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Performance of the Season: Philippe Coutinho v. Newcastle

You will speak to me of goals. You will speak to me of single-handed points-winning. You will speak the words, 'world' and 'class,' in quick succession, but I will not listen. Luis Suarez won my goal of the season, but Philippe Coutinho has won my gnarled, embittered heart.

He was just showing-off at this point...
He was just showing-off at this point...
Mike Hewitt

You know when your favourite TV show has an episode that consists primarily of flashbacks and clips from previous shows? The episode for which the writer was clearly on a five-day bender in some flea-pit bar and couldn't be reached, so the director and producer had a go?

This, my friends, is that episode -- not because your writer is lucky enough to be on an alcohol-soaked sojourn but rather because his back decided that two eighty kilometre cycles in a row is not a thing it approves of. Apparently with forty dangerously close, I am being reminded of the disintegration wrought by that old harridan, Mother Nature.

Never mind. We shall console ourselves with a bit of visual ambrosia as we reflect on what I truly believe was the most exciting performance of the season -- the artful display of Philippe Coutinho against Newcastle, which inspired my team performance of the season.

So many of you will be justifiably indignant and point to any one of the numerous master-classes in forward-play put on by Luis Suarez over the course of the season, but this display by our young Brazilian number ten -- I even feel better just saying those evocative words -- was the one that had me most enthused and invigorated. Also, this is my article and searing pain has made me even crankier than usual, so don't bother arguing.

The compilation which accompanies this piece is a massively enjoyable look at the impact Coutinho has on a game when he's on top form. Like Suarez, or even Steven Gerrard, the youngster will cough-up possession on occasions as he tries to create something on the ball but like those two also, the benefits of his time in possession of the football far outweigh any downside that accrues from the occasional concession of the ball.

Luis Garcia used to infuriate Kopites with his flicks and tricks that didn't come off but when he produced some magic, as he often did, our former number ten drew massive applause and appreciation from those same fans. Coutinho is even more outlandishly talented than Garcia and seems sturdier on the ball despite his equally slight frame.

The two key passes in this game are so perfectly weighted and executed with such adroit exactness that one could be watching Kenny Dalglish in his prime. The weight of pass is a thing that one often hears ex-pros and pundits wittering on about but if you've ever even played a park game you will be able to relate to the importance of this aspect of distribution. Both passes to Daniel Sturridge are so expertly paced that the England man does not need to break his stride -- something that can make all the difference in scoring.

One of the most thrilling aspects of Coutinho's play is his movement on the ball. He has a wonderful elusiveness and a pleasing turn of pace even in possession. Defenders seem to be a marvellous mixture of terror and bewilderment as our diminutive genius approaches them and that is exactly how we always wish to see opposition players -- if we can minimize our own defensive terror and bewilderment next campaign, think what might be achieved.

The only thing Coutinho's performance lacked was a goal, and when he picked up the ball in midfield, ran yet again at the Geordie defence and unleashed a cracking shot from outside the box, it looked as if his wonderful showing would have a fitting denouement. Alas, Rob Elliot chose that moment to produce a moment of defiance and touched the venomous drive onto the bar.

Philippe Coutinho is likely to be my favourite Liverpool player in a long time, should he stay around. His vision, bravery, appetite for the game and flashes of inspiration are all one can ask for in an attacker and on that April afternoon in Newcastle, he produced a wonderful showing that ranks as my personal favourite of the season.

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