There is one thing for sure after the Philippe Coutinho’s departure. Liverpool need to get the best of their top players – Roberto Firmino, Said Mane, Mohamed Salah and the new Red central defender Virgil Van Dijk in order to finish the season in the top 4 and to progress beyond the quarter finals in the Champions League.
Coutinho presence in the current Liverpool squad is not that critical for the Jurgen Klopp team as it was the one of Luis Suare for the Brendan Roger’s led Reds. According to SkySports, liverpool have much better winning ratio when they play without Phillipe Coutinho in season 2017/18 so far. They have won 8, drawn 8 and lost 2 in the 18 games the Little Magician played so far this season. Without him Liverpool won 10, draw 3 and lost one in all 14 games when he hasn’t played.
The Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool would be much better defensive team with Van Dijk in the central defence and there will be a real competition in the Reds team for the two center-half positions. We would assume that Liverpool will be much harder to beat with Van Dijk in the starting eleven. So even without Coutinho Liverpool are expected to be more efficient team in the second half of the Premier League season.
The defense was the weakest part of the Liverpool’s current team and it has failed the Reds on a number of occasions during the Brendan Rogers and Jurgen Klopp eras at Anfield. The last time when Liverpool were among the top 3 clubs in Europe, was a period of 4 years between 205 and 2009 when Rafael Benitez was in charge of the team and Reds have a strong defence at the time.
With the sale of Philippe Coutinho Liverpool loose much of their unpredictability in attack. The Little Magician has been able to unlock games for the Reds and to go pass defenses of those teams who like sitting deep and defending with 9 or even 10 players. If Jurgen Klopp does not replace Coutinho with another player with similar qualities, Liverpool would change their style of play a little bit. They would probably need to start driving the ball faster and to increase the number of passes between their attacking players in a way to go behind the opposition defenses.
Who would Liverpool bring in?
One direct replacement for Philippe Coutinho, who perform even better that the Little Magician in the Liverpool’s attack is Luan Vieira, who has just won the El Pais award for South American Footballer of 2017. Another option for the Reds midfield is his team mate at the Brazilian club Gremio Arthur Melo. Barcelona was interested in bringing me, lo to Camp Not, but now with the Coutinho’s signing it is very likely that the Catalan club would not be able to meet the Gremio’s asking price for the player.
Can Liverpool finish at high this season without replacing Coutinho?
Yes, they could, but it will not be easy for them. Tottenham are an excellent team who seats just 3 points behind Liverpool in the league table. Arsenal are 5 points behind the Reds and both teams target the Champions League qualification places. The Reds play against Manchester City at Anfield on 14th of January and it is very likely that they would draw or even loose this fixture. However, if Liverpool win against City, the Jurgen Klopp players would be confident that they could finish even second or thirds in the premier League this season.
It is a little bit different in the Champions League where Liverpool play against a very experienced side in the likes of Porto. The Portuguese are not a better team then the Reds at the moment, but they have more experience in the Champions League. If Reds go pass Porto, there won’t be an easy draw for them. It a little luck they can get a team like Shakhtar Donetsk, Roma, Seville, Man United and to avoid playing Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Juventus in the quarter-finals.
A second or third place in the Premier League table and a quarter-final in the Champions League would be considered as a good season for the current Reds squad. Jurgen Klopp is an ambitious manager and I’m sure that he believes that there is a real opportunity for Liverpool to qualify for the Champions League semi-finals or even for the final. Still, an objective review shows that there are at least 6 clubs in Europe which are better equipped than the Reds to compete in the Europe’s most important football club competition.