The Brazilian is set to become one of Liverpool's main creative forces following the departure of Luis Suarez and the 22-year-old shone in a roaming role against RomaLiverpool opened their pre-season tour of the United States with a 1-0 defeat to Roma in the early hours of Thursday morning.
But Philippe Coutinho's dynamic display against the Serie A club led Brendan Rodgers to describe the Brazilian as "the brain of the team". Can the 22-year-old step up and become the Reds' main creative force this season?
|PERFORMANCE AGAINST ROMA
Purposeful and direct, Coutinho was easily the brightest player on the pitch in a friendly which livened up after a sluggish first half.
The 22-year-old struggled to impose himself in the opening 45 minutes but looked rejuvenated after the break and attempted a long-range effort early on, although it failed to test Lukasz Skorupski.
Coutinho’s role was primarily central, ahead of both Emre Can and Joe Allen in midfield, but the Brazilian was given license to link with team-mates on either flank.
He was involved in the build-up to Liverpool’s first key chance of the match in the 50th minute as he combined with Kelly on the right which allowed the full-back to cross towards Rickie Lambert, whose strike was well blocked by Alessio Romagnoli.
A flash of class was next for Coutinho as he picked up possession in his own half, feinted to go right before swiftly switching the ball to his left which left Alessandro Florenzi trailing and allowed the Brazilian to drive into Roma’s half.
Coutinho continued to make an impact as he displayed excellent vision to seek out Rickie Lambert but the striker’s fierce, left-footed shot was saved by Skorupski. Soon afterwards, following Kristoffer Peterson’s bright play on the left wing, the Brazilian was presented with a shooting opportunity on the edge of the area but his effort was charged down.
Coutinho was replaced by 16-year-old central midfielder Adam Phillips with five minutes to go.
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With Luis Suarez now at Barcelona, there is a creative void that needs filling in Liverpool’s attack and Coutinho has the ability required to cushion the Uruguayan’s departure.
Such is the fluidity of Brendan Rodgers's formation last season, Coutinho was allowed to drift inside from a wide position but the Brazilian will now be better placed for a permanent role in central midfield.
How Rodgers adapts his system to life after Suarez remains to be seen but Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana will also by vying for places just behind Daniel Sturridge, while Raheem Sterling is showing no signs of burning out after being propelled into the Premier League spotlight.
Coutinho still has plenty of time to develop and as he has shown during his time at Anfield, as well as during his display against Roma on Thursday, he is capable of stepping up to be Liverpool's lynchpin in attack.
"Coutinho is the brain in our team, the continuity player," said Rodgers after his side's defeat to Roma. "He might not score many goals but he's a wonderful reference for the team.
"He is the one that gets the team ticking, gets the movement in front of the ball. He goes and gets on the ball. He's a fantastic talent for such a young player and he's still gaining his fitness.
"He makes the crowd get off their seat. For someone so small, he's very tough and robust. He's a wonderful technician that has a great idea, tactically, of the game."
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To increase his influence in Liverpool’s attacking areas. There’s room for improvement in terms of his statistical contribution - five goals and seven assists from 33 Premier League appearances last season can easily be bettered this term.
Competition for places, particularly in Coutinho’s area of midfield, has been turned up a notch by Rodgers's summer signings and, with Loic Remy still to come in, the Brazilian will need to find consistency, which he lacked at times last season.
Coutinho has already shown that he is a fine player who is capable of being the difference but this year, with Suarez gone, will be a true test of whether the Brazilian can be the player on whom Liverpool depend.