Rodgers warns Liverpool against placing high expectations on Coutinho

The Reds’ manager believes too often young players suffer from the burden of expectation, but praises the Brazilian’s impressive display in Saturday’s 6-0 away win at Newcastle

Brendan Rodgers insists Liverpool should not put pressure on young attacker Philippe Coutinho following his excellent performance in the Reds’ 6-0 away win over Newcastle on Saturday.

The Brazilian playmaker moved to Anfield in January for a fee of £8.5 million from Inter Milan and has since become a regular in the first team, scoring two goals in his nine starts.

Rodgers, however, is determined to avert pressure and expectation away from his young star, though conceded that Coutinho had made a brilliant start to life in the Premier League.

“We build up players in the country and put them on a pedestal and then quickly nail them down,” Rodgers told the club’s official website.

“He’s had an outstanding performance and people can see why we brought him in. He’s 20 years of age and fits the culture of what we’re trying to do here.

“He’s technically strong and he’s a very humble boy. He works hard, you can see the effort in his game, the pressure, the intensity, so he fits in really well, but there’s a long way to go.

“If you look at the stats you’ll see I haven’t eased him in gently. He’s played nearly every game.”

Coutinho was central to his side’s attacking threat at St James’ Park in the absence of Luis Suarez, setting up Daniel Sturridge for Liverpool’s third goal with a particularly impressive through-ball.

Rodgers continued: “It was a wonderful demonstration of what we’re trying to do here. Offensively, we passed the ball very well first and foremost and we scored six goals, but the balance in our game was good too.

“There was organisation, educated pressure on the ball and when the chances came we were ruthless. It was an outstanding performance.

“To go there and beat Newcastle 6-0 when you know the home team really needs the victory, I think it tells you more about our performance. The players were outstanding.”

Sturridge and Coutinho revel in leading roles for Liverpool

The talented duo were in supreme form in the absence of Luis Suarez as they masterminded a 6-0 rout of Newcastle to stretch the Reds’ unbeaten run in the league to five games

COMMENT
By Charlie Scott

Liverpool adjusted to life without Luis Suarez admirably at St James’ Park on Saturday as they thrashed a below-par Newcastle side 6-0. Their biggest league win of the year was a thing of clinical beauty.

Daniel Sturridge – so often ridiculed for his selfishness and poor decision-making – was scintillating, while Philippe Coutinho’s impact on the game was such that at times he seemed to be playing with a different ball from the other 21 men on the pitch.

The Brazilian was the undeniable star as Brendan Rodgers’ side dismantled a Magpies team who have now lost four of their last six league matches. The most important thing, however, was that they did it without Suarez.

Thousands of words have been written analysing the Uruguayan’s misdemeanours, while the FA’s decision to hand him a 10-match ban led many to question what impact his absence would have on the Merseyside club.

The length of that ban means that he misses the remainder of this season and the first six games of the next campaign but any fears that Liverpool’s form might plummet as a result were certainly quelled by the pairing of Sturridge and Coutinho on Saturday.

The Anglo-Brazilian partnership thrived at St James’ Park, albeit against a Newcastle team distinctly lacking in both form and confidence.

Rodgers eulogised about both of their performances after the game, which saw Sturridge score twice and Coutinho slice open Newcastle’s defence again and again with his diverse range of passing.

“I think Sturridge can be one of the best strikers in Europe in a few years. He was phenomenal today,” the Reds boss told reporters after the game.

The former Chelsea striker not only showed his finishing ability but also his willingness to make intelligent runs off the ball to create space for his team-mates and to bring them into play with neat lays-off and well-chosen passes.

When asked about the impact of his young South American playmaker Rodgers was equally complimentary. “Coutinho can play in a couple of positions. He’s a master technician,” the Northern Irishman enthused. “He might be small in stature but you can see his strength. The weight of his passing is incredible.”

Two Coutinho moments in particular stood out. The first was a superb pass with the outside of his right boot that set Sturridge away and allowed him to tee up Jordan Henderson to make it 2-0. The second was when he tussled with Hatem Ben Arfa to win possession on the left wing, then dribbled to the edge of the Newcastle box and scooped a delicious pass through a gap between Steven Taylor and Mathieu Debuchy to Sturridge, who added a third for the visitors.

