The fact that Liverpool haven’t brought a dominant attacking midfielder works in the best interests of Philippe Coutinho, who just might continue to build on what he started last season after arriving midway through the season to the club, and become one of the best reasons to watch a match next season in the Premier League.
Coutinho is, like most modern playmakers, an attacking midfielder who begins his role on the wing – the left in his case. He finished with a very impressive 3 goals and 7 assists for Liverpool in the 13 matches he managed to squeeze in after being signed in January. With him in the lineup, Liverpool lost only one match out of 12, and he was a big part in their impressive 5-0 (over Swansea) and 6-0 (over Newcaslte) wins late in the season, leaving a good taste after a mostly disappointing season for the club.
But Coutinho carries on that taste and hope into the preseason and preparation matches. Not just the goals or the assists. He gives Liverpool a player they haven’t had in a very long time. A creative player, elegant, smart yet with enough physical attributes to feel comfortable in the Premier League. Unlike Oscar, who cost three times as much as Coutinho, Liverpool’s Brazilian had no problem adapting quite quickly to the Premier League.
Maybe it was his time playing in the Serie A and a bit for Espanyol in the La Liga, but maybe Coutinho needed a team to finally give him a chance. He had plenty of ups & downs at Inter as a teenager, and was almost regarded as a flop after three seasons at the club, arriving at wrong time – the decline of the post-Mourinho era.
More importantly – Coutinho meshed very well with the players next to him, and especially with Daniel Sturridge. Luis Suarez, as of now, is still with the team, but there’s more than a good chance that Sturridge will be a bigger part than initially thought if the Uruguayan gets his way. It’s still soon to tell who will be the starting forwards for the team, with Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto i nthe mix as well.
But Coutinho just might be the team’s most important player. Steven Gerrard remains a driving force in the middle of the pitch, hardly missing a beat last season, but it’s clear that at 33, relying on him to do both the defensive work and build the attacks is impossible. He helps where he can, but finishing touches usually come from somewhere else. Gerrard? He has more time to go unnoticed from behind and into the box, scoring nine league goals last season. He needs only two to reach the 100 Premier League goals mark.
But back to Coutinho. Last season’s tenure with the club was too short for him to hit a down period, which will obviously come at some point this time around. Rising back up from bad matches will be the indicator as to how big he can be for Liverpool and in general for himself, as the 21-year old enters one of the most important seasons he’ll ever have.