The Dossier: How Liverpool can adapt without Sturridge

The England international’s partnership with Luis Suarez has brought the vast majority of the Reds’ goals this season but Brendan Rodgers has few options while he is injured

ANALYSIS
By George Ankers

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is right to see the absence of Daniel Sturridge until at least mid-January as “a big blow”. Sunday’s shock defeat at Hull City served as an uncomfortable reminder of how influential the England forward has been this season.

As has been discussed at length before, his partnership with Luis Suarez has been the most devastating combination in the Premier League thus far this season and Rodgers’ switch to deploying the pair through the middle in 2013-14 has liberated the Uruguayan as well as Sturridge.

Since Suarez’s return to action from suspension, Liverpool have scored 20 goals. Their partnership accounted for 14 of those, with the other six all coming from set-pieces; meaning the pressure on the Uruguayan will now be intense.

Options are needed, both to keep Suarez firing as he has done and to open up new avenues of attack in Sturridge’s absence.

Against Hull, Rodgers reverted to a formation similar to that which he employed up to 12 months ago, before he signed his new talisman from Chelsea. Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses took up wide positions either side of Suarez, with Jordan Henderson the furthest forward of three central midfielders.

It did not work. For one thing, Hull – as they often have this season – fielded a back five, which meant three centre-backs all fully focused on shutting down Suarez, while still having cover on the flanks to keep Liverpool’s wingers quiet.

This will not be the case against every team – the Reds themselves are one of few other clubs who dally in odd-numbered back lines – but, as long as the Uruguayan is on his own in the centre, he will have to work harder to find space.

The fact that both Sterling and Moses have been struggling for form also played its part. The trip to the KC Stadium was a chance for both to take their seasons by the lapels and stake a claim but both were low on momentum and, as a result, penetration.

Liverpool’s problem is that they do not have a great many other options. Their biggest plus is that Philippe Coutinho added a dash of quality when he came off the bench and his return from injury is a vital fillip to counter Sturridge’s absence.

The Brazilian, pushed into a more advanced central position than Henderson, was understandably a little rusty but has the movement and drive to either draw defenders out or take them on. He could be employed in the middle of a 4-2-3-1 or even as the nominal second striker in the formation that has suited Sturridge and Suarez so well.

The latter might represent a move too far from his position of greatest effect, however. In an ideal world, to most closely replicate his best team until Sturridge returns, Rodgers would prefer to have Coutinho in the hole behind Suarez and another out-and-out centre forward.

This was surely the role for which Fabio Borini would have been best suited – but, loaned out to Sunderland, he will not be able to seize the chance. Instead, it must be seen as the golden opportunity for Iago Aspas to finally make his mark on English football.

Since Liverpool spent over €8 million on his signature from Celta Vigo, the 26-year-old has rarely been seen, thanks in part to a thigh injury picked up in October. He was on the bench at Hull, though was not brought on, not trusted enough to make a difference for a risky run-out to be worth it after an inauspicious first six outings.

Aspas is not a ready-made substitute for Sturridge – quick but not electrically so, with more of a propensity to pass rather than a poacher’s selfish streak – but if his signing is to mean something, then this is the situation in which to use him.

Another summer signing, Luis Alberto, may be worth a try, especially given the travails of Sterling and Moses. The wide forward is far from the finished article but could have featured at least sparingly in Barcelona’s first team this season before his move to Anfield and could do with the minutes.

The only definite is that Coutinho will play if fit. That will most likely be in the No.10 position but, given the paucity of in-form forward options, Rodgers could yet decide to shunt him a little wider and continue to play three in midfield. The Reds would be a little more stifled as a result but, with fewer risks taken up front, might simply target solidity over the busy festive period.

That, though, is the extent of the choices available to Rodgers. Short of trying out even younger players such as Samed Yesil or repositioning those already out of form – the possibility of Moses being moved more centrally to deputise, for example – he can only tweak with what he has.

It should say a lot about his summer transfer business, either way. The activity of Aspas and Alberto, particularly compared to Borini, will be closely watched. If Rodgers cannot trust them now, then when?