The game saw both players produce arguably their finest displays in a Liverpool shirt to date and, with Suarez serving the first of his 10-match ban, the timing could not have been better.

However, it is important to acknowledge that, although Liverpool, and their January signings in particular, were very good, Newcastle were also very bad. The Magpies have the most porous defence in the division, having conceded 66 goals in 35 games. Even 20th-placed Reading have been more miserly.

While Pardew and his team now find themselves embroiled in a battle to avoid being drawn into the relegation zone, Liverpool are in a strange position in the sense that, with just three games left to play, they are five points behind Everton in fifth and six points ahead of West Brom in seventh.

The Merseyside derby next time out gives them an opportunity to further narrow the gap and move closer to surpassing their local rivals, yet even that – while giving them bragging rights – would not alter their position in terms of European qualification.

This takes the pressure off and it also gives Rodgers a run of games to encourage Coutinho and Sturridge to forge a relationship without relying on Suarez. The understanding built now must last at least until August.

The young attacking duo have the weight of expectation on their shoulders but, if their showing on Saturday is anything to go by, they should thrive on it.

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Newcastle win proves Liverpool are no one-man team, says Rodgers

The Reds boss emphasises the importance of the collective after thrashing the Magpies 6-0 without Luis Suarez after a “traumatic week”, praising Philippe Coutinho particularly

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has asserted that his side are “not a one-man team” as, in Luis Suarez’s absence, the Reds romped to a 6-0 victory over Newcastle.

With the Uruguayan suspended for 10 games after his already-infamous bite on Branislav Ivanovic, Daniel Sturridge led the line and scored two in a comprehensive win for the Reds.

Another double from Jordan Henderson, along with a goal apiece from Fabio Borini and Daniel Agger, made it six and Rodgers emphasised the importance of a team performance in his leading goalscorer’s absence.

“It’s very much about the collective, how we pass together, how we press together and how we penetrate together. We showed that today. We’re definitely not a one-man team,” he told reporters after the match.

“We had a couple of group meetings this week to narrow our focus. We needed to realign the focus on what was important and what’s important was the football game today.”

The former Swansea City boss proceeded to hail his players’ response to what had been, by his own admission, a “traumatic” week, while he was eager to laud the efforts of another standout performer in Philippe Coutinho.

“It’s been a traumatic week. We accepted that. Luis did wrong, he takes his punishment and we move on,” Rodgers continued.

“We were brilliant from the first whistle, right until the end. To come here and get a victory of 6-0 is very impressive.”

“[Coutinho] is already a top player. Might be small in stature but he’s got all the passes in the bag. He’s also got strength, you could see that for the third goal. Great thing is he will only get better.”

Who is Liverpool's Player of the Season?

Goal.com nominates the top three standout performers from Brendan Rodgers’ debut season in charge at the Merseyside club – have your say in the comments section below!

Following the summer appointment of manager Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool’s season has panned out largely as the realists expected.

A campaign defined by the liberal use of the word “transition” by fans, the manager and players has materialised, and that has understandably provided a mixed bag in terms of results.

Early exits from the Capital One Cup and FA Cup, at the hands of Swansea and Oldham respectively, were particularly disappointing given last year’s run to the finals of both competitions and victory in one.

The Reds also saw their Europa League campaign ended at the quarter-final stage by Zenit St Petersburg, a team who might have been considered easy pickings during recent years of European success.

However, the Merseyside club look set to improve on last season’s eighth-placed Premier League finish by one place at least, while an attack which looked anaemic at times under Kenny Dalglish has already surpassed last year’s goal total.

Here, Goal.com looks at three reasons for Liverpool’s (admittedly minor) improvements this term, and you can let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments below!

PHILIPPE COUTINHO | FORWARD

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 9 2 3 0 0
FA Cup 0 0 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 0 0 0 0 0
Europe 0 0 0 0 0
Total 9 2 3 0 0

It is perhaps surprising that a man who has featured on just nine occasions for Liverpool could earn a place on a season-long shortlist, but this simply underlines the size of Coutinho’s impact.

