Showcasing his abilities

Philippe Coutinho was signed just over a year ago by Liverpool from Inter Milan for what now looks a bargain at GBP8.5 million and immediately excelled as a playmaker.

Making the move to English football from overseas is traditionally not an easy one and has proved beyond the ability of some fine players down the years.

Players from South America have found it particularly difficult to make the transition but his performances in recent weeks suggest Philippe Coutinho has what it takes to be a success in the English Premier League.

Coutinho was signed just over a year ago by Liverpool from Inter Milan for what now looks a bargain at GBP8.5 million and immediately showcased his abilities as a playmaker with an eye for a defence-slitting pass.

Where the little Brazilian came up short was going the other way where his defensive contribution was often found wanting, but it is an area of his game in which he has clearly improved to the delight of manager Brendan Rodgers.

“He’s got wonderful technique but obviously coming into the British game and this league there are other components you need to play,” said Rodgers.

“He’s five foot seven, he’s got brilliant technique, he’s tactically cute and clever, but physically he has everything to cope. People always wonder about small players in this league, can they play and can they cope?

“I think for players like him and Joe Allen, it’s about the talent and if you’ve got the strength, your brain, the power and the mentality, you can succeed.

“If you talked to him I think he’d say one of the elements of his game he’s improved are his defensive qualities — and he needs that because it’s important for us and how we play.”

Coutinho’s presence in Liverpool’s midfield, harrying and harassing Arsenal in the recent 5-1 victory which highlighted the Reds’ credentials as potential title winners, showed how he was putting that improved physicality into practice.

“He’s not going to be diving in jumping into challenges but he can intercept, he can block, he can get up to people and press the ball,” added Rodgers.

“You see with the fourth goal how he intercepted. His positioning is good so he can block passes and intercept. He’s got a wonderful feel for a pass that not many players have.

“You either get midfield players who are holding midfield players or they’re runners — he’s one that can do both.

“He can get on the ball, penetrate with his passing, and he gives us a wonderful cutting edge to go and put our talented players in.”

Midfield was a key battleground against Arsenal and it was comfortably won by Liverpool with Steven Gerrard providing the leadership and Jordan Henderson and Coutinho providing the legs.

If the trio can stay fit and perform at the same level for the remainder of the season, a Champions League place looks a certainty.

“We do a lot of work on our pressing and I feel if we press well we pass well,” explained Rodgers.

“Philippe was one of those players when he came in who always had that appetite for the ball but he has added the ability to press the ball, intercept and block.

“His hunger for that side of the game is key and Jordan Henderson is a player who is improving all the time, so with Steven controlling from behind and feeding the balls through, playmaking from that role, it sets things up perfectly.”

Coutinho has spent much of his Liverpool career playing just behind a lone striker or in an advanced role out on the left.

With Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge having now formed such a potent strike partnership, Coutinho has dropped back into a deeper role.

And, just as he has adapted to the demands of English football, he has quickly settled into his new position.

Rodgers may be playing down Liverpool’s title hopes — for this season at least — but Coutinho could have a key role to play in bringing the glory days back to the red half of Merseyside.

© PA Sport, 2014, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.