Why Liverpool aren’t missing Philippe Coutinho
When Coutinho departed for Barcelona in January, Liverpool did not make any effort to hide their disappointment.
After resisting offers from the Catalans in the summer transfer window they were hopeful that they had convinced the Brazilian to stay at Anfield long-term.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, Coutinho wanted the move, Barcelona wanted their man and the money being offered meant that Liverpool had little left to do but accept it and move on.
They did so begrudgingly, though, because losing the Brazilian playmaker was a blow that some felt they might not get over.
In recent years Coutinho had developed into their key man, scoring big goals and consistently putting in top performances domestically and in Europe. Losing him would be a blow that they could not get over, some predicted.
However, that has not been the case. Rather than falling apart without Coutinho’s creative influence, Liverpool have continued as they were without him and in some regards, improved.
In his absence, their point per game total has increased and so has their win percentage. Statistics like goals scored per game and their chances converted have taken a similar upswing. So far, it appears Coutinho has not been missed.
Given his brilliance over the last year, how can that be the case? Much of it is down the player himself.
While Coutinho is undoubtedly a player with plenty of talent, he was often one that became too eager to produce world-class goals on a regular basis, making ridiculous efforts from ridiculous places.
Occasionally those efforts ended up in the back of the net and earned him widespread praise but more often than not they ended up high in the stands and ruined a perfectly good opportunity in the process.
The problem was his teammates became reliant on him producing those moments to help them out of a tight spot. Without him, though, they have turned into more of a team.
Instead of relying on him to produce a moment of magic they now play it smarter, waiting for their opportunities and taking them with clinical precision.
The recent defeat of Newcastle United was a perfect example of this fact. Earlier in the season, Liverpool needed a wonder goal from Coutinho to secure a point at St James Park.
In the return meeting at Anfield, they were again faced with Rafa Benitez employing a deep-lying defence to frustrate them but rather than having to rely on a wonder goal to secure a point they played it calm, worked as a team and eventually walked away with a comfortable 2-0 win.
Liverpool still have star players, particularly the ever impressive Mohamed Salah, but they are no longer beholden to one man creating a moment of magic to win them points.
Instead, they are now a unit, all moving in the same direction and look far more suited to the way Jurgen Klopp wants them to play than they were with Coutinho in the side.
Losing him was a disappointment, nobody is denying that, but in his departure may have just been what this Liverpool team needed to help them move forward. So far, the stats suggest that is exactly what they are doing.