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Sunday 17 December 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Why I'm not convinced by inconsistent Coutinho

Livepool's Philippe Coutinho in action with Southampton's Victor Wanyama
Livepool's Philippe Coutinho in action with Southampton's Victor Wanyama

ANOTHER big win and more room for optimism for Liverpool supporters but I would be wary about the current canonisation of Philippe Coutinho.

Beating Southampton 2-0 showed that Brendan Rodgers has indeed found a way to drag the best out of a squad which was lost and rudderless before Christmas.

A few weeks back, I challenged Liverpool to go and beat Spurs well in a midweek game at Anfield and declare for everyone to see that a corner had been turned.

They squeaked by Spurs 3-2 but this win was altogether more satisfying and pushed Liverpool ever-closer to fourth place.

I know there was some backs to wall stuff against Southampton but I don't mind that at all. In fact, it made the win all the sweeter.

I would be more than a bit concerned, however, with the move to make Coutinho the man who is going to save Liverpool as some, including Rodgers, seem to believe.

Coutinho is gifted with some fabulous skills and he is developing a handy habit of whacking important goals in from distance and grabbing a lot of headlines as a result.

NOT FULLY SOLD

But I'm not fully sold on this lad. At least not yet. There is room for improvement but I don't see him as a Toni Kroos or a Luka Modric as Rodgers suggested he could be.

My problem with Coutinho begins and ends with his inconsistency and the amount of times he gives away possession when he reaches the final third.

It is almost a mortal sin for a player to give the ball away so frequently but it's the main reason I cannot see a way to build a team around him. I don't think he will be that player for Liverpool.

How can he be considered a playmaker when he loses the ball so often? That's the opposite of playmaking. He does deserve more time, however. He's still young and he has been forced to grow up fast in the last two seasons.

I know I have often urged Liverpool to break out the cash and spend some money on three or four proven Champions League performers.

Last season, Rodgers had Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and free-scoring Daniel Sturridge taking he spotlight off Coutinho and my advice when they broke up in May was to spend big in the summer and bring in the real deal.

Events overtook the club and we know how that ended when the transfer window closed. One of the main consequences of bringing in more young and unproven players was that in August, Coutimho was suddenly loaded with more responsibility than he was expecting and I don't think he was comfortable with it.

Some players develop more slowly than others and maybe Coutinho will be able to strap consistency on to his already formidable array of qualities but let's not make it even harder for him to do that by giving him a halo before he has earned it.

I can't imagine any circumstances in which Jose Mourinho would be granted sainthood by anyone other than Chelsea fans.

Before the Liverpool game against Southampton, I sat down to watch Mourinho appear on Sky and I have to say, I thought he made a complete fool of himself.

Look, any footballer of any level who watched Ashley Barnes go straight through Nemanja Matic knew that this was a leg-breaker, the worst type of tackle and worthy of an instant red card.

The other moments Mourinho highlighted in the game as examples of referee Martin Atkinson's performance were the subject of reasonable complaint as well but really, what was he trying to achieve with this television appearance?

Likely as not, he will get into more trouble and likely as not the siege mentality he has been building since the season began will strengthen within his squad. Let's face it, that's what all this is about.

Mourinho is putting on a show for his players to let them know that he is fighting for them every hour of the day but I tend to switch off when he reaches this level of hysterical paranoia.

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