I’m not usually someone who encourages impatience with new signings, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here – but Philippe Coutinho brings something to Liverpool that they haven’t had for a long time, and it will be interesting to see how he fits into Brendan Rodgers’ philosophy at Anfield.
When he signed for the club, the obvious merits he brought with him were both his positional dexterity and his imagination in the attacking areas. Not so much this season, but certainly during Kenny Dalglish’s reign, Liverpool lacked guile in their play and were almost reliant on grinding through sides rather than unpicking them methodically. Rodgers has improved that, and he’s made this side far harder to defend against – but Coutinho, as and when he beds into the side, will accentuate that further.
The Brazilian isn’t a world-beater, but he’s really good in the kind of short-passing, technical system which Rodgers has installed at Liverpool and that’s why this is such a good signing: manager and player are a perfect fit for one another. He’s excellent with the ball at his feet, has good awareness of what’s around him, and will be a creative asset to Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez ahead of him.
He probably won’t start tonight, and as and when he’s given that opportunity it will probably be as one of the advanced wide players that Rodgers uses in his formation – this Liverpool midfield is functioning well at the moment, and there’s no need to disrupt that balance. Expect him to be given some minutes in the wide left position against West Brom.
Not to put pressure on Coutinho, but I fully expect that within six months there will be questions as to why Liverpool were the only Premier League club to take a chance on him. This is going to look like a very, very good piece of business before too long.