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Coutinho fit for Liverpool to face Norwich

Reds manager Brendan Rodgers expects the playmaker to be available after playing part of Sunday’s defeat to Hull City and is also hopeful of a swift recovery by Kolo Toure

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expects Philippe Coutinho to be fit to face Norwich City on Wednesday.

The Brazilian suffered a high ankle strain in the Merseyside derby on November 23 and was unable to train before Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at Hull City.

Coutinho came on as a 66th-minute replacement for Raheem Sterling at the KC Stadium and Rodgers said on Monday that the 21-year-old came through the game unscathed.

“Philippe will be fine,” the Liverpool boss told reporters. “He has had no further reaction from the game yesterday. He’s trained this morning so, all being well, he’ll be fit.

“We’ll assess [Kolo Toure] in the next 24 hours,” he added after the Ivorian picked up a hip injury at Hull, “but hopefully he should be available.”

With his side set to go without striker Daniel Sturridge until the end of January, the Northern Irishman is confident that he will be backed to sign players in the winter transfer window, providing that they are of a sufficient calibre to improve the side.

“I always look at the bigger picture and the bigger picture is pretty bright. I’m really only focused on where we are at this moment,” he added.

“Every window will be exactly the same. If there’s a player we think we can improve our squad and, in particular, our team, we will be in a position to go out and try to get that player.”

No regrets for Coutinho over swapping Inter for Liverpool

The attacking midfielder was forced to play a bit-part role at San Siro and says that he “didn’t think twice” about the chance to move to Anfield in January

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho says that he does not regret his move to the Premier League after a troubled stint at Inter.

The 21-year-old spent three seasons at San Siro, with his arrival in Milan coinciding with the club’s fall from grace after five consecutive Serie A titles and a Champions League crown.

Coutinho concedes that it did not work out for him at Inter but argues that the depth of the Nerazzurri’s strength in depth made it tough for him to get regular game time.

“Jose Mourinho was the coach when I was preparing to join them but he left before I moved to Italy,” the Brazilian told The Daily Telegraph.

“It was a difficult period, strangely, because they had won the national championship five times and just won the Champions League, but the club was preparing for change.

“Benitez had just become the coach and he was prepared to give me opportunities straight away as a younger player but there were good players there who won a lot at the club – really good players – and things were not settled and it turned out not so good.

“I had a good relationship with Rafa; he was always very considerate towards me and gave me a lot of confidence. He cared a lot about all the younger players at Inter.”

Coutinho “didn’t think twice” about a switch to Anfield when the opportunity presented itself in January and he has since flourished with the Reds.

“Sometimes you can be a good player at a good club and for some reason it just does not work out,” he remarked.

“There is no explanation for it. Then you move to another club and it fits perfectly straight away and you feel comfortable.

“I had some chances at Inter but, after a few years – certainly by the time Liverpool were interested – I was not getting many chances.

“As a footballer, all you ever want is the chance to play and show people how well you can play. I knew at Liverpool I would get that opportunity so I didn’t think twice.

“You look at a club and you see a top European team, with top players and top ambitions to win every major trophy, even if it will take time. I didn’t even have to think about the decision.”

Suarez happy as ever at Liverpool, insists Rodgers

The Reds boss indicated the forward is once again settled at Anfield after a “difficult summer”, suggesting the “genuine” prospect of Champions League football has helped

Liverpool star Luis Suarez is happier than he has ever been at the club, according to manager Brendan Rodgers.

The Uruguayan was at the centre of constant transfer speculation during the off-season, with Arsenal and Real Madrid among those reportedly interested, but the Premier League club refused to sell.
 
Club captain Steven Gerrard had voiced concerns that the 26-year-old forward may leave the club if they failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

But after keeping hold of the forward this summer Rodgers insists he has never seen Suarez, who has scored six league goals this season, look happier.

“Luis, looking and speaking to him over the last couple of days, he’s happy as he’s ever been,” Rodgers said on Thursday.

“He recognises that we have a real genuine chance this year of breaking in there (the top four). Last year was about transition and the second part of the season was about improvement, he’s seen that.

