One of the most common concerns for players entering the Premier League for the first time is whether or not they can cope with the physical nature of play. It's nice if you're skilled and can do things with the football or whatever, but what's most important is the rainy Wednesday night at Stoke litmus test, one even the most technically gifted footballer might fail if he doesn't have the steel and resolve and British etceteras that are so vital to one's success.
So it wasn't too surprising to hear concerns bandied about when Philippe Coutinho signed from Inter--young, skillful, and fairly small in stature, he's the type of player that might work in Italy or Spain, but against Stoke or...Stoke, he might find himself struggling a bit. And while he doesn't overdo it, Coutinho seems to be aware that the demands in England are somewhat different than other European leagues, and he's planning to make the most of the challenge to further develop himself:
"The difference I've noticed is you have to be a quick thinker and move around much sooner because the pace is so much higher. I need to improve my muscles because they are still quite small at the moment. Of course it can be a challenge but before I came here Lucas told me about the style of play. To me it is a challenge and I wanted to deal with it as quickly as possible."
"I'm quite calm about that. If I get kicked, I will get up and carry on playing...I have to score the goal first."
It is, to be fair, a slightly different prospect playing in the Premier League than others. That doesn't come from the fact that it's the Best League in the World, because it's not, but because there is a distinct pace and style of play that demands something different of its players than other leagues. Which is, of course, true for all those other leagues as well, but it just so happens that many of us spend quite a bit of our time focusing on the Premier League.
The biggest challenge for Philippe Coutinho is going to be how to balance the changes that are needed and those that others will impose; developing physically and increasing endurance is probably a good thing, bulking up needlessly to the point that it takes away the things that make him a player worth having probably isn't. As with so many other areas of the Premier League, the narrative threatens to become more important than reality, so we'll have to hope Liverpool's proper Brazilian finds a way to flourish, and that when he's faced with a cold Wednesday night at Stoke, he's up to the task.
Or that he'll be on the bench because it's a League Cup tie after Stoke have been relegated.