Red Letter: Klopp turning Coutinho into a Liverpool ‘superstar’

Date published: Thursday 27th October 2016 9:21

Philippe Coutinho: Klopp confident he'll stay

Dave Tindall is a happy man this week after Liverpool saved him from listening to Coldplay, while he lauds Jurgen Klopp’s influence on Philippe Coutinho.

I signed off last week by saying: “If I’m not writing about two Liverpool wins (West Brom and Spurs) in next week’s Red Letter, I’ll punish myself by listening to a Coldplay album and then watching a re-run of our game with Man Utd.”

Thankfully I was spared both horrors via a pair of 2-1 wins – the first against a team of experienced 6’4” giant men, the second against a youthful and green Spurs.

Bother were deserved wins and both added to those growing feelings that this season could be something special.

For the record, that’s now nine wins from 12 games this season. Two were draws (Man Utd and Spurs) and the other was the Burnley defeat which, although the anomaly, should no longer be seen as completely extraordinary given that only Chelsea have more home wins than Sean Dyche’s men this term.

So, our win rate across all competitions is 75% and that’s better than any other English team. Arsenal are next with 71%, ahead of 67% Man City, 63% Chelsea, 57% Man Utd and 50% Spurs.

And yet there still seems much more to come.

When Philippe Coutinho, Robert Firmino and Sadio Mane are in full flow, the sky really does seem the limit and that trio again combined brilliantly for our two goals against West Brom.

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho seems part of the furniture now but he’s still just 24. Like many young players he’s suffered from inconsistency over the last couple of seasons and seemed to have long stretches of games in which he just wasn’t involved.

But thanks to his own maturing and Klopp’s cajoling, he now appears on the threshold of becoming one of the Premier League’s superstars. Many would say he holds that status already.

So far this season he’s averaging a goal every other game (5 from 10) and he’s also provided four assists. Add in his trio of strikes for Brazil and it’s 8 goals in 14. Unsurprisingly, he features in the Premier League’s most improved XI this term.

His contribution grows and grows. Take the West Brom game. An early goal was vital to avoid it becoming Man Utd Pt II, with the Baggies set up with typical Tony Pulis regimentation.

Where is the way through? It seems there isn’t one. And then an impudent Coutinho dummy breaks the lines, sets Liverpool away and Firmino and Mane do the rest.

A 1-0 lead is fragile but it’s over to the Little Magician again as he jinks inside and arrows a low shot into the bottom corner, wheeling away with the look of someone who is finding this all very easy. A player at the top of his game.

Quite rightly, Klopp shuffled his pack for the League Cup win over Spurs, meaning Coutinho could rest those legs for the trip to Crystal Palace (more on that later).

A whole new XI took to the pitch against Tottenham (10 changes themselves) and yet our so-called back-up looked much stronger than theirs. Klopp has a never-ending list of enjoyable ways to express himself and I did like his take on this one. “I saw the line-up on paper and I thought ‘oh, still really good!”

And it was really good. Daniel Sturridge must surely be the best reserve striker in world football and showed his class with the two goals that ultimately proved enough. With Divock Origi and Danny Ings also getting a run-out, we really do seem blessed with attacking talent.

The much-touted Trent Alexander-Arnold showed signs of promise and there was a very mature performance from Ovie Ejaria on his first start at Anfield. “Better than Pogba,” joked some on Twitter.

The only slightly compromised thought I had was watching Simon Mignolet. I’ll be honest, his presence out there made me feel reassured, words I thought I’d never say even though I mean them in a ‘better the devil you know’ way.

I know that Loris Karius is very young, needs games and will get better. But who would you trust more if we were fighting for the title with 10 games to go? Can we really win the Premier League with a rookie goalkeeper? Hopefully, by March, I’ll be answering ‘Karius’ and ‘yes’ to those two questions but right now I’m not sure.

I suppose the good news is that Karius has hardly had anything to do in the games against West Brom and Man Utd – a testament to our much-maligned defence and all-round dominance of games.

It’s asking a lot of a young goalkeeper to suddenly fully focus having spent large chunks of the game doing nothing and, so far, he’s finding it hard.

Thankfully, Karius’ hesitancy is being compensated for by the cool, languid figure of Joel Matip in front of him. The Cameroon star oozes calm and it spreads. We’re far from fool-proof at the back but replacing Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno with Matip and James Milner reduces panic levels dramatically.

Talking of which, isn’t it a relief to be facing a Crystal Palace side without Yannick Bolasie and Dwight Gayle?

That pair have caused us real nightmares over the last few seasons but are now strutting their stuff and scoring goals for Everton and Newcastle respectively.

We ended something of a hoodoo by winning at Selhurst Park last season so hopefully we can repeat the trick.

Then again, Christian Benteke used to have a great record against us in his Villa days so hopefully none of those “came back to haunt his old team” clichés will be doing the rounds on Saturday.

In an ideal world, he’ll give Karius some saving practice near the end but, by that stage, Coutinho would have inspired us to another win and rounded off another great week.

There will be bumps along the road but…. joint top of the table, into the last eight of the League Cup, playing attractive football…  I’m loving this road Klopp is taking us down.

Dave Tindall

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