It's probably fair to say that, well past the midpoint in the Premier League season, we've yet to see a consistent run of form from Philippe Coutinho. Injury disrupted his progress in the fall, and while he occasionally flashed glimpses of the brilliance on display during the spring of 2013, he's struggled to influence matches with any sort of regularity from a wider position on the left.
But a combination of other factors--Steven Gerrard's switch to a deeper-lying role, Joe Allen's injury, Raheem Sterling's white-hot form--led Brendan Rodgers to utilize the Brazilian as part of a makeshift midfield three; Coutinho is still the most advanced, but it's a role further removed from attack than we might have expected from a player most associate with a spot just off the striker(s).
And, for the most part, it's been a revelation. Fatigue and frustration have still cropped up at times, but as he showed against Arsenal, his energy, pressing, and distribution are a perfect fit in this strange new midfield world. His work defensively--full of steel and strength and plenty of f**k off--has eased the burden on Jordan Henderson, and we're back to seeing him at his best in threading passes forward to Sterling, Luis Suarez, and Daniel Sturridge. On two separate occasions he created chances from deep within Liverpool's half; the first led to a goal, as he smartly intercepted and bent an inch-perfect pass to a streaking Sturridge, and later in the second half he weaved his way through a number of opposition bodies before playing Henderson in on goal, a sequence that had shades of away at Villa Park last season before Henderson fluffed his chance.
Liverpool in full flow are a wonderful, terrifying, moderately arousing beast, and Philippe Coutinho's improved form has been an integral part of the wonderful horrors we've witnessed. All he's missing now are the curls.
Video by LFCTikiTaka