Writer: Gavin Kelley-Day
Date:Tuesday February 19 2013
It's still very early days of course but the ability and potential of new signing Philippe Coutinho is already getting many Liverpool fans excited...
After two appearances, totalling little more than 70 minutes combined, it is clearly too soon to be getting carried away with new Reds signing Philippe Coutinho, but the initial signs are unquestionably promising.
The £8.5m capture from Inter Milan has long been considered a big talent within the game but concerns about how his diminutive physical stature would adapt to the frantic world of the Premier League meant Coutinho's arrival at Anfield was greeted with a degree of caution.
At the tender age of 20 and with a limited understanding of English, not to mention a lack of regular game time during his spell in Italy, the former Vasco da Gama youngster is understandably viewed primarily as a player for the future as opposed to the hear and now.
An ineffective 12 minute debut as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion last week - Coutinho entered the fray with the game still goalless - was an unfortunate start to life in L4 but Kop boss Brendan Rodgers had clearly already seen enough in training because he instantly handed Coutinho his first start in the very next league fixture.
Although the club's new Number 10 only played 60 minutes against Swansea City on Sunday, he rewarded Rodgers' decision handsomely. The hour was more than enough time for Coutinho to make his mark on the match and in the minds of the Liverpool faithful.
Clearly signed as someone to help bolster the attack, Liverpool supporters got a glimpse of how he'd do just that with a positive and direct display that featured a number of efforts at goal. One of those attempts even gave Liverpool a crucial second goal, seconds after the restart, in a match the hosts would ultimately record an emphatic 5-0 win in.
For his goal, the Brazilian drifted in-field with the ball at his feet and a sudden burst of pace was enough to wrong foot Swans captain Garry Monk and create the space required to unleash a shot that proved too much for Michel Vorm to keep out.
There was also plenty more elements to Coutinho's game on show besides the impressive strike.
Despite having only a handful of weeks training with the rest of the squad, he was competent in possession and completed 78%* of his passes. This stat is perhaps more impressive than it looks given 78% of all passes attempted came in the attacking third as opposed to the safety of other areas of the pitch. He also won Liverpool two corners.
Rodgers certainly appears to be very happy with his acquisition and was again talking the player up on Monday, telling radio station TalkSPORT: "He's a very, very good young player. I saw him when he was 15 for Brazil and tracked his career since that...
"He's only 20, but he's got wonderful technique and great power for a young player - you saw that in his shot yesterday. I think people were surprised because of how slight he is, but his technique is terrific and the power of the shot saw it end up going in. He's a very, very gifted player."
Reds midfielder Lucas Leiva is another to sing Coutinho's praises in the aftermath of his full debut but the 26-year-old also called for patience whilst the ex-Espanyol loanee adapts to the demands of English football.
"His reputation is very high back in Brazil but he left the country very early so we couldn't really see him play in the first team," said Lucas in quotes published by Liverpoolfc.com.
"At Inter he didn't have as many chances as he thought he would have so here is a new challenge for him and he is really looking forward to it.
"He is still adapting and we were talking about the pace of the Premier League and even in the training sessions he can feel it is much quicker than Italy. He is trying to play quick because he knows he will need that tempo to be successful.
"It will take him time to settle but a goal will give him confidence and we could see there were positive things from him. Hopefully he will be a great player for now and for the future as well"
Although at this stage judgement should remain reserved, Coutinho's combination of pace, technical skill and dribbling ability could easily become a key component to the Liverpool attack for the remainder of the current season and not just in future campaigns. Everyone loves the idea of having a skillful Samba star in their side and we could just have purchased one of the very best around and at a fraction of the price of the likes of Oscar and Naymar to boot.
Agree with our verdict? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or via the poll on the right-hand side of this page...
* Stats from EPL Index
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Date:Tuesday February 19 2013
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