The Brazilian has already equalled Stewart Downing’s assists tally and trails him by just one goal, despite having made 16 fewer Premier League appearances.

Coutinho has also helped refresh a frontline which was struggling to create and score before January, providing flashes of the brilliance which make his £8 million pricetag appear ludicrous given his tender years.

Liverpool fans displayed their appreciation for the 20-year-old’s talents just three games into his Reds career, working his name into a rousing version of Arrow’s 1982 hit “Hot Hot Hot” as Brendan Rodgers’ men brushed Wigan aside.

It will be hoped that there is even more to come from the former Inter man, and so that song may become a familiar soundtrack to victories at Anfield in the future.

STEVEN GERRARD | MIDFIELDER

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 34 9 9 5 0
FA Cup 1 0 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 1 0 0 0 0
Europe 8 1 1 0 0
Total 44 10 11 5 0

Steven Gerrard’s immense contribution to his hometown club’s cause over the last decade did not provide him with immunity from criticism during the opening stages of the season.

Observers questioned whether, at 32 years old, the midfielder was perhaps past his best, unable to recreate the bursts of pace and strength which characterised much of his success in recent history.

But, as he has done on many occasions throughout a storied career, Gerrard has since proven his doubters wrong.

The England captain has reinvented himself as a deep-lying midfielder this season, utilising his long passing range and timing of runs to perfection.

His withdrawn position has not stunted his creative influence either, with the Whiston-born star having matched his best-ever Premier League assists total of nine.

The long-term benefits of moving Gerrard’s ageing legs back are clear, and Rodgers will hope that his skipper can feature in such lists for many years to come as a result.

Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 33 23 8 10 0
FA Cup 2 2 0 0 0
Capital One Cup 1 1 0 0 0
Europe 8 4 3 1 0
Total 44 29 10 11 0

In truth, the debate over who has been Liverpool’s player of the season is rendered void by the fact that the Reds arguably boast the best player in the entire league.

Luis Suarez is unlikely to win the PFA Player of the Year award due to his numerous indiscretions (despite the inexcusable decision to bite Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday afternoon coming after the voting had closed) but the Uruguayan has lit up the English top flight this term with a series of stunning displays.

In terms of league goals he is second only to Robin van Persie – who is, with respect, blessed with more talented team-mates – and has chipped in with his fair share of assists as well.

That the 26-year-old allies this creative output to the workrate of a lower league player and a frightening will to win puts him head and shoulders above his peers.

Suarez’s recent declaration of his desire to remain at Anfield will be music to the ears of Liverpool fans, but the striker must face better competition for this accolade next season if he is to stay even longer.

Coutinho credits Liverpool team-mates for speedy Premier League transition

The Brazilian attacker has formed an instant bond with ‘big brother’ and countryman Lucas Leiva, while Reds captain Steven Gerrard has also been giving the youngster advice

Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho has described how his new Anfield colleagues have helped him settle into life in England, both on and off the pitch.

The 20-year-old joined the Reds in January from Inter and has made an immediate impact, notching two goals and three assists in just six league outings.

And the Brazilian has acknowledged the contribution of his new team-mates in speeding his acclimatisation to the pace of the Premier League and his new-found defensive responsibilities.

“There were a few occasions when I was quite slow and Steven Gerrard came up to me and asked me to be much quicker with the ball, and mark the opposition players more quickly too,” Coutinho revealed to the Sunday Times.

“Some other team-mates ask me the same, they are always trying to help me get better.”

The former Vasco da Gama attacker has also received support away from the training pitches, forming a close bond with fellow Brazilian and “big brother” Lucas, who played a key role in persuading Coutinho to move to Merseyside.

“When we’re here in the training ground we’re always together, whether on the pitch or in the dressing room, and when we are out of here we go for meals together sometimes,” continued the former Inter starlet.

But while the January recruit may have made a quick transition to English football, he is still getting used to the colder climate.

