Barcelona took on Deportivo Alaves in a match that saw Philippe Coutinho make his first start for the Catalan side in the league, after making his much coveted move earlier in the month. Coutinho made a positive impact after coming off the bench last match against Espanyol and there was much anticipation regarding how the Brazilian would take to his new abode at Camp Nou.
- Philippe Coutinho started on the right today for Barcelona and was slightly different to Rakitic in that position. While building up play through the right and receiving from Semedo, Coutinho has mostly stayed near the flank and looked to keep it simple, playing the safe pass
Coutinho started in an unfamiliar right wing position in the match and consequently took a bit of time to get accustomed to the new environment. Also, the position meant that he could not cut in naturally and beat defenders at will. Instead, he chose to stay in the flanks in the initial stages of the game and play the safe pass, by playing it to Semedo or Paulinho, or at times, Leo Messi who dropped deep.
- In other instances, Coutinho has been fluid in his positioning by occupying a high position along with Suarez in order for Messi to drop deep and initiate play. Coutinho is good in attracting the press and would seem ideal over time to relieve Messi off some attention
As the half wore on, Coutinho found himself moving further up the pitch and exchange positions with Messi. Messi was found deep and instigating play, while Coutinho took his position near Suarez. Further more proof that it was not the natural position for Coutinho to start on the right.
- Speaking of attracting players onto him, Barca left the center unoccupied at times with Paulinho joining Messi and Suarez up top, due to Coutinho’s proficiency in taking on players. This too, can be incorporated more into the side and leave Messi near the danger zones
Coutinho’s individual traits though were put to use in some instances when he could use his dribbling to take on and beat okayers, thereby attracting the players towards him and free space up front for Messi and Suarez. This will be ideal for Barcelona in the long run where he ca be integrated into the squad and relieve Messi off some creative burden. This is particularly vital considering the fact that Messi can play further near the goal and make an impact that matters on the scoreline.
It can be said that Coutinho’s best position would be to come in off the left and the match today was further proof of it. While this may get better over time for him and Barcelona, Valverde might have a rethink on starting him from the right again.
— Football Bloody Hell (@fbhfootball) January 28, 2018
It was not the best of performances from Coutinho, largely due to his starting position on the pitch and the misfiring of the whole side in general. It can be said that Valverde was trying to experiment a bit and try playing a side that has all of Suarez, Messi and Iniesta along with Coutinho. The asymmetric nature of the 4-4-2 that is played under Valverde might be a bit difficult to get accustomed to and Coutinho might fare better as time goes on.
Barcelona were able to keep their unbeaten run going and their lead atop the table intact thanks to a brilliant Messi free kick after Suarez had leveled the scores. It was a bit harsh on the visitors who would have been worthy of the point if they could have drawn the match.
Note: All the animation clips were made using TacticalPad