Standing tall with the sense of conviction on his face, no longer does Philippe Coutinho sulk and mope around like a dejected outsider. The Brazilian is finally looking the part at Barcelona, and slowly but surely, he’s living up to his immense price tag. While Barça in total made 4 signings this summer, the unanticipated resurgence of Coutinho– after returning from loan—feels like the biggest recruitment for the club this season.
At one stage last campaign, it became increasingly plausible that Philippe would never represent the Blaugrana colors ever again, with loan moves to the Premier League looking ever so imminent, but it appears that the fickle finger of fate might have finally done the club some good this time around as Phill proceeds to prove doubters wrong, making huge strides with the Barça emblem gleaming on his chest. The 28 year old’s emphatic display against Barcelona in the Champions League, which saw his side seal a colossal 8-2 victory, was the most brutal, yet ideal declaration to his disbelievers.
Ronald Koeman, in particular, deserves endless praise for helping Coutinho find his niche because truth be told, as talented as he may be, Phill is a lost cause once placed in unnatural positions. Even so, that goes without saying, the Brazilian maestro has worked his socks off to accommodate Barça’s proficient pressing system. He’s undoubtedly been reborn after his successful stint at Bayern, where he wasn’t awarded with much playtime, but the ideologies preached by the Bavarians were successfully instilled in him.
As opposed to Coutinho’s previous season at Barcelona, the former Liverpool man has been performing consistently, producing a man of the match display on a far more frequent basis. His work rate is higher, his self-esteem has elevated and he seems to fit Koeman’s intricate 4-2-3-1 system like a glove. The biggest, most prominent change in the 28-year-old’s gameplay seems to be his flexibility and loss in stiffness. In his earlier campaign, Coutinho wasn’t open to enduring numerous roles as his tendency to wander around and operate in a very specified manner brought him results very scarcely. However, looking at the current version of Phill, it’s safe to assume he’s positionally adaptable and fluid. Operating alongside Messi and Griezmann doesn’t seem to be hindering him, although the Frenchman has proven to not be sustainable in the attacking department.
The 28-year-old was deservedly awarded as the man of the match in the Azulgranas‘ last two outings, against Villarreal and Celta Vigo, racking up an assist a goal. Nevertheless, above all, it was his intensity and positional maturity that led to him being oh-so vital in his favored mediapunta role, where he’s managed to take off a considerable amount of burden from Leo Messi.
It’s a relief knowing the South American looks so full of life. Working under an elite manager such as Hansi Flick has certainly done him some good. Coutinho is finally measuring up to the high expectations fans had from him back in 2018, and if he continues his red hot form into the crucial stages of the season, the Catalans might actually be a force to reckon with.
Three Economical Memphis Depay Alternatives Barcelona Must Chase
Memphis Depay, while still an option, might end up as nothing but another story of ‘what could have been’. Barça Universal takes a look at three options who the club can pursue instead of the Dutchman.
The 2020-21 season under Ronald Koeman is well and truly underway. Barcelona have begun their run in two competitions so far, having played four games in the League and the lone game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League. The start has been rocky, but promising.
A renewed squad has brought some much-needed revitalisation in the side. However, there is one department where the team have clearly lacked: centre-forward. The departure of Luis Suarez was undoubtedly needed, but it necessitated a backup in place. Having failed to acquire the services of Memphis Depay in the recent transfer window, the Blaugrana have struggled in the absence of a striker, often leaving a gaping hole ahead of the opposition backline.
🗣 — Koeman: "I don't have the power to sign Depay, it depends on the club. All I can do is wait. We wanted Memphis because he is a great player and has qualities that, in my opinion, we lack like depth in our attack." pic.twitter.com/vpshfDApFP— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 18, 2020
Culés over the last few seasons have been accustomed to the managers playing down any rumours of transfers. Any questions on potential signings brought out the cliched response: “We do not talk about players of other clubs”. Koeman’s press conferences are a sudden whiff of fresh air. He is a man who is blunt to the press and speaks without riddles. He has made it clear on multiple occasions that he desires the services of Memphis Depay to rejuvenate the #9 role.
