If the Family Fortunes’ researchers were sent off to ask 100 Liverpool supporters who the club’s biggest creative influence was, there is a strong possibility that the top answer would be Philippe Coutinho.
This was even before Coutinho’s solitary goal against Blackburn confirmed Liverpool’s Wembley appearance and a date with Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final.
In some corners he is already being seen as the heir apparent to Manchester City’s David Silva – the midfield roamer that can dictate games in the final third, play intricate through passes and score goals. He has even been linked with the Citizens to battle Silva for a starting role in the expected summer shake-up at the Etihad.
There is some grounds for the comparison. After all, Coutinho has played 25 accurate through balls in the Premier League across the last two seasons. Only Silva has provided more for teammates with 30.
However, the following statistics from the Premier League this season suggests that the Brazilian still has a long way to go to even mirror the diminutive Spaniard.
The big difference between the pair is the way they approach launching attacks in the final third.
Silva’s main strengths are his lateral movement and appreciation of space, regularly meandering from left to right in order to receive a pass on the half turn to run at the opposing defence.
He is then very good with his weight of through ball to slide in the likes of Sergio Aguero.
Coutinho is much more direct and arguably a more complete midfielder, who could easily excel in a slightly deeper midfield role too.
It is his speed with the ball at his feet and greater ability to wriggle free from tight situations that help him stand out. Unlike Silva, he is not a playmaker that is focussed on providing for others, but rather one that is likely to provide a spark out of nothing by himself.
In a way, Coutinho is suffering from the same problems that have been a frustration of Silva in recent seasons.
The Man City maestro always wanted to be the string-puller behind the ball, not getting inside opposing penalty boxes enough for a player with a licence to get forward.
Coutinho needs to start influencing matches in the final third, rather than from just inside an opponent’s half.
He only has five assists this season, while Liverpool teammate Jordan Henderson has 12, even though he starts in a deeper midfield position. What the England international does though is look to run beyond the forwards.
It is 19/4 that Coutinho is not a Liverpool player after the closing of the summer transfer window and even though the Reds now look unlikely qualifiers for the Champions League, he is best served remaining at Anfield to iron out his attacking creases, rather than moving and stifling his potential.