We all strive for perfection.
Although the concept can never be properly defined or attained, we still continue to search for pristine excellence in our lives. Perfection is the cornerstone of the ‘circle of life’ because that’s exactly what it is, a circle. We go around and around seeking eternal completeness even though we know in our hearts that it can never be accomplished. However, without the prospect of perfection, life becomes meaningless.
We still want to explore the journey of potential prosperity. And with this journey comes inevitable inconsistency. How you handle this ever long rollercoaster will define your success.
Philippe Coutinho is the epitome of extreme inconsistency in the Liverpool squad. Kopites seem to be seeing the transcendent best of the Brazilian one weekend and diabolical worst of him the next. Why is this is the case, and how it can be improved upon for the benefit of Coutinho and the team moving forward?
Age is always a major factor for inconsistency in footballers.
Coutinho ironically turns 22-years-old a day before his native Brazil kick-off their World Cup campaign, a squad he still surely has aspirations to be involved in. It is common knowledge that young players, under the age of 23, will generally be inconsistent.
They burst onto the scene, make an impact, and then tail off for a couple of games. This holds true for Coutinho. He set Anfield alight from the moment he stepped onto the Liverpool pitch last year; it was seldom that you ever saw the starlet have an off day in the second-half of the 2012/13 season.
In 12 appearances last season he notched three goals and made five assists in the Premiership; this season, in 21 appearances he has three goals and four assists.
You could conclude from these stats that he hasn’t necessarily improved in the last 12 months, but would that be right?
He has been credited with man of the match performances against Arsenal and Everton this season, two results Liverpool fans would claim to be their best wins in years. So there is undoubted quality there, it is just a case of producing it more regularly for the Brazilian.
Is it the lack of a winter break? This is the first season ever for Coutinho in which he hasn’t received a welcome three-week absence over the Christmas period. In his time at Inter Milan and Espanyol an extended period off was a regular occurrence. We have seen even the best overseas players in the world struggle with British footballing traditions on numerous occasions, most notably Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil who looks permanently fatigued nowadays.
The accusation can be thrown that the energy levels aren’t there for Coutinho, Ozil and others to endure endless 90-minute spells. It is very rare that you would see either Ozil or Coutinho complete a full game, a possible throwback of not having an extended break over winter. This was always going to take time for Coutinho to become accustomed to you’d feel. Logic dictates that he will, and with more experience of course.
So how does Brendan Rodgers go about handling this? Can he afford to leave Liverpool’s most creative midfield player out of the team?
Or can he afford to persist in a vital period with a tiring player? Liverpool are entering the business end of a prosperous and potentially historic season and with a limited squad for Rodgers to choose from, every team-related decision has to be a calculated one.
He has proven over the course of the season that he is unwaveringly capable of making key judgments at crucial times, and with Coutinho, he has another dilemma to ponder. Coutinho has been playing in a variety of positions this season. Ranging from a left-sided attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system at the start of the campaign, to the most advanced midfield player in a 4-3-3, and more recently into a sole number 10 in a 4-1-2-1-2 against Southampton.
He has unquestionably played his best football at the tip of a midfield three in a 4-3-3, particularly against Arsenal and Everton where he arguably stole the show on both occasions. You can deduce that this is his best position: Not a pure number 10 as the aforementioned Ozil, but more like Andreas Iniesta who has always performed better in a 4-3-3 style.
One player who also enjoys a 4-3-3 formation however is Joe Allen.
Allen is Coutinho’s club compatriot yet also sole rival for that final midfield slot, given that Jordan Henderson’s placement is solidified. Allen impressed on his return to the starting 11 against Southampton last Saturday, whereas Coutinho was found wanting on a number of occasions at St. Mary’s.
Albeit in a new role for the Brazilian in the diamond midfield, he flattered to deceive and was subsequently subbed off on 57 minutes as Allen saw out the full game. Can this be read into for the last 10 games of the season? Who knows, but what we are sure of is that Rodgers has an enticing midfield quandary on his hands.
There can be no apprehensions from Liverpool on the quality or skill they have at their disposal with Coutinho. He is a potential world-beater if nurtured and developed correctly. Whether Rodgers and the committee bring in more attacking-minded midfielders to ease the burden on the young South American’s shoulders, or uses him more sparingly in games is yet to be seen. But Kopites can be comfortable in the knowledge that Coutinho’s dazzling footballing traits, with experience and time, will overcome his minor consistency issues.
After all, in eradicating inconsistency, Coutinho can climb higher than others on the ceaseless ladder of footballing perfection.