During the preseason tour, Philippe Coutinho was a man on fire. Meaningless matches, opposition who don't care, etc. etc., we know the drill. But the Brazilian was on another level for most of the summer against the likes of Roma and Borussia Dortmund, and his performances gave way to hopes that he'd hit the ground running in a season that would see Liverpool return to the Champions League. Speaking after the Roma friendly, Liverpool's first of the US tour, Brendan Rodgers showered praise on the 22-year-old:
"Coutinho is the brain in our team, the continuity player. He might not score many goals, but he's a wonderful reference for the team. He is the one that gets the team ticking, gets the movement in front of the ball. He goes and gets on the ball. He's a fantastic talent for such a young player and he's still gaining his fitness. He makes the crowd get off their seat. For someone so small, he's very tough and robust. He's a wonderful technician that has a great idea, tactically, of the game."
Very accurate at the time, very accurate the rest of the summer, and very, very far from reality once the actual season started. Coutinho signed off in style against Dortmund and promptly forgot all of that, stuttering through the season's first two fixtures and losing his starting spot along the way. A brain was needed, a reference mandatory, but it was no longer Coutinho, and that was worrisome.
And while his return to form wasn't immediate, it's clear he's back near his best, sparkling against QPR and proving one of Liverpool's best on a disappointing night against Real Madrid in the Champions League. It was surprising that he didn't start against Hull City on Saturday, but when he did come on he was again terrific, giving Liverpool some urgency going forward and the type of quality that very well should have won them the match.
Going forward it's hard to see how Rodgers can keep him out of the starting lineup; maybe he doesn't start against Swansea City on Tuesday, but when Liverpool head to Tyneside next weekend, Philippe Coutinho needs to be in the eleven. The little Brazilian looks ready to be the reference point once again.
Video by MrBoywunder