“Obviously we had a difficult summer but he’s come back and is more mature and his performance level’s been really high and he sees a genuine chance for us to make that so he’s very happy here.”

Despite losing to league leaders Arsenal last time out, Liverpool sit third in the Premier League after a solid start to the campaign.

Their form has Rodgers confident they can qualify for Europe’s top club competition, which could be enough to keep Suarez at Anfield.

“If you look at where we’re at, if you’re averaging two points in your games then you would like to think that you’re getting into the Champions League,” Rodgers said.

“Certainly that’s something come Saturday (against Fulham) if we can do that, get another three points, which we’ll be fighting hard for, then that would take us above that.

“We’re just treating every game as a really important game for us in our quest this year, as I said we need to just keep focusing and keep our concentration.”

Rodgers is likely to welcome back defender Glen Johnson and attacker Philippe Coutinho to the starting line-up for the visit of Fulham.

Coutinho can make the difference for Liverpool this season, says Kolo Toure

The 32-year-old is in awe of the Brazilian and believes that he can be instrumental alongside Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez

Kolo Toure is confident Phillipe Coutinho can make the difference for Liverpool during their push for a top-four finish this season.

The Brazilian playmaker made his return from injury as a substitute in the Reds’ 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday, following an extended period out after undergoing shoulder surgery.

And Toure believes the former Inter midfielder can have a huge impact on Liverpool’s season, even branding the 21-year-old the club’s best player.

“I call him [Coutinho] my player, my best player, because I think he is amazing. He makes the difference,” he told reporters after his side’s loss at the Emirates Stadium.

“This season he has been injured and when he will come back, I think he’s going to be amazing this season, definitely. In training, he is one of the hardest to mark, definitely. I call him my best player.”

Toure also praised Liverpool’s prolific strike-force, suggesting that both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are two of the best forwards in the world.

“Suarez is amazing, too,” the Ivorian added. “When you have a player like that [Coutinho], you know that you have this magic and people haven’t seen that yet and they will because he is young, definitely.

“In Suarez and Daniel Sturridge we have two of the best strikers in the world. They are amazing. I think when Coutinho came on in the second half it showed there’s not much difference between us and Arsenal.

“The season is long. We all want to be champion. This is only November. They will have a hard time as well. The season is not done yet, definitely.”

Coutinho in Liverpool squad to face Arsenal, says Rodgers

The Brazilian playmaker has been out for six weeks after undergoing surgery, but he is in line to face the Gunners in the top-of-the-table clash

Philippe Coutinho is fit and ready to return to the Liverpool fold for their top-of-the-table clash at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Brazilian playmaker has been out of action for around six weeks after undergoing surgery on a shoulder injury he picked up in the 2-2 draw at Swansea City in September.

Coutinho returned to training ahead of Liverpool’s 4-1 defeat of West Brom last weekend and Brendan Rodgers has revealed the 21-year-old is available for the game against Premier League leaders Arsenal.

However, the trip to the Emirates Stadium is likely to come too soon for left-back Jose Enrique, who continues to struggle with a knee problem.

“Jose will be a question mark for the weekend, but Coutinho looks great,” Rodgers told reporters.

“He’s been given the all clear by the specialist to come in. He’s been training for the last few weeks, so he’ll be back into the squad.”

Injured Coutinho optimistic over Liverpool return

The Brazilian picked up a shoulder injury during the Reds’ Premier League clash with Swansea, but insists his recovery is on track and hopes to return ahead of schedule

Coutinho has reassured Liverpool fans that surgery to fix his shoulder problem has been successful and his recovery is going to plan.

The Brazilian sustained the injury after landing heavily following a collision during the Reds’ Premier League clash with Swansea, and is expected to be out of action until the end of October.

But the player himself has now revealed his treatment is going well, and insists he will do his best to return to action earlier than planned.

“It’s annoying to get injured, especially when you are playing well, but that happens,” Coutinho told Globo Esporte.

“I now want to focus on my recovery and do everything right to be back as soon as possible to help Liverpool in the league.

“The surgery was a success and this is what matters the most. I’ll be back soon.”

