Phillipe Coutinho was deployed in the left side of a three man mid-field early this season. However, Valverede shifted him to the left wing position around October, introducing Arthur into the playing XI and relegating Dembele to the bench.
The issue when Phil played in the mid-field was the defensive balance of our team. Barca were conceding a lot and generally defending very poorly. However, I'm my opinion,
1. Coutinho is very poor defensively
2. When Coutinho played in the mid-field, Barca's defence was also dis functional.
3. Playing Coutinho in the mid-field DOES NOT mean we will be all that poor defensively.
The reason I believe this is because most of the goals we conceded came in from the RIGHT SIDE, while Coutinho plays on the left. Pique was in pretty poor form and our right back area was an issue, with Nelson Semedo struggling for confidence while Sergi Roberto never really was all that great defensively. However, with Semedo rediscovering his touch ,Pique in God-mode, and Lenglet settling into the LCB role seamlessly, maybe Couts could be given a second chance.
The reason I want to see Phil in the mid-field is because he was really good offensively. In many matches, he was one of the brighter sparks in the team, providing a sense of urgency to attack. In matches against PSV, Huesca and Soceidad, he was the brightest in the team, even if he did not get on the scoresheet.
However, with Arthur Melo performing exceptionally well in the LCM role and the resurgence of Ousmane Dembele, combined with the tireless work rate of Jordi Alba, the left side seems settled. Here are a few suggestions I have on how the Brazilian maestro could play in the mid-field, and these combinations could be given a try this season itself.
1. While resting Leo Messi or Luis Suarez:
Coutinho played as a no.10 for Liverpool, and unfortunately for him, the best player in the world occupied the same role here.Coutinho could however, be played in the mid-field, with Dembele and Malcom on either wing. This could line up similar to Liverpool last season, and Coutinho could be completely free of defensive duties, and take up the space behind Luis Suarez.
Arthur or Arturo could also be worked into this XI.
I am however not very convinced that Coutinho could play as LCM if Leo is playing the F9. Still worth a try??
2. WITH A HIGHLY DEFENSIVE MID-FIELD
My basic idea is that playing Raki/Busi as a pivot while deploying a B2B work horse like Vidal or even Sergi Roberto for that matter could help patch up in defence allowing Coutinho to play free as well. It could line up to something like:
Vidal might seem the more sensible option owing to the non-existent understanding between Semedo and Roberto.
3. CHANGES IN THE DEFENCE
One possibility is to play Lenglet as LB and Umtiti as LCB providing defensive strength. This would be viable against any small team that does not really attack through the right-wing(eg. Real Madrid). One problem is however, the large gaps that will be left open between the defence and mid-field. This could work if the team played with a well organised high press to win the ball high up the field.
Another option is to play a 3 man back with Malcom and Roberto/Semedo as LWB and RWB respectively. This would be quite interesting in my opinion, highly attacking and exciting to watch.Something like:
Again, this could work if the team wins the ball high up the pitch. It would be the nightmare of any defence to have Messi, Suarez, Coutinho, Semedo and Malcom running at them.
Coutinho functioned well as a LM in the four man mid-field last season. The problem however, is that Couts and Dembele as LM and RM causes the team to line up in a 424. Against stronger oppositions, the mid-field would easily be overrun. However, this is a possibility for the league matches in the last few rounds (with the title sealed, hopefully).
Another option, largely unpopular, is to play Coutinho in the RM position. EV used the Brazilian in the same position last season to play Iniesta at LM, and he did reasonably well there. However, it is not his natural position and severely restricts him from cutting in and curling in attempts from long range, as he likes to so often.
Do you guys have any other ideas on where Coutinho could be deployed (not in the transfer market, of course). I personally feel we should keep him and he has a lot to offer us.