With the club in an unpleasant position financially, here are three possible alternatives that Barcelona can eye in the upcoming window, who may fit the profile better than Depay.
Note: The criteria we are using is based on financial terms alone. All options listed could be available for less than €25 million in the next two windows – i.e. if the respective club is ready to sell.
Daka is a baller; and he proves it every match. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
The stocks of Red Bulls Salzburg have been on the constant rise. They are slowly, yet convincingly establishing themselves as a hub the nurtures some of the finest talents in Europe.
One of the clubs recent successes, Erling Haaland, has set the world ablaze at Borussia Dortmund. And since the Norweigan’s departure, a young 22-year-old has taken over the goal-scoring reigns. Presenting, Patson Daka.
In 2019-20, Daka found the back of the net 24 times in just 31 league games. His six assists further enhance the stats, considering that the Zambian started only 21 games.
His fearlessness and spatial awareness make him a massive asset. While his finishing prowess is conspicuous, he also possesses great skill with off the ball moments. The youngster has taken 48% of his shots with his right boot, and close to 40% with the left. This ambidexterity is a rare and valued skill that very few strikers possess.
Last season, Patson outperformed his xG tally by 6.48, also averaging the highest xG per 90(0.79). A conversion rate of 30% at the age of 22 is more than what one could dream of. However, in addition to his crude finishing, Daka’s ability to create chances is what makes him a viable option for Barcelona. This is exemplified in his 0.86 key passes per game. Patson Daka is certainly one for the Barcelona scouts to fix their eyes on.
Edouard is the perfect blend of top-notch technical and physical prowess. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Odsonne Edouard is a product of Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy who has made a case himself to be considered amongst the creme-de-la-creme of Europe’s pedigree. The youngster currently plays in the Scottish Premiership for the champions Celtic, ending the COVID curtailed 2019-20 season as the top scorer with 20 goals in just 24 starts.
Edouard is not just a finisher but a well-rounded player. The goals flow freely from the Frenchman as long as he is provided with the right service. The 22-year-old outscored his xG by 5.08 in the last season with 40% shots on target. However, even with the goals removed, Edouard is a sensational asset.
His dribbling prowess is matched by few, with a staggering 7.17 dribbles per 90. In the air, the Frenchman provides a potent threat with his physique and height. The statistics speak for themselves; 3.9 aerial duels per 90, winning 40% of them.
He also finds himself amongst the very top players with close to 6.5 touches in the box and two progressive runs per 90, a profile that the Catalans require so desperately. His move to a top club is just around the corner, and Camp Nou might end up as a win-win situation for all parties involved.
There is work to be done with Morelos, but with the right guidance, there is nothing stopping him. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
The Rangers #20 – Alfredo Morelos – takes the third and final spot in this list of potential targets for Barcelona. His finishing trade is nowhere close to the aforementioned two. That said, what makes him a great choice for Barcelona, however, is his heavy involvement in the buildup, as seen in his 17.9 off the ball actions per 90.
He is a massive part of the Rangers team that finally looks ready to displace Celtic from the top spot. He ended the last season with 12 goals in 18 starts. Despite having one of the highest xG per 90(0.75 per 90), his conversion rate is staggeringly low. At the young age of 24, he still has considerable time to mend his flaws, though.
The Colombian averages 5.63 shots per 90 and is also well equipped in dribbling. The talent is there, however it requires the right investment. His days in Scotland seem to be numbered. With Barcelona too looking at a long term project, an investment of less than €20M may be a gamble worth taking.
Going by Ronald Koeman’s words, the Memphis Depay to Barcelona deal only seems to be a matter of time, and the likelihood of the former Manchester United man coming to the camp now increases with every passing second. Nevertheless, the club should consider other economic investments that may give a bigger long term influence, while acting as a pure no. 9 that Barça crave for. Patson Daka, Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos are just three of the countless young talents out there. Which direction will this board take?