Date: 1st February 2013 at 5:30pm
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“I’m a player who likes to make moves and to play along with the attack, passing as well as scoring. I like dribbling and playing near to the box – that is a strength I have.” – Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool FC announced the signing of playmaker Philippe Coutinho on Wednesday for a fee reported to be £8.5 million.

Finally, the average Liverpool supporter’s dream of having a player with the name ending “inho” has become a reality.

Much has been made of the Brazilian midfielder with some areas of the press already trying to apply some pressure on the transfer by labelling it a ‘gamble’. In my opinion at £8.5m I don’t think it’s much of a gamble. Coutinho has played in the top European leagues already as well as European competitions and last season with Espanyol, where he was a regular during his loan.

If you were to compare him with Man Utd’s new signing Wilfred Zaha – which one would you go for at the prices being quoted? Zaha has only ever played football in the Championship – and there are a lot of players that never made a successful transition to Premier League football – so does the risk or ‘gamble’ apply to that transfer too? Nobody in the press has mentioned this, as of yet…

Coutinho Position

Philippe can play in a variety of positions and within the 4-2-3-1 he can fit into any of the positions behind the striker. Mauricio Pochettino, Southampton’s new coach who managed Coutinho at Espanyol last season, preferred to play him as the left-sided attacker but also experimented in the other positions.

“We all know who Coutinho is, and that he is a quality player.” – Mauricio Pochettino

For Liverpool it has been Raheem Sterling that has occupied this position the most. It will be interesting to see how their stats compare. There has also been talk of Luis Suarez playing from the left and after looking at some of Luis’ stats from the 2011/12 season there are a few comparisons to the young Brazilian:

Stats Comparison Mins per Shot Mins per Goal Mins per Successful Dribble Mins Per Chance Created Pass Accuracy% Cross Accuracy%
Coutinho 11/12 (Espanyol) 30.45 243.6 50.75 87 78.70% 26%
Sterling 12/13 74.13 852.5 38.75 48.71 85% 16%
Suarez 11/12 23.68 232.5 33.64 39.95 75% 20%

So if Coutinho was to take Sterling’s spot what should we expect? An improvement? Maybe. An improvement in shots attempted, a better crosser as well as more goals than Raheem is able to deliver. However, the downside is that Raheem has attempted more dribbles, created more chances and possibly keeps the ball better. It’s a tough one but an interesting head-ache to have.

If you look at the stats in comparison to Luis Suarez they are pretty similar to Luis’ from last season. Shooting, goals, passing and creativity are all quite similar. Major differences lie in creativity and dribbling. Coutinho’s chance conversion at Espanyol was 12.5% which was better than Suarez’s 10% last season and is better than Sterling’s current 9% figure. The need for goals may see Philippe come on from the substitute’s bench to make a difference in games in the coming weeks. Here’s hoping he cements a place.

Realistically you’d not expect an immediate impact – he’s 20 years old and just moved to England. Having South Americans in Lucas, Coates and Suarez will be a major help for him, but can he settle immediately? There used to be a belief that it’s only in the second full season that a foreign player really settles to the Premier League. Going by Luis Suarez’s stats this season this rings true – this is his second FULL season in the league.

Players like Pires and Ljungberg all fitted this belief. It would be a bonus if Coutinho was to settle immediately and produce some mind-blowing performances but realistically I’d expect flashes of brilliance – ala Luis Suarez – to start with and then if he’s given time by the Liverpool faithful and manager he has the potential to become something very, very special.

Coutinho History

I will leave you with some Coutinho stats from his time at Inter and Espanyol. You will see the improvement when he’s played regularly as he did at Espanyol. Hopefully an extended run in the second half of this season will see him get some goals in the famous Red shirt.

Coutinho Comparison Inter Milan (combined) Espanyol
Appearances 12(6) 14(2)
Goals/Assists 2/2 5/1
Shots per Game 1.7 2.2
Key Passes per Game 1.2 0.9
Dribbles per Game 1.2 1.5
Turnovers per Game 1 1.8
Tackles per Game 0.7 1.8
Interceptions per Game 0.4 1.4

So welcome to Liverpool Philippe, hope your time at L4 is a success!

Follow me on Twitter@MRSSG

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