Having endured a rather turbulent summer during which Brendan Rodgers spent more time talking about Luis Suarez’ desire to leave the club he did on the training ground, Liverpool have hit the ground running in the Premier League.
Those who thought the Reds would struggle without the Uruguayan have been left disappointed so far as the club’s best start since the 2008-09 season has put Brendan Rodgers’ men top of the Premier League table.
Daniel Sturridge’s goals and a new-found defensive solidity – Liverpool have kept a clean sheet whilst winning the first three league games of the season for the first time in the Premier League era – have been crucial in the Reds’ successful start, but Philippe Coutinho has been Liverpool’s outstanding player so far.
Monday’s night draw at Swansea highlighted just how important the former Inter Milan manager is to Brendan Rodgers’ team as his injury deprived Liverpool of his creativity and passing, something Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses feed on.
The 21-year-old Brazilian showed glimpses of his talent after arriving from Inter Milan last season, contributing with three goals and seven assists in 13 Premier League games, a dramatic improvement the one goal he had notched in 10 Serie A games.
Against Swansea, the Brazilian managed 52 touches in his 54 minutes on the pitch, completing 88% of his passes as Liverpool looked to be in cruise control at the Liberty Stadium.
The Brazilian’s brilliant link-up play and vision – coupled with Jonjo Shelvey’s wayward passing – created a host of chances for Liverpool in the first half, with Sturridge and Moses providing the sort of relentless movement without the ball Brendan Rodgers demands from his strikers.
During his 54 minutes on the pitch, Coutinho completed 14 passes in the final third of the pitch, while his passing in the middle third of the pitch was faultless as every single one of the 22 passes attempted by the Brazilian found their targets.
Coutinho’s accuracy translated in Liverpool completing 48 of their 66 attempted passes in the final third of the pitch, thus producing the sort of slick, effective game Rodgers has tried to instill into his team since arriving on Merseyside two seasons ago.
After the Brazilian was withdrew with an injury, however, Liverpool looked increasingly devoid of ideas and attempted only 11 passes in the final third of the pitch, completing only four of them.
Not only did the number of passes drop dramatically, they also came from much deeper as Liverpool struggled to break Swansea down in the final third and resorted to hit it long for Sturridge and Moses.
To further illustrate the point, in the first 55 minutes Liverpool attempted 174 passes in the middle of the pitch, a figure that dropped to 63 after the Brazilian was withdrew after 55 minutes.
With Luis Suarez set to make his return against Manchester United in the League Cup next week, Liverpool’s dynamic up-front are likely to change as the Uruguayan will partner Sturridge up-front, but expect Coutinho to remain just as pivotal to the Reds’ chances of success this season.