“It’s completely different from Brazil, the wind here is really strong and cold,” added Coutinho.

“I tell my friends in Brazil and when they come over they cannot believe how cold it is. But with time we’ll get used to it.”

Liverpool starlet Coutinho seeking Europa League qualification

The Brazilian playmaker, who joined the club from Inter in January, has vowed to help the Reds try to claim the final European spot and also praised team-mate Luis Suarez

Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho is eager to qualify for the Europa League and believes securing European football for next season is of the utmost importance.

The Anfield outfit have won the Europa League, in its former guise of the Uefa Cup, on three occasions – most recently under Gerard Houllier in 2001.

And the Reds’ 20-year-old signing from Inter is adamant that Liverpool – who have also won five European Cups – belong in European competition, and that the entire squad are determined to qualify.

“It’s very important for the club and for the players,” Coutinho told the Daily Mail.

“Liverpool must play for European trophies all the time. We will do our utmost in the last few games to get maximum points in order for us reach a place in the Europa League.”

The Rio de Janeiro-born playmaker also praised Uruguayan team-mate Luis Suarez, who tops the Premier League goalscoring charts, and has lauded their on-field bond.

“Suarez is a fantastic player and it’s an honour to play with him,” Coutinho continued. “Together I hope we achieve great things for Liverpool.

“He’s excellent, always on the move during the game, and helps you open the defence more easily.”

Rodgers targets summmer additions

The 40-year-old believes the Reds need to press ahead with recruiting players at the end of the season, citing the need to avoid the problems that hurt the side in the past

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has stated that the club need to focus on adding new players to the squad in the summer and learn from their past mistakes in the transfer market.

The 40-year-old spoke of “operational issues” after the club left themselves with just one fit senior striker by the close of the window in the summer in the form of Luis Suarez after loaning Andy Carroll to West Ham without having a guaranteed replacement lined up.

They moved to rectify that error and bolster their attacking line during January by bringing in Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea and Inter playmaker Philippe Coutinho, with Rodgers admitting that the scars of the Carroll debacle need to avoided at all costs in the future.

“We would have liked to bring in a few more players in the summer but we didn’t,” Rodgers told Yahoo.

“The group were admirable with what they coped in that period because we had a lot of games. We knew we had to bring in reinforcements in January and the board worked superbly to get those players.

“We are hopeful that come the summer we can make more additions that will take us on to the next level.

“So there was no vindication really, just that Andy [Carroll] wanted to play games every week and at the time there wasn’t the availability to bring in a replacement.

“The business we did in January however was excellent and that’s a great credit to the club.”

With the club still maintaining an outside chance of pushing for a top-four place this season, Rodgers believes the way Coutinho and Sturridge have settled has provided a boost to the entire squad.

He added: “He [Sturridge] has settled in very well, but he still has lots of aspects of his game to work on in order to achieve what he wants to and to allow him to make the kind of impact that we want.

“He has made a very promising start and as long as he maintains that same level of commitment and responsible attitude to improving, I can see him being a great signing for the club.

“[Coutinho] might be slight in stature but he’s still got real power and mental strength too, plus he’s a wonderful technician.”

For more insight from Brendan Rodgers and other leading managers plus exclusive Premier League highlights go to www.yahoo.co.uk/sport

Henderson hails Coutinho after Liverpool victory over Aston Villa

The January signing provided a superb pass from which the midfielder was able to draw the Reds level before Steven Gerrard sealed the points from the penalty spot

Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson has heaped praise on January signing Philippe Coutinho after the Brazilian set up the Reds’ equaliser in Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Aston Villa.

Coutinho threaded a superb pass through to allow Henderson to cancel out Christian Benteke’s opener before Steven Gerrard converted a penalty to seal the points.

The €7.7 million January signing from Inter is only 20 but has quickly become a fixture in Brendan Rodgers’ starting line-up, and Henderson was full of praise for his “outstanding” young team-mate.

“It was a great start to the second half for us and it was a great ball from Philippe, and thankfully I managed to slot it in, so I’m over the moon,” Henderson told the club’s official website.

“It was all about the ball from Philippe which was outstanding and I thank him for that one.

