In a season filled with relatively little drama, disregarding Gerard Pique’s and Lionel Messi’s bust-up last year, alongside Barcelona’s injury woes, the club have been quietly racking up wins and getting ready to compete for all three trophies this year. After losing Andres Iniesta, it seems that the veterans in the squad have collectively filled the void of missing the Illusionista. Possibly the most combative story coming from the Camp Nou has been that of Philippe Coutinho.
The young Brazilian was brought in last winter’s transfer window, not as surplus to requirements, but to make a change in the squad. Unable to play in the Champions League last year, Coutinho was left to make an impact in the league, which he certainly did. This year though, Coutinho’s impact has left much to be desired, something that falls on the player and the manager.
After spending an eye-popping €160 million to acquire the Brazilian playmaker from Liverpool, it was expected that Coutinho would provide a boost to a lineup that had become over-reliant on Lionel Messi. In their Champions League loss to Roma, Messi didn’t have the greatest of games and Barcelona looked completely helpless.
Last year, Coutinho started to show some of the skill and flair that made him worth so much money, but this year he hasn’t been able to demonstrate it.
A possible reason for his constant omissions from the starting XI might be an issue that has plagued another great player, Paulo Dybala. The young Argentinian has been on the fringe of the national squad because of the idea that his playing style is too similar to Lionel Messi’s to mesh – something Coutinho can be accused of as well.
Coutinho loves to pick up the ball deep in the midfield, turn, and start attacking players on his way to the net. This style of play is exceptional and requires a large amount of skill, but there’s one problem – Lionel Messi simply does it better. To no fault of his own, Coutinho certainly gets left out and used as a substitute largely due to this fact.
Secondly, Ousmane Dembele and his continued rise to stardom has forced Coutinho to continually play second fiddle. With Dembele, Suarez, and Messi providing results, paired with a midfield of Rakitic, Busquets, and Arthur, Valverde has a solid lineup for big games. Coutinho has played over 1100 minutes this campaign, but his influence hasn’t been felt in the largest games.
Additionally, Coutinho has struggled to make an overall impact. With only four goals and two assists in the league, he has less goals and assists than Jordi Alba (one goal and six assists in La Liga).
Ultimately, we all know his quality, but it’s up to Coutinho and the gaffer to find a place for him in the lineup. No matter his struggles this year, the Brazilian still has the necessary skill to make an impact on a game any minute. Visca Barca.