Liverpool opted to cash in on their Brazilian star Philippe Coutinho in the January transfer window to the sum of around £142 million from Barcelona, but they remain in a strong position to move on from the loss of the second most expensive player in football history. Jürgen Klopp has stated it was an easy decision to offload the silky playmaker, since it wouldn’t have made sense to keep an unhappy player on the books at Anfield.
While the Reds took a long time to recover from the last player who departed to the Catalan capital, there are attacking players on the club’s books who can step up and fill Coutinho’s boots.
When Liverpool allowed Luis Suarez to depart to the Nou Camp in 2014 for around £65 million, there was a massive hole left in the team’s makeup. The Anfield club had just got rid of a man who notched 31 goals in 33 Premier League games the previous season, which was some feat considering the fact that the prolific sharpshooter hadn’t even been on penalty duties. Brendan Rodgers failed to bring in a suitable replacement, and with Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes, there was nobody at the club who was able to step up.
Now, the situation is vastly different. After a couple of seasons of rebuilding under Klopp, Liverpool have a much stronger set of players than they did in the 2014-15 campaign. In fact, it may soon become apparent that the Coutinho sale was a highly shrewd bit of business. There is no doubt that the number 10 was a highly talented player, but at 25 years of age, he isn’t quite the finished product yet. When the Reds let go of Suarez, they lost a player who was at the utmost peak of his abilities and in the best form of his life. In addition to this, there are already some players at the club who will relish the opportunity to step up and try to plaster over this Coutinho-shaped hole.
The two players that come to mind are Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both of whom will be looking to make a case for inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s England squad at the World Cup in the summer. Lallana has missed most of the season due to a thigh injury, but is reaching optimum levels of fitness at just the right time. The former Southampton man can operate just behind the attacking trident in the same manner as Coutinho, and registered eight goals and seven assists in the 2016-17 season. The Brazilian only managed eight goals and six assists in the campaign prior to that.
Oxlade-Chamberlain has stated that he wants to nail down a midfield role in the Anfield setup, after spending most of his career playing as a wide midfielder or wingback at Arsenal. The £35 million summer signing has adjusted to life on Merseyside, and has made the transition to Klopp’s direct attacking approach seamlessly. Now is his chance to lock down a position in the midfield behind Liverpool’s “Fab Three” of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah. This would not only be beneficial for the 24-year-old, but also for England who are crying out for more options in the centre of the park.
As it stands, the Three Lions are long shots at around 16/1 to win the tournament in Russia. But if the likes of Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain can strike on a midfield partnership at Liverpool that they can bring to the national team, it may be worth a free bet on England going all the way. For instance, according to Oddschecker, players who stake with William Hill can bet £10 and get £30 free.
Liverpool have already reinvested some of the Coutinho money wisely, on towering defender Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton for £75 million. The addition of the enormous Dutch centre-back should address the team’s defensive weaknesses and help strike a better balance in the previously attack-heavy side.
With all things considered, Liverpool are in a good position to move on smoothly without Coutinho. They have enough backup in the Brazilian’s position, and a healthy sum of money to bolster in other areas. Although fans will miss watching the midfield magician in action, the show must go on. Anyway, who needs Coutinho when you have Salah?