Against Getafe on Sunday night, Barcelona’s record signing, Phillipe Coutinho, was again left on the bench.
That’s right, €160 million worth of talent being given a cursory eight-minute cameo at the end of the match.
Predictably it wasn’t enough time for the Brazilian to really make an impact, and that is becoming a consistent theme for him of late.He’s right to be concerned about it because when you looked at Barca’s XI against the Madrid-based side, and against other opponents before the winter break, you’re left scratching your head as to where Coutinho can fit in.
After a good talking too from his team-mates, Ousmane Dembele seems to have finally turned the corner.
He’s still rough around the edges but is doing more than enough to justify his inclusion in a front three at the expense of Luis Suarez’s old Liverpool colleague.
Out injured for a while, now that Arthur Melo is back, it’s right that he should become a fixture again.
Although he’s not been schooled in La Masia, much like his countryman Coutinho, he’s adapted far better than the latter and is a vital cog in Barcelona’s midfield.
Looking around the starting XI, the only other player that could realistically make way is Arturo Vidal, but the Chilean offers something completely different and, evidently, something that Ernesto Valverde prefers.
We’re not yet at the stage of asking the question ‘where does Coutinho go next?’ (in terms of playing position, and with the Copa del Rey upon us again and the Champions League to shortly follow, he will get playing opportunities, the issue is the regularity.
To have your record signing consistently sitting on the bench is almost an admission that the club got it wrong with Coutinho, and why so many Liverpool fans had suggested that he was good, but not a player worth Barca’s extravagant spend.
If we look at things in a slightly different context, Valverde is in a win win situation.
It’s becoming truer than ever that every club needs decent cover in all positions. Coutinho wouldn’t have expected he would be a player who would provide cover, but it keeps him hungry, and therefore hands Valverde an advantage in the psychological stakes.
Give me what I need or you’ll be benched. Something the coach can apply to any one of his staff if he wants to get an extra 10 percent out of them.
Let’s see how the next few games pan out…