David Sumpter looks at the passing and shooting statistics that demonstrate just why the Brazilian attacking midfielder is so exceptional...
Liverpool didn’t win on Saturday, but Philippe Coutinho was on fire. His one-two with Daniel Sturridge followed by a fine finish against Spurs was the perfect example of the Brazilian doing what he does best.
Throughout this season, Coutinho has used the area just outside the left-hand corner of the box as the starting point for dangerous runs, passes and shots. Here are his passes in Stats Zone for the Spurs match.
There were plenty of neat attacking passes, and he created four chances from his favourite area on the left.
Going the distance
Despite performances like Saturday’s, Coutinho has also been subjected to some criticisms. The most common complaint is about his shooting.
While his goal on Saturday was a well-taken strike from within the box, not all of his shots have come from so close to goal: Coutinho has a tendency to let rip from just outside the box.
Here is the 23-year-old’s shot map for this season (before Saturday’s match):
It was a strike from almost 30 yards that got him his first goal of the season against Stoke, and another of these that opened the scoring against Southampton.
But while he has scored three goals from long range, 45 attempts have either been blocked, saved or missed the target. A 6% success rate at this range isn’t that bad – the average for scoring from outside the box is just over 3%.
But the point that Coutinho’s critics make is that, with such a low chance of success, why is he blasting shot after shot from this position?
For many other midfielders who like to have a go from distance, this is a valid criticism. Very few, if any, players can consistently convert more than 3 or 4% of their chances from this distance. In last season’s Premier League, Steven Gerrard shot 27 times from outside the box without scoring.
Coutinho does happen to be a fine passer of the ball, however. Below is a plot of all of the successful passes he has made this season into the ‘danger zone’.
There are 54 such passes, an average of 2.8 per 90 minutes played. Very few attacking midfielders reach this level.
This season, per 90 minutes, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard have each made 2.4, Christian Eriksen 2.5, Raheem Sterling 2.6 and Riyad Mahrez 2.7. The only player well ahead of Coutinho is Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, on 3.2.
So while Coutinho does like to unleash the odd 30-yarder, he is also a team player who regularly creates opportunities for his Liverpool team-mates.
The Brazilian on his day has it all: he’s exciting to watch, moves in a way that defenders find difficult to predict, creates lots of chances and occasionally scores a scorcher from distance.
Liverpool fans can expect to see him provide many more of the creative performances we saw against Spurs. And with Sturridge fit again, they will also hope to see more of the chances he creates going in the back of the net.