Aston Villa announced the surprise signing of former Liverpool man Philippe Coutinho on Friday, subject to the player receiving a work permit.
The Brazilian has joined on loan with an option to buy in the summer, in a move which reunites him with Villa manager Steven Gerrard, who was his captain at the Reds.
Not so long ago, Coutinho was one of the best players in the world, but how has he performed since his move to Barcelona, where does he fit in at Villa and what impact will he have in Fantasy Premier League (FPL)?
We’ll attempt to answer those questions in the article below.
“His technical ability is so good. You knew that he wouldn’t lose it, you knew that he would produce something special with it, that he would always choose the right pass.” – Luis Suarez on Coutinho
In 201 games for Liverpool, Coutinho produced 54 goals and 45 assists, near enough one goal contribution every two games.
And yet his arrival in January 2013, when he was an £8.5m capture from Inter Milan, came as a surprise to many having so often flattered to deceive in Italy.
However, the Brazilian was an instant hit at Anfield, racking up three goals and seven assists in the second half of his debut season. From that point on, his influence grew, but it was the appointment of Jurgen Klopp in 2015 that saw him truly develop into one of the best playmakers in world football.
“I like the position that I’m now playing. What I like most about it is that I don’t have to just stay in one place. I have the freedom to move around. The manager is comfortable with me doing it and that’s given me the confidence to go and play. I am linking up well with all of the players on the pitch. Now the players feel more comfortable and this comes from the coach. That’s something that’s reflected on the pitch and in the results.” – Coutinho discussing his role under Klopp
In his final season at Liverpool, Coutinho scored seven goals and supplied seven assists in 14 Premier League appearances, averaging 7.4 points per match in FPL, before joining Barcelona midway through the campaign.
COUTINHO’S LEAGUE CAREER STATS AT LIVERPOOL
BARCELONA / BAYERN MUNICH
Coutinho arrived at Barcelona as the third-most-expensive player in history, with the club desperate to add more quality after Neymar’s departure to Paris-Saint Germain.
In his first season, he showed plenty of promise, scoring seven goals in 18 games, but failed to build on that and spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Bayern Munich.
During his time in Germany, he won the treble of the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League, but once again, didn’t quite seem to fit, with Bayern declining to take up their option to sign him permanently in the summer of 2020.
Since returning to Barcelona, the club has mostly been in disarray under the presidency of Josep Bartomeu, whilst Coutinho has also been hampered by injury, with a knee problem ruling him out of the second half of the 2020/21 season.
Discussing why Coutinho’s spell at Barcelona hasn’t worked out, Spanish football writer Andy West said:
“It was quickly apparent – as it probably always should have been – that Coutinho was not suited to either of his expected new roles. He wanted to play further forward than Iniesta’s disciplined midfield role and more centrally than Neymar’s left-wing slot.
Instead, he preferred to roam more central areas and find space between the lines of the opposition midfield and defence. But Barca already had someone fulfilling that role and there was no way Coutinho would ever usurp Lionel Messi as the team’s main creator.
So Coutinho ended up generally getting in Messi’s way, disrupting the team’s rhythm by taking too many touches and reduced to hopeful long-range strikes with sporadic success – leading social media wits to sarcastically dub him ‘Shootinho’.”
COUTINHO’S LEAGUE CAREER STATS AT BARCELONA / BAYERN MUNICH
|2019/20||Bayern Munich (loan)||23||8||10|
Coutinho is an exceptionally talented footballer, whose ability to create and unlock defences has the potential to improve any side.
However, he also carries plenty of goal threat, as he scored 19 Premier League goals from outside of the area during his time at Liverpool, more than any other player in the division aside from Steven Gerrard.
Notably, when applying a 500-minute threshold, he ranked fourth amongst all midfielders for expected goal involvement (xGI) per 90 minutes in his last season at the club:
Midfielders ranked by xGI per 90 2017/18
Coutinho’s touch heatmap from that campaign also offers a glimpse as to how he might be best utilised at Villa.
Philippe Coutinho’s touch heatmap at Liverpool 2017/18
THE PROSPECTS – AND WHERE DOES HE FIT IN AT VILLA?
“I don’t think you get a nickname as a ‘magician’ if you’re not a special footballer” – Steven Gerrard on Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho is at his best in the middle of the park, where he is able to get on the ball and make things happen.
On the face of it, that suggests Gerrard may need to move away from his trusted 4-3-3 formation, so that he can accommodate a traditional no. 10.
However, it’s worth noting just how narrow Gerrard’s ‘wingers’ play in his current system, as you can see in Villa’s average position map from Double Gameweek 21, with Emiliano Buendia’s (£6.2m) movement captured on the right:
Aston Villa’s average position map (left) and Emiliano Buendia’s touch heatmap (right) vs Brentford in Double Gameweek 21
That suggests a starting role on the left of Villa’s front three, with the freedom to drift infield, is where Coutinho will be used under Gerrard.
Notably, that would also carry similarities to how Jack Grealish (£7.6m) was deployed, with the attack running through him.
In terms of Coutinho’s Fantasy prospects, there are naturally huge question marks over his fitness and ability to cope with the pace and intensity of the Premier League.
However, reuniting with Gerrard and returning to the league where he was at his most productive is encouraging, whilst Villa’s forthcoming fixtures – especially from Gameweeks 23 to 28 – offers him a platform to make an instant impact.
In addition, it’s also highly likely that he’ll be handed set pieces at Villa, which is another route to Fantasy points.
The Brazilian is yet to be added to the game, but if his starting price were to come in around £7.0m, given his past performances and fixtures, he clearly has the potential to come in and shake up the current midfield template.
Meanwhile, Ollie Watkins could be about to profit from his signing, too, with the prospect of two playmakers playing in behind an exciting proposition for the £7.8m priced forward.
Full-year memberships, monthly subscriptions and a FREE trial are all now available.
Join now to get the following:
- Plot your transfer strategies using the fully interactive Season Ticker.
- Get projections for every Premier League player provided by the Rate My Team statistical model.
- Use Rate My Team throughout the season to guide your selections and transfers.
- Get access to over 150+ exclusive members articles over the season.
- Analyse our OPTA-powered statistic tables specifically tailored for Fantasy Football Managers.
- Use our exclusive tool to build custom stats tables from over 100 OPTA player and team stats.
- Enjoy our Flat-Track Bully feature which introduces an opposition filter to your tables.
- View heatmaps and expected goals data for every player.
- Use our powerful comparison tool to analyse players head-to-head.