Ronald Koeman, the new coach of Barcelona, decided that Brazilian player Philippe Coutinho will continue with the team for the next season, after the return from the loan at Bayern Munich. The player who joined Barcelona in the winter of 2018, did not take meet expectations that comes with the pricetag, even though the coach in the team, Ernesto Valverde had played him in a wider role which was arguably not to the strengths of the player and was sent on loan to Bayern Munich due to the lack of results.
But he returned after the end of the season and is now in the Barcelona ranks to prepare for the new season. All news indicates that Ronald Koeman will give Philippe Coutinho a unique opportunity.
In this tactical analysis, we will try to explain why Philippe Coutinho can do well and how he will be employed in the new method.
Koeman’s possible formations
During Ronald Koeman’s tenure as a coach of the Dutch national team, he relied more on a system closer to 4-3-3, with a difference in player distributions.
Where the distribution of players on the field becomes more like a 4-2-1-3, which means his dependence is on a player in the position of playmaker who is also good at advancing to the opponent’s penalty area, for which Koeman has used Georginio Wijnaldum in the national team.
Here, we can see that Coutinho could work in the playmaker position, should Koeman decide to adopt this system, as he was in that position previously with Liverpool or Bayern Munich.
Ronald Koeman could alternatively follow the idea of 4-2-3-1 and possibly have Memphis Depay to occupy the spearhead position should he arrive at Barcelona, alongside Lionel Messi on the right side behind the striker as an imaginary winger.
Philippe Coutinho is resourceful in the midfield and moves intelligently between the lines, either vertically or horizontally, with the ball being circulated through him continuously to exploit the half-spaces.
In Bayern Munich, Coutinho was leaning more to the left side when he participated in the midfield trio when coach Hansi Flick applied the 4-3-3 system.
This can be further illustrated by the player’s heat map, where we can see where he is stationed on the field.
Coutinho moves intelligently between the lines and also contributes to building the game from the first third on the field, where he turns to the left or right side to support the wing or the full-back.
The role of the Brazilian player is very involved as he moves vertically to penetrate the opponent’s penalty area, at times functioning as a second striker, which makes it difficult for the opponent’s defence matters to monitor the players and cover the space at the same time.
Therefore, we can imagine Coutinho fitting within Ronald Koeman’s potential ideas, which could help him shine.
Coutinho under Koeman
The Dutch coach will try to prove that he is right about keeping Philippe Coutinho in Barcelona after his return from a loan because Coutinho would suit the methods of play that he could apply.
In the way he used to position Netherlands national team as a 4-2-1-3, Philippe Coutinho could become the