Having spent the last decade watching first Steven Gerrard and then Luis Suarez as Liverpool’s dominant free kick takers, the last couple of seasons have been a mixed bag of underwhelming and uncertain for fans waiting and hoping for a player to step forward and fill the void left by the club’s departed superstars.
Against Arsenal on Sunday, the man who stepped forward was Philippe Coutinho, and according to teammate Adam Lallana, Liverpool’s number 10 is now the club’s star free kick taker. It may just be on the evidence of one phenomenal game and one particularly sumptuous hit, but it seems a hard stance to disagree with.
“Phil again came up trumps with a free kick,” Lallana told the club’s official website following Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Arsenal. “There’s just no chance anyone is getting anywhere near a free kick. But we all want him to have them because he can produce that, and I think that’s the best I’ve ever seen him score.”
It was a strike so good there was talk from manager Jürgen Klopp following the match that we might already have seen Liverpool’s goal of the season with it—and that in a game where debutant Sadio Mané had his own stunner, a solo effort where he powered past two defenders and lifted a left-footed effort into the top corner.
What Coutinho’s free kick did that was just as special as the goal itself, though, was the belief it gave to a Liverpool side that hadn’t clicked into gear in the first half and found themselves down a goal. It revived the Reds; sent them into the half on a high and feeling as though the game was up for grabs.
“The team felt like we came into the game,” Lallana added. “A great bit of magic from Phil gave us that belief and confidence going into halftime. That was massive for us and we came out in the second half like we were possessed. It was brilliant. It was great to be involved in and we just need to show that for longer periods.”