Coutinho will be in contention for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil squad for this summer’s World Cup if he can maintain his promising start to life in Liverpool, and admits a place at the tournament is his dream.

“I dream of getting called up again for the national team, but it’s only up to me,” he added.

“Of course it’s bad when you get injured in a moment like this, but this is football.

“I have had a set-back and my concern is being fully ready as soon as possible. If I play well, things will happen naturally.”

Coutinho loss a blow for Liverpool – Rodgers

The Reds boss admits the loss of the Brazilian disrupted the balance of his team and hopes he can return quicker than predicted, while Daniel Agger is nearing full fitness

Brendan Rodgers has confirmed Liverpool will be without Philippe Coutinho for at least six weeks after he underwent shoulder surgery.

The Brazilian playmaker went off injured during the Reds’ 2-2 draw at Swansea on Monday, and manager Rodgers admitted it is a blow as he looks to maintain his side’s spot at the top of the table.

However, after having surgery on Thursday, Rodgers expects the 21-year-old to be unavailable until the end of October.

“He’s only just having it today so the timescale from the medics is obviously up to six weeks,” the Liverpool boss told reporters.

“We wouldn’t anticipate any sooner than that. It’s unfortunate for him because he’s been in great form since he came here in January.

“Hopefully we’ll get him back sooner rather than later and then he can come into the group again.

“It was one where it was more the fall than the challenge. The challenge was probably a bit clumsy but it was actually more the fall that did the damage.

“In those scenarios the bone may be bruised but unfortunately for Philippe the bone came through the muscle. That’s what the pain was and why the operation was needed.

“It’s unfortunate because he was a really pivotal player for us in the game. When he went, we lost that connection between our midfield and the front line; it disrupted our balance a bit.”

More positive for Rodgers is the news that Daniel Agger may be able to return to the squad for Saturday’s clash with Southampton after missing the trip to Swansea with a side strain. 

“We’ll see how he is in the next 24 hours,” Rodgers added. “It’s too early to say if he’ll be ready for the weekend or not.

“It was just unfortunate it happened the day before the game. We’re hopeful he’ll be fine by the weekend.”

Liverpool star Coutinho ruled out until the end of October

The Reds midfielder went off injured following a clash with Ashley s in the 2-2 draw with Swansea City on Monday night and now faces up to six weeks on the sidelines

Liverpool midfielder Phillippe Coutinho has been ruled out until the end of October.

The Brazilian playmaker suffered a shoulder injury following a clash with Ashley s in the 2-2 draw against Swansea City on Monday night.

The 21-year-old was substituted as the Reds failed to win for the first time in the Premier League season.

A statement on the club’s official website read: “After being assessed by the Reds medical staff, it’s been decided that Coutinho will now have surgical stabilisation on the AC joint in his shoulder.”

The youngster was in superb form last season following a move from Inter in January, scoring three goals and providing seven assists in just 13 appearances, with one of each in his first four games of 2013-14.

Coutinho nominated for the best young player 2013.

Philippe Coutinho was amaizing ever since he joined Liverpool FC and got the chance to prove himself. That’s the main reason he’s nominated for the best young player for 2013. All 5 players nominated for this award are:

1 – Rafael Varane (Real Madrid)
2 – Paul Pogba (Juventus)
3 – Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United)
4 – Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)
5 – Julian Draxler (Schalke 04)

Last season, since he joined Liverpool FC in January, in Premiership, in 13 matches he scored 3 times and assisted 7. It’s like he started betting football on Liverpool FC and alongside contribute his whiz for this club.

His first quotes on this club were: “Liverpool is a great club with great players. We’ve always heard about Liverpool’s history in Brazil. They are the club that have been interested in me and that have showed this interest so I know they believe in me and my football. It’s a club that fans are always supporting. It’s a great club accustomed to victories and with a lot of good stories in football and I’m hoping to get here and add some more.”

“I’m a player who likes to make moves and to play along with the attack, passing as well as scoring. I like dribbling and playing near to the box – that is a strength I have. I’m very confident and excited to come and start to train with the team and be available to the manager. I’ve been playing in Italy for two-and-a-half years and I believe I will adapt with ease here.”