“Philippe is brilliant and I think everyone can see that. He’s a real talent and he’s young as well. He has been outstanding since he came into the team and hopefully he can keep that going.”

Benteke put struggling Villa ahead in the first half but the Reds turned the game on its head after the break to earn the victory.

“We were really pleased with our second-half performance,” Henderson added. “I thought we came out and played some good stuff, defended very well, so overall we are delighted with the three points.

“The manager told us at half-time to up our game a little bit more. We were doing okay and probably were the better team in the first half, just, but in the second we took that on board, got forward more and got the two goals.

“[Luis] Suarez did brilliantly to win the penalty for us and we all know Stevie is brilliant at penalties.”

In addition to hitting the target himself, Gerrard preserved Liverpool’s lead by brilliantly heading a Benteke effort off the line.

“It was unbelievable,” Henderson said. “Stevie was outstanding again for us and he’s been doing that for many years now so it’s not a surprise to anyone.”

The former Sunderland midfielder was in Rodgers’ XI for the first time since the Europa League tie against Zenit St Petersburg last month and hoped he had taken his chance to impress.

“It’s nice to play football,” he admitted. “The team has been playing brilliantly of late.

“I haven’t played as much as I would have liked but I got the chance here and thankfully we won. Hopefully we can win more games now.”

Coutinho: I want to become a key player for Liverpool

The 20-year-old has revealed that he has settled well into life at the Merseyside club and has vowed to become an important player at Anfield over the coming years

Philippe Coutinho has reflected on his successful start to life at Anfield and has vowed to continue to improve and eventually become a key player for Liverpool.

The midfielder joined the Reds in January from Inter, scoring two goals and assisting a further two in his first five appearances for the club.

Despite his positive start, the Brazilian isn’t content with his early success and says he will continue to improve in the coming years.

“The manager here is still young but he’s an excellent person and a very good coach. He speaks openly to everyone and I’m pleased to be working with him,” he told the Liverpool Echo.

“The games are quicker and more physical but I like that. I am learning all the time.

“Every player wants to improve and get better and I am the same. I am still young and have so much still to learn.

“I hope to be here for many years and become a big player for Liverpool. I will continue to work hard and do my best to improve my performances and help Liverpool.”

Coutinho also added that he hopes his successful domestic performances could result in him being called up for the Brazil squad, where he already has one cap.

“It was an honour for me when I was called up the first time,” Coutinho revealed. “At the moment my aim is to play well for Liverpool and to learn and develop as much as I can.

“But I am sure if I play consistently well for Liverpool then the Brazil coach will notice me and I’ll be called up for the national team.

“The fact the next World Cup is in Brazil makes that extra special. I will try to play as well as I can in order to make the squad.

“It’s my dream to play for Brazil in the World Cup.”

Pochettino: Coutinho has that same quality as Ronaldinho and Messi, but much to prove

Ahead of Southampton’s clash with Liverpool on Saturday, the Saints boss has hailed the Brazilian midfielder’s ability and compared him to the South American stars

Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino believes Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho has similar qualities to fellow South Americans Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi.

Coutinho moved to Anfield from Inter in January and has enjoyed a productive start to his Premier League career, scoring once and notching two assists in four games.

Pochettino, who worked with the 20-year-old during a loan spell at Espanyol last season, believes the midfielder has “a special magic in his feet”.

“Philippe is a Brazilian player and, as it happens with most Brazilians, he has a special magic in his feet,” Pochettino told reporters.

“Aside from the magic that he has, he also has an amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player or a European one because his work ethic is outstanding.

“What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid – a great, humble person. I do think Coutinho has that same quality that Ronaldinho and Messi have, but he has much to prove yet.

“What is really clear to me is that Coutinho is a really responsible player – really dedicated and responsible to his own players.”

Southampton had at one point been heavily linked with the Brazilian midfielder but when asked whether the Saints could have signed Coutinho, Pochettino suggested that the failed move should be consigned to history.

He said: “What has happened in the past, happened in the past. We can’t change it or do anything about it. Actually, talking about it is not going to do anything positive either.”