Jürgen Klopp has recently said that he sees Philippe Coutinho’s future in midfield, not as a winger where he has been deported this season.
This has got fans very excited to see the little magician pulling the strings from the centre of the pitch, a role he previously played under Brendan Rodgers in the 2013/14 season with great success.
When Klopp said this, plenty of fans would have thought that this change iwould have taken place next season, not the very next game! Coutinho started Liverpool’s must win game against West Ham in a midfield diamond behind Adam Lallana who was playing as a 10 and he was sensational.
Liverpool have recently had major problems breaking down defences and Coutinho moving into midfield fixed that at London Stadium. In a deeper role, the little Brazilian’s creativity flourished. He saw much more of the pitch in front of him allowing him to control play better.
His passing breaks lines, as we saw against West Ham with his amazing assist for Daniel Sturridge’s opener. Coutinho is Liverpool’s most creative player and with him playing in midfield it allows him to shine to his full potential.
His mesmerising runs as he dribbles past a few defenders before placing an inch perfect pass or taking a bullet of a shot will carve open most defences and no other midfielder at the club has that ability. His two goals at West Ham were wonderfully taken and came from deep runs into the box from midfield.
West Ham was arguably one of Coutinho’s best performances in his Liverpool career and it comes as no shock that it was in a central role. Opponents often double up on Coutinho when he plays on the wing, making it difficult for him to get into the game, but playing in a deeper central role allows him to roam freely, making it very hard of defenders to track him. A move to midfield vastly improved Lallana’s game this season and it could have a similar effect on Coutinho.
Now, Coutinho won’t need to drift centrally when he isn’t involved in the game, which leaves James Milner to do most of the attacking on the left flank. In this new role, he will get more chances to take shots on goal, more chances to play a killer through ball and more chances to run at defenders with his sublime dribbling skills. All of the 24-year-old’s strengths will be enhanced with this position change.
Liverpool have recently been deploying a midfield three of Lucas Leiva, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum, which provided a lot of defensive stability but no real creative spark. Coutinho provideds the cutting edge that the midfield has lacked in recent weeks and Liverpool won’t lose a lot of steel in midfield with playing Coutinho there. A very underrated part of his game is his workrate and defensive contribution. He won’t leave the midfield exposed, you can rely on him to track back and press.
Another benefit in changing Coutinho’s position is that it leaves a vacancy at left wing, giving Liverpool an opportunity to purchase a proper winger. Sadio Mané has shown this season how much Liverpool rely on pace out wide and when the Senegalese winger has been out of the side, no other player has been able to offer what he does to the team. So with Coutinho playing in midfield that allows Liverpool to play another pacey winger, someone like Roma’s Mohamed Salah. Having two proper wingers in the side will make Liverpool a better attacking force and far more balanced side
Coutinho is an amazing player but he has been too inconsistent to be considered world class. A move to midfield could be what takes him to that next bracket.