that fixture in a straight swap, with little need to change any of the rest of the attack.

One match later, though, will see the return of Luis Suarez from suspension.

Suarez and Daniel Sturridge flourished last season as an attacking partnership, often with the Uruguayan playing in the deeper role through the centre, so that could easily be a quick remedy for manager Brendan Rodgers to turn to for league games through October.

Following two transfer windows in succession where the Reds have considerably beefed up their options in attack, the manager is far from short of choices to change around his side.

The more pertinent question will be how to integrate Suarez back into the side while not leaving the midfield light on protection, which may well perhaps mean Jordan Henderson is the option to switch central, with Suarez playing wide.

Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion are the league games that the Reds face between now and the end of October, when Coutinho is scheduled to return.

While none are the very top-end sides, all will take work to break down and find routes to goal through, and Coutinho's on-the-ball vision and creative passing cannot be replaced directly by any one player in the squad.

It will have to be through tactical innovation and the talents of the likes of Suarez and Sturridge that Liverpool prosper over the next few weeks, with the intriguing selection dilemma of how to fit those two and Coutinho into the same attack delayed for a little longer yet.

 

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