5 Things Philippe Coutinho Must Do to Take His Game Forward in 2014/15 Season
Philippe Coutinho is coming up to the two-year mark in his time at Liverpool, a period in which he has played an important role in helping the side return to challenging for honours in the Premier League.
However, the 2014-15 season is big for both player and club. The Reds must prove that they can challenge once more, even without Suarez and an increased playing program. Coutinho, meanwhile, has to take his game from promising to outstanding.
That is the potential he has. He is now at a club that is looking for success and back in the Brazil national team but such sides demand excellence. He has shown glimpses of such, but at 22 it is time to begin making the next step up.
Where, then, must the Brazilian focus his attentions?
Coutinho is a sublimely talented player but does need to work on his chance conversion if he is to become a truly top-level No. 10 in the long-term.
One goal in 10 appearances for the Reds this season is frankly not a good enough return for a player who, at his peak, should be hitting 15-20 goals a season. He has a long way to go in that respect.
The Brazilian takes just 1.1 shots per game, per WhoScored.com, and he must do more to get himself in the right areas. However, one goal from 15 shots is also a poor return for a player of his ability. He could be doing much better.
For the moment, one of the most frustrating aspects of Coutinho's game is his inability to consistently bring his A-game to the table for a sustained period.
He is a player who is starring in fits and starts, not uncommon for someone of his age, but Liverpool require more of their No. 10 over the next 12 months.
As he gains experience in the Premier League he needs to become one of the side's core players, those who can be relied upon to show up eight or nine times out of 10.
At the moment, he is not quite at that level.
A key part of becoming an established star in football is to take responsibility and step up in big games. Coutinho's record is not bad against better opponents, but Liverpool also need him to turn up when they are struggling for form.
At the moment, he is one of what would be perceived as the softer players in the side who can go missing for long periods.
What separates the best players from the rest is their ability to battle through those periods and influence games. Coutinho still has much to prove in that respect.
Lasting 90 Minutes
In 12 appearances for club and country this campaign, the attacking midfielder has lasted 90 minutes on just one occasion. It is not good enough.
While on several of those occasions he has been a substitute to begin with, there is a feeling that the Brazilian often fades in the second half of games, or disappears entirely.
To be regarded as a key player at Anfield, he has to be playing 90 minutes more often than not. That means he must justify staying on the pitch right until the final whistle.
Over recent months Coutinho has increasingly been used as a No. 8 by Brendan Rodgers and has arguably been better in that role than his more natural No. 10 position.
However, if he is to truly excel in the centre of midfield he needs to work harder off the ball and improve his currently weak defensive statistics.
Teammate Raheem Sterling is a great example of a forward-thinking player who leads from the front when it comes to defending and Coutinho must work similarly hard if he is to continue in his new role.
It could be the difference between being a squad option and a long-term starter for both Liverpool and Brazil.