It’s very easy to laud or lambast someone after one game these days. Patience is at an all time low as fans take to Twitter, the internet, forums and phone ins to get stuck into players, managers and owners. So it is a pleasant surprise to see and hear so much praise for Philippe Coutinho after his first start in a red shirt.
Wearing the famous number 10 shirt, there is a lot of pressure on the frizzy haired young forward to make an instant impact.
After taking to the field when the chips were down against West Brom last Monday night, Coutinho had an hour to make his mark on the game on Sunday. And didn’t he do just that.
Realising that we were only playing Swansea City reserves and a team with one eye on the Capital One Cup final next weekend, I thought Coutinho was excellent. He reminds me a lot of another one of our mercurial number 10s of time gone by, Senor Luis Garcia. The loveable and frustrating Spaniard was full of flicks and tricks (infuriatingly so at times) and was always an attacking threat.
It is immediately clear to see that the Brazilian is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is comfortable in tight spaces. He proved this on a number of occasions by skipping past two or three men, or by releasing the ball with a back heel. He likes to beat a man and is deceptively quick.
Getting a goal on your first start is always something to treasure, not least because it gets the crowd on your side. It was a good goal too; the link up play between Suarez and Coutinho is hopefully something we will see a lot more of in the future. It wasn’t the best finish you’ll ever see and Vorm will probably be disappointed he’s not saved it, but the move was deserving of that result.
Things to improve on? There always are. I don’t know what Coutinho’s preferred position is, but he has been deployed on the left in his brief time with us so far. Attacking wise he looks very comfortable and I think he will be a valuable asset in a team lacking a bit of guile and skill. I have concerns defensively though and he did leave Jose Enrique isolated a couple of times in the first half.
Against a Swansea team who simply didn’t want to be there, that’s fine, but if he starts on the left in the future, which I think he will, then he needs to track back to the wide positions. He was tracking back but dropping to the centre of the pitch waiting for the attack to break down. Inevitably it did just that but against better teams, Enrique or any full back can’t be left with an overlap.
His size didn’t concern me once. He’s small but he has the ability to beat stronger players with swiftness of feet. He will of course lose physical battles but if he’s good enough, he’ll overcome that.
Overall though, in an hour I was very impressed with what I saw. It’s pleasing to see someone attacking and positive who can beat players with skill. I hope we see a lot more of this guy in the closing months of the season. Let’s use him as much as we can now the pressure is off us and get him ready to hit the ground running next season in full fitness and full understanding of the rigours of the English league.