Philippe Coutinho was signed at a club record fee from Liverpool because Barcelona were convinced that out of every footballer alive, only he could replace Andrés Iniesta in the left side of their standard three-man midfield. So why is Coutinho playing as a winger, and a kid fresh from the Brazilian league playing in Iniesta’s old spot?
You might say that Arthur is just so good that you can’t leave him out, and Ousmane Dembélé is not consistent enough right now to usurp the Brazilian’s starting berth. Sure, there is an element of that. But there is also the question of whether Coutinho’s best position is as an interior in midfield or as part of the attack, or perhaps, neither one, really.
Coutinho’s skill and pedigree are undeniable, but he’s not a player known for his defensive contribution. That’s why some say he’s not suited to play in midfield, where he’s often asked to cover ground when the other team regains possession and starts a counter.
Yet, he’s not really a winger, either. He lacks the elite top speed to get by people that the best wingers have, although his acceleration, agility, and dribbling skill are amazing.
Coutinho hasn’t played in midfield since the Leganés match, and one wonders if he will ever return there. Even in the future, Arthur will remain in the side most likely. Would Barcelona field a midfield three which includes Coutinho and Arthur regularly? Or is Coutinho just always going to play as a forward?
Perhaps Coutinho’s best position is that of a #10, or central attacking midfielder. You can imagine him with a couple of midfielders behind him and a couple strikers to feed. It might suit him, but it’s a pipe dream at Barcelona at the moment. Lionel Messi will return to the lineup, and if you were going to play anyone as a pure #10, well, it’d be the #10.
Where should Coutinho play?
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