How Liverpool and Philippe Coutinho’s form has changed since transfer
Jurgen Klopp believes the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona may have actually benefitted Liverpool – and the improvement in Sadio Mane in particular suggests he could have a point.
Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona in January appeared to be a big blow to Liverpool’s prospects this season, with the Brazilian having established himself as one of the club’s best and most important players over the past few campaigns.
But the Reds have continued to thrill supporters with their high-intensity brand of attacking football – encapsulated by their front three of Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah.
Speaking about the change in Liverpool since Coutinho left, Jurgen Klopp said last month: “You saw our games when Phil came deep in centre-mid. We didn’t want him to come deep all the time to be honest – it was more of a natural thing.
“If you play with three midfielders, you need two sixes and one who is more of a 10. With Phil we were giving him a four-yard pass and you don’t need that. Now we don’t have this dominant player – ‘Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me’ – that’s how it is.”
At the time of the Coutinho deal, Liverpool sat fourth in the Premier League, two points behind Chelsea in third.
They had averaged exactly two points per game, 2.27 goals per game and 1.14 goals conceded per game.
Now they are third in the Premier League, two points behind second-placed Manchester United.
In the intervening fixtures, their average points per game has increased to 2.2, while they have been scoring at an improved rate of 2.5 goals per game.
Their average for goals conceded has also decreased to one per game, but no doubt this has been aided by the signing of Virgil van Dijk.
Mane, meanwhile, was largely considered to have started the season slowly. The Senegal international was admittedly having to operate in the shadow of Salah, but the spark which made him so dangerous in his debut campaign at Anfield was certainly lacking at times.
In the first half of the season, the forward had scored eight goals in all competitions. In the three months since Coutinho has moved to Spain, Mane already has seven goals to his name.
The 25-year-old has now registered 15 goals and eight assists in total this season, a more productive return than Coutinho ever managed in a full campaign with Liverpool.
Coutinho before and after
Coutinho was averaging 49.3 passes per game for Liverpool in the Premier League before the move, the most he has averaged in his entire career.
Whether that was down to a determination to prove he was still committed to the cause or a determination to keep himself in the shop window, the Brazilian has dropped to 42.7 passes per game in La Liga with Barcelona.
However, while that could be interpreted as him staying in attacking positions and not dropping back needlessly to get on the ball, Coutinho has also managed fewer key passes (1.9 vs 2.9), fewer successful dribbles (2.3 vs 2.8) and fewer shots per game (2.2 vs 3.9) for Barça than for Liverpool in the first half of the season.
He has so far contributed two goals and two assists from 717 minutes in La Liga at a rate of one every 179 minutes, while for Liverpool he had provided seven goals and six assists in 1116 minutes at a rate of one every 86 minutes.
Coutinho and Liverpool could yet meet again this season in the Champions League, of course. Check out the latest betting offers by Paddy Power for UK punters if you believe it will happen.