Jordan Chamberlain – Editor of Empire of the Kop – @Jordan_AC90
Most of us will be still finding our voices this morning, blissfully croaky after Coutinho’s stupendous 86th minute curler helped us gain revenge for last season’s final day humiliation at Stoke City.
The Brazilian’s gleeful celebration was on the back-pages of most Monday newspapers, only competing with Arsenal’s ‘saviour’ Petr Cech – derided for his double opening day blunder.
While Cech is deteriorating, Coutinho’s genius is fast becoming common knowledge. Despite a quiet afternoon by his standards, the 23-year-old’s wonderstrike sent social media into a frenzy – proving that Coutinho is one of those special footballers capable of winning games on his own – etching his name into football fans’ anecdotes one 30-yarder at a time.
‘I was there when Coutinho bagged that screamer at the Britannia.’
And if Liverpool do indeed go on to have a successful season, it’ll be Sunday’s moment noted as its catalyst.
But it wouldn’t have happened had Emre Can not come off the bench and changed the game’s dynamic. Before Brendan Rodgers introduced his German prodigy in the 63rd minute, Liverpool were struggling to dictate possession and link midfield with attack.
James Milner and Jordan Henderson were too deep in the ‘double-pivot’ role, and found feeding Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana and Christian Benteke with sharp incisive passes difficult. They resorted to longer, sprayed passes instead – while Coutinho’s attempted through-balls were overly ambitious.
Firstly, Can enabled an automatic short passing option for our back-four, which helped us keep the ball better. Secondly, he bolstered our physicality and energy centrally as Stoke began to tire. Thirdly, he gave Milner and Henderson licence to roam. Most importantly though, he unleashed Coutinho.
Substituting attacking midfielder Adam Lallana for Can might’ve looked negative on paper, but it wasn’t. It gave us shape and a central platform from which Coutinho could create. With Can holding, Coutinho was pushed further forward into a freer role, which eventually enabled him to pick up the ball in that space between midfield and defence and ultimately win us the match.
In fact, Liverpool looked so much better with Can on the pitch that Rodgers now has serious selection dilemmas for the home match against Bournemouth in a week’s time. By playing the German, Rodgers will need to sacrifice one of his attacking midfielders, an area in which we’re fully loaded.
With Coutinho an automatic selection, Ibe, Lallana, Firmino and the forgotten Markovic could be fighting for one other creative spot.
Alternatively, the other option is to play Can in the ‘double-pivot’ with only one of Henderson and Milner, an option that right now Rodgers seems unlikely to deploy.
But if Can continues to flourish, and our excellent creative players score and create the goals which will earn them starting spots – Rodgers may have the difficult choice this season of whether to drop his captain or vice-captain from the side.
For now though, it’s a great problem to have.
Read More: Editor’s column: Coutinho’s magic shouldn’t hide Emre Can’s vital introduction