Why Liverpool are better without Philippe Coutinho
Two months later, it seems as though losing Coutinho was actually a stroke of luck for Liverpool.
When Nike inadvertently posted an advert on their website back in December claiming that ‘Philippe Coutinho is ready to light up Camp Nou’, the Brazilian’s move to Spain seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
With the deal not officially going through until a week later, there is no doubt that Nike’s website team was a little lighter on the ground by the time Coutinho finally arrived at Camp Nou. You win some, you lose some.
Two months down the line and Coutinho has had time to settle into his new club, announcing himself during last weekend’s clash with Girona where the midfield maestro curled in one of his trademark distance shots as his team found their way to a 6-1 victory.
In his absence, though, Liverpool have also had the chance to settle down. In fact, there is a case to be made that the Merseyside team look more comfortable without their talisman than with him.
With Liverpool having only played seven games in the Premier League since Coutinho left (including the match against Burnley where he wasn’t in the squad), the sample size of fixtures is not big enough to be of any real statistical weight.
That said, there is a marked difference between the fourteen Premier League games which Liverpool played with the Brazilian midfielder on the pitch this season and the seven games they played without him.
What is most noticeable about Liverpool without Coutinho is the fact that they seem much less likely to draw matches (only 14.3%) than they did when he was in the team (50%).
Given the fact that one of Coutinho’s strengths while he was at the club was that he helped his team break down sides who sat deep in a low block, it is important to note that Liverpool are now much more likely to win these fixtures.
Of course, it must be stated that the loss in this seven-game run came to Swansea and, in other competitions, Liverpool have also lost to West Bromwich Albion. There still remain problems, then, but it seems as though the Coutinho transfer has ameliorated them somewhat.
More pressing matters
Why might this be the case?
On a recent episode of the Anfield Index’s Under Pressure podcast, the hosts looked in detail at the impact of Liverpool’s infamous gegenpress on their attacking play.
What they found was that the Merseyside club’s pressing from open play during a match resulted in the production of higher quality chances than possession-based build up play.