19 Oct 2015

Veiled Threat? After Spurs fail, Klopp warns £30m Liverpool star to 'play better'.

Philippe Coutinho is undoubtedly one of Liverpool's most exciting players, but he is, unfortunately, stricken by inconsistency, which reared its ugly head again during Saturday's 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. Coutinho was largely anonymous against Spurs, and this didn't escape the notice of new Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, who has indirectly warned the Brazilian that he needs to improve.

When asked about Coutinho's performance against Spurs, Klopp told reporters:

"Philippe Coutinho? Do you not think he can play better football than today? Of course, he can".

It's good to hear Klopp telling it like it is. He's basically delivered a veiled warning to Coutinho, but he's done so in a manner that isn't likely to alienate the player.

It's arguably good man-management, and after three years of Rodgers' sycophantic schtick, it's refreshing to see a more realistic managerial approach at Anfield.

Coutinho can definitely play better. The speed and congestion of the Spurs match seemed to overwhelm him, and this directly impacted on his ability to influence the game:

* Only 37 passes for the whole game (one of the lowest in the team) which shows Coutinho wasn't involved enough in the match.

* Caught in possession six times, and achieved a comparatively low 79% passing accuracy.

* Only one shot on goal, and one key pass for the entire game.

With the current injury situation, £30m-rated Coutinho is an automatic starter through necessity, but there's a specific threat on the horizon with the potential to change that: Roberto Firmino.

* Klopp tried to sign Firmino during his Dortmund days, so it's clear he rates the Brazilian attacker.

* Like Coutinho, Firmino's best position is the number-10 role, and if Klopp continues with his preferred 4231 formation, he may decide that Firmino is his first-choice for the job.

* If that's the case, Coutinho will have to make do with a wide role in the team, but given the intense competition for places, there are no guarantees.

I just don't see how a balanced Liverpool team can consistently accommodate both Coutinho and Firmino. With both in the side one or the other will constantly be played out of position, and that's not an effective long-term strategy.

Just look at the Spurs game: Coutinho played on the left of the front-three, and became a passenger, so playing him there should no longer be an option.

In my view, Coutinho should play as a number-10, or not at all. If someone has to play wider, it should be Firmino, who played left/right wing 40 times for Hoffenheim (11 goals/assists), and is consequently more suited to the role.

Author: Jaimie K


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