If you thought Luis Suarez was happy about getting a striker to play next to in Daniel Sturridge (missing the match due to injury), having an attacking midfielder in the mold of classic play-makers like Philippe Coutinho feeding him through balls is probably making him, and everyone on the Liverpool team, more than slightly happy.
While an eyebrow or two were raised when Liverpool spent £8.5 million on a young Brazilian who hasn’t gotten too many chances this season with Inter, the initial results show that Brendan Rodgers and the people in charge of purchase at Liverpool know what they’re doing at this stage of the season. Coutinho brings a midfield presence that’s different than what was on the team before – a true no.10, commanding the ball and with the passing ability that Shelvey, tried at the position more than once this season, simply doesn’t have at this stage of his career.
And Luis Suarez simply blossomed. You’ll see the same kind of effort from Suarez in every match he plays; one of the hardest working strikers and stars in Europe, but he doesn’t reach 21 goals (after a hat-trick) just because of hard work. Even without any midfield support, Suarez is good for two-three pretty decent chances every match. But when Liverpool click from the first minute, scoring within the opening two? It’s an easy day for the Uruguayan striker.
Maybe Brendan Rodgers will eventually be judged for the players he brought in January, and not for Joe Allen, who is young and shouldn’t be given up on just yet, but at the moment looks like a complete waste of money, while Swansea are rubbing their hands with joy not believing they actually duped someone to pay so much for a midfielder who isn’t dominant enough offensively, and isn’t physical enough to be regarded as a DM that you can count on.
Maybe once Steven Gerrard steps down (still not missing a single minute this season), Allen can take more responsibility in the middle of the field and show his skills and ability as the barometer of this team. Jordan Henderson isn’t that type of player, but in fewer minutes has shown he’s much more suited to whatever it is that’s inconsistently been brewing at Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers, that looked like the failing continuation of Kenny Dalglish’s season, but has been doing much better recently, including a 9-0 scoreline in their two most recent wins.
What’s the true Liverpool? The one that struggled so badly when visiting Russia in the 2-0 loss to Zenit, with Glen Johnson and the defense looking miserable whenever challenged to make a stop against a quality attack? Or the team that destroyed without a problem a less-than-caring Swansea side and a possibly relegation bound Wigan team, that have a manager who was a higher priority than Rodgers to take over the manager position before the season began?
There have been a few phases in the evolution (and a few backwards steps) in what the Liverpool midfield has looked like this season, but maybe in Coutinho Rodgers has the kind of final-pass guy he feels he’s been missing all season.