With the 2015/16 season done and dusted, we are assessing how each Liverpool player has performed throughout the campaign. Philippe Coutinho is our latest man in the spotlight.
Having enjoyed a stellar 2014/15 season for the Reds, cementing his reputation as the best player at the club, huge things were expected of Coutinho back in August.
With two-and-a-half years of Premier League football under his belt, it was time for him to go up another level, and become one of Europe’s premier attacking midfielders.
While the 23-year-old ultimately failed to hit those heights, he still proved to be Liverpool’s attacking spark on endless occasions.
Philippe Coutinho, 2015/16
On as a substitute: 5
Unused sub: 5
Average TIA Player Rating: 6.44 (out of 10)
Average rating under Klopp: 6.62
His influence on the team was never more evident than on the opening weekend of the season, as Brendan Rodgers’ Reds side took on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
With the game drifting towards a 0-0 draw, Coutinho popped up with a moment of magic late on, bending a wonderful 25-yard effort into the top corner.
The Brazilian had actually endured a fairly below-par afternoon up until that point, but as was the case throughout the campaign, he produced match-changing moments of brilliance even when not at his best.
The Brazilian was fantastic away to Chelsea at the end of October, with his two well-taken goals inspiring Liverpool to a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
Three weeks later, he produced what was arguably his best performance of 2015/16, in the 4-1 mauling of Man City at the Etihad.
Unfortunately, the South American left the Etihad pitch with a hamstring injury, and it kept him out of action for the next couple of weeks.
His season once again suffered a setback in January, with another hamstring problem forcing him off early in the League Cup semi-final second leg at Stoke.
The 23-year-old’s sublime free-kick got Liverpool level at Upton Park, and although the Reds were eventually knocked out in cruel fashion, their diminutive talisman had again outlined his importance to the team.
Influential Until Basel
Coutinho excelled in the 6-0 thrashing of a woeful Aston Villa team on Valentine’s Day, registering two assists, and he was Man of the Match at home to Augsburg in a nervy 1-0 win.
His late equaliser in the League Cup final against Man City was another example of his ability to score important goals, but unfortunately his woeful penalty helped ensure Liverpool lost in the shootout.
Coutinho continued to put in a string of eye-catching showings as the season reached its business end, and he was hitting peak form when Man United stood between the Reds and a place in the Europa League quarter-finals.
A superb performance in the 2-0 win at Anfield saw Coutinho’s full array of wizardry on show, and his sublime solo effort in the return leg at Old Trafford allowed Liverpool to see the game out with ease.
Five goals in six appearances proved what a rich vein of form the 23-year-old was in.
Frustratingly, he was largely anonymous on a bitterly disappointing evening, and it seemed to sum up the inconsistency that had dogged both Coutinho and Liverpool’s season.
All in all, it was another impressive year for the young Brazilian, though, and 12 goals and seven assists represents a good return from his left-sided attacking role.
Improvements & Future Role
Despite cleaning up at Liverpool’s end-of-season awards ceremony, there is a niggling feeling that Coutinho is not quite progressing at the rapid rate we hoped he would.
Everyone is aware of just what a wonderful footballer he is, but he has reached a point where he must now be relied upon every week.
Too often he found himself of the periphery of matches, and his fondness for wayward long-range shooting remains his most frustrating characteristic.
It could certainly be argued that Coutinho is not being used in his strongest position, however, and this is something Klopp may look to address ahead of next season.
A more central attacking role would guarantee a heavier involvement in matches, with his slight lack of pace less exposed than in his current position.
Equally, being deployed slightly deeper in central midfield could suit him, much in the way Andres Iniesta and Santi Cazorla have thrived at Barcelona and Arsenal, respectively.
Coutinho has the creativity, work rate and intelligence to shine there, and it would also free up another space in an attacking area.
What remains obvious is that he is an integral player for Liverpool moving forward, and he should only get better in the coming years.
2015/16 wasn’t perfect, by any means, but he was still arguably the Reds’ standout player. Perhaps we just expect a little bit too much.
Best Moment: Goal of the season against United
Worst Moment: A hugely below-par performance in the Europa League final