The potential in the young Brazilian has always been plain to see, but he has yet to elevate himself to being able to rub shoulders with the world’s best in his position. Could that be about to change this season?
Before the final international break of 2016, Coutinho had already racked up 5 goals (see video below), equalling his total output from the entirety of each of his first three terms with Liverpool. In addition to that, he has 6 assists to his name. If the attacker can continue this strong output over the course of the season, he should easily be able to beat Riyad Mahrez’s 17 goals and 11 assists, and Eden Hazard’s 14 goals and 10 assists notched during the two players’ respective Player of the Year winning campaigns.
The best football odds at the time of writing see the South American star at 7/1 to claim the accolade next year. Unfortunately, in the Sunderland tie the Brazilian was carried off on a stretcher. Hopefully it isn’t too serious as this would clearly dent his chances of winning the coveted trophy. Aside from that setback, the player has been in great spirits all season.
Coutinho has relished in the role and guidance given to him by new Reds manager Jurgen Klopp. In an interview with the Daily Express the midfielder said: “He gives confidence to the players. I think today we believe more in our potential and that has made us better on the field.”
Klopp has also created a free-flowing interchangeable attack in which Coutinho can thrive, and not stick to rigid positioning. The 24-year-old admitted: “I like the position I am now playing. What I like most about it is that I don’t have to stay in one place. I have the freedom to move around. The manager is comfortable with me doing it and that has given me the confidence to go and play. I am linking up well with other players on the pitch. And when the team is playing well, the individuals in the team look like they are playing better.”
Coutinho is certainly right about the team playing well, and Klopp’s side now look like serious title contenders. After eleven games, they had scored 30 goals, putting them on track to beating their impressive tally of 101 in the 2013-14 season when they came so close to topping the table.
It’s fair to say that Chelsea’s Hazard is the player for Coutinho to beat, and delving into the stats from Fantasy Football Scout the Liverpool number 10 is just edging his Blues counterpart in terms of attacking threat. The Brazilian is averaging 4.1 attempts on goal per match to the Belgian’s 2.8, and is creating a chance every 29.9 minutes to the former Lille man’s 41.2. Coutinho needs to work on his shot accuracy (32.7%), though, as Hazard is far superior with 41.7% of his shots hitting the target.
At the tender age of 24, Coutinho is yet to reach his maximum potential. With quality players around him like Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, and the belief that Klopp has instilled, the midfield magician could be about to become one of the biggest names in world football. Let’s hope he has a speedy recovery and gets back out there to terrorise the opposition defences.