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Why Philippe Coutinho ISN’T Liverpool’s most irreplaceable player

The brilliant Brazilian has bamboozled defences for five years but is set to join Barcelona

When you’ve earned nicknames like ‘Little Magician’ and ‘Twinkle-toes’, you know you’ve got some serious pedigree.

So Philippe Coutinho’s imminent departure is undeniably going to hit Liverpool right where it hurts.


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Philippe Coutinho will become the world's most-expensive January signing

AFP
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Coutinho is set for Barcelona

It now seems a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ he completes his dream move to Barcelona this January, with mixed reports in Spain claiming he believes he’s already played his final game for the Reds.

Coutinho is a special player.

He combines wonderful vision, magnetic-like footwork and the best long range shooting in the Premier League.

Now that’s a worthy £100m package.

Barcelona will need to sell players to free up £125m needed for Philippe Coutinho

Getty
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Coutinho has captained Liverpool on occasion this season

But while Liverpool fans are spontaneously combusting over Coutinho’s exit, the stats prove that his loss isn’t terminal and, in fact, another member of the Reds’ famed ‘Fab Four’ is far more irreplaceable.

Liverpool’s record with and without Coutinho

Coutinho’s response to being denied his move to Catalonia last summer has been magnificent, particularly when you consider the temperament of Virgil van Dijk and Alexis Sanchez who suffered simile fates.

The 25-year-old has scored 12 times and produced another eight assists from just 17 starts this season, averaging a goal involvement approximately every 70 minutes.

But his individual brilliance hasn’t necessarily benefited the team’s cause.

Philippe Coutinho featured in Liverpool's win over Leicester on Saturday

AFP or licensors
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Liverpool have been more effective without Coutinho

With Coutinho in the side Liverpool average 1.8 points and 2.2 goals per game, compared with 2.2 points and 2.3 goals per game without him.

Arguably their two most impressive wins – the 4-0 battering of Arsenal and this week’s battling 2-1 win at Burnley – were also achieved without the Brazilian magician.

He’s a mercurial match winner capable of defining moments but the stunning impact made by Mohamed Salah has taken much of the responsibility off his shoulders.

Salah’s scoring form has been sensational

PA:Press Association
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Salah’s scoring form has been sensational

Firmino > Coutinho?

Salah’s exceptional goalscoring rate has taken the Premier League by storm, but the role of Liverpool’s most important player falls at the feet of Roberto Firmino.

Coutinho is the most talented, Salah is the best finisher, Sadio Mane is the quickest but Roberto Firmino is the most influential.

That’s because, simply put, without Firmino the remaining trio cannot thrive.

Robert Firmino was left red-faced moments before the Champions League clash in Maribor

Rex Features
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Firmino is far more important to Liverpool’s system

Firmino is the best in the world at what he does; the unorthodox false nine role full of attacking vigour whilst also offering the first line of defence.

His intelligent runs create space for Mane and Salah to run in behind whilst similarly creating space for Coutinho from range.

Before this season Firmino was criticised for his lack of goal return, but 16 goals and eight assists in all competitions has silenced his doubters.

Roberto Firmino is hoping for bigger and better things in his next 100 games

Reuters
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Firmino has produced goals as well as his insatiable work ethic

Liverpool are monitoring the likes of Thomas Lemar, Riyad Mahrez and Leon Goretzka as Coutinho replacements and while they might not be at his level yet, they have the potential to get there.

But Firmino’s influence is so niche and precise there are very few players out there who could emulate him.

Coutinho isn’t even the most important Brazilian at Liverpool, let alone player.

Firmino’s influences supersedes Coutinho’s

AFP or licensors
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Firmino’s influences supersedes Coutinho’s

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Southampton are there for the taking against Fulham

PA:Press Association
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Southampton are there for the taking against Fulham

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