On a day in which Philippe Coutinho kept his head to coolly finish a good move by Raheem Sterling and give Liverpool a 24th minute lead at Manchester City, it could seem harsh to lay any criticism on the Brazilian’s ability in front of goal.
However, his flat shots, which trickle wide of either post are worryingly becoming a trademark of Coutinho’s.
Not Taking Chances Against Manchester City
Inside the opening 20 minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, he had two weak efforts that gave Joe Hart no trouble whatsoever.
The superb Liverpool counter-attack on 39 minutes, started and ended by Coutinho—also involving Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez—resulted in Suarez playing in Coutinho inside the City penalty area, with only Hart to beat.
But Coutinho didn’t look up, failing to see the advancing England goalkeeper, and how much of the goal was open, inviting a lifted shot.
Instead, Coutinho kept his head down, relied on his instincts, shaped to shoot low and Hart smothered easily.
Just before City’s second goal, Coutinho again carried the ball forward superbly on the break for Liverpool.
He is brave to go in for loose balls against players much bigger than him, which has contributed to Liverpool moving possession into opponents’ halves many games this season.
His close control was excellent to help the Reds break forward, but Coutinho didn’t take the opportunity when he had space to shoot.
Instead, he ended up running the ball into a wall of City defenders, and shortly after, the home side took the ball up the other end of the pitch to take the lead.
His ineffectiveness in front of goal, or at least, his shooting ability, is a weak point of Coutinho’s game.
Consistently Poor Shots
According to Squawka, Coutinho has just a 41 percent shot accuracy rate—which is disappointing, if not poor, for an attacker.
He had had 20 shots off target, to his 14 on target, in his 12 appearances prior to Sunday’s game at City.
His shots lack vigor or thrust, with little instinct of where the goal his. He has failed to convert 97 percent of his shots this season.
On 68 minutes, Brendan Rodgers decided Coutinho’s game was over, and did right to bring on Victor Moses, who has proven to be clinical in front of goal, to chase Liverpool’s equaliser.
Only One Aspect Of His Game
Coutinho is still only 21-years-old and has plenty of time in his career to improve his all-round game.
However, Liverpool don’t get another chance to win the points they drop, and age should never be an excuse for an under-performing first-team player.
That’s not to say Coutinho isn’t worthy of a regular place in Liverpool’s starting line-up—there’s plenty of very high positives from his game.
His pacey runs can hit teams brilliantly on the attack.
His through-balls, even when turning with his back against the attacking direction, can be exquisite and something Liverpool should take advantage of.
Coutinho wasn’t alone for Liverpool in weak finishing today, either. Glen Johnson and Sterling both spurned great opportunities during the second half.
As Rodgers takes the Reds to Chelsea on Sunday, and into 2014, Coutinho and Liverpool must look to take their chances if they are to continue to compete in the top four for the remainder of the season.