Philippe Coutinho: How former Liverpool ace is proving Barcelona wrong | Football | Sport
Philippe Coutinho has enjoyed a positive start to his loan spell at Bayern Munich
Philippe Coutinho is catching the eye with his recent performances in the Bundesliga following a loan move to Bayern Munich.
The Brazilian was deemed surplus to requirements at Barcelona this season, but his recent displays suggest the Catalan club may have been too hasty in shipping out the 27-year-old.
And the Anfield club generated a huge profit on their investment when Barcelona made their move in January 2018.
Liverpool were keen to keep hold of Coutinho until at least the end of the 2017/18 campaign but reluctantly agreed to sell after Barca shelled out £105m up front, with a further £37m arriving in performance-related add-ons.
The La Liga giants saw Coutinho as a long-term replacement for Andres Iniesta but an ill-fated 18 months at the Nou Camp followed as the star failed to settle.
He did manage to score 21 goals and supply 11 assists in 76 appearances for Blaugranes but looked out of place in a deeper midfield position and was often overlooked in favour of Ousmane Dembele on the left of the attacking trio.
The Brazilian has endured a tough 18 months at Barcelona
Coutinho often found himself rotating with Ousmane Dembele
Coutinho has made eight appearances for Bayern, scoring two goals and providing three assists in a positive start at the Allianz Arena.
His basic numbers are impressive with 84.1 per cent pass accuracy, which only drops to 71.7 per cent in the final third, and he has successfully completed 23 out of 33 attempted passes in the opposition box.
According to Wyscout, the Brazilian has made 16 progressive runs and set up 14 shooting chances in 570 minutes of football, while his own shots per 90 minute ratio of 2.74 is higher than Bayern team-mates Thomas Miller and Ivan Perisic as well as Dembele.
And the key appears to be Coutinho’s deployment in a central attacking midfield position, allowing the 27-year-old to play a more active role in building attacks than when on the left wing at Barcelona.
The playmaker has scored twice and provided three assists already at Bayern
Heatmaps from Barcelona (2018/19), Liverpool (2017/18) and Bayern show Coutinho’s move centrally
The Brazilian has been given the responsibility of starting attacks for his new side
And this is highlighted by his attempted dribbles per 90 minutes, with the star’s average of 6.17 higher than the current Liverpool frontline of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino as well as Muller and Dembele.
The demands of Coutinho’s position mean he does not threaten the opposition’s penalty area like these other more natural forwards, but it is his link-up play that has been most eye-catching this season.
The Bayern ace has provided more key passes per 90 minutes than Salah or Mane, while his average of 9.82 final third passes per 90 minutes is a stand-out statistic.
This data suggests Coutinho is relishing the responsibility of orchestrating attacks for Bayern, with his central deployment allowing him to impact the game far more than when out wide for Barcelona.
Coutinho has been dropping deep to pick up possession and turn
This allows him to run at opposition defences from a central position
His vision has also been on display during his loan spell
Surprisingly, the Brazilian has recently been criticised by German publication Sport Bild for ‘not doing enough’ during Bayern’s defeat to Hoffenheim.
But manager Niko Kovac appears happy enough with his new signing, praising the loanee following his performance against Paderborn.
“Philippe speaks for himself really,” said Kovac.
“I think everyone in the stadium today and everyone who watched the match once again saw the ability he has and the quality he has on the ball.
Coutinho was criticised for his efforts against Hoffenheim
But he scored and provided an assist against Paderborn
Coutinho’s performance against the Bundesliga minnows was praised by Niko Kovac
“At times it really looks like he’s dancing with the ball, there’s no other way of saying it. He knows exactly when, how and what to do with the ball.”
And it seems the Bavarian club know exactly how to get the best out of him, although it remains to be seen if they will take up the £107.6m (€120m) option to buy the playmaker at the end of the season.
Judging by his early performances, Coutinho must surely hope that they do.
Bayern must decide whether to sign Coutinho permanently before June 30 next year