Kloppo’s silence on the matter was broken yesterday during the pre-match press conference. His description of Coutinho as being “dominant” is certain to nab the headlines, but in context it was not necessarily a compliment.
“With Phil we were giving him a four-yard pass and you don’t need that,” Klopp said.
“Now we don’t have this dominant player—‘Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me’—that’s how it is. I don’t want this to be misunderstood. It was really good, that’s why Phil is the player he is, but now we play differently and not only because he is out.”
It is perhaps because of this on-field dominance, this demand to be on the receiving end of a pass (which might have not always been the best option under the circumstances).
It is not a stretch to say that this tendency probably contributed to Liverpool sometimes struggling under Coutinho. If other teams could manage to mark Coutinho out of the game, they could effectively contain Liverpool’s attack.
“It is not the biggest difference but there are a few decisive differences in the last few games,” Klopp continued, “Maybe the biggest compliment is that nobody thought in the last few games: ‘With Phil it would have been different.’ I really don’t want to throw dirt after Phil because there is no need and everything is fine.
“We played fantastic football with Phil as well. The team needed to step up without him. It is another way to play football. I always hoped it would not be an issue.”
The team certainly has stepped up without Coutinho, and their attack has become more varied and unpredictable. We just need a catchier name for the remaining “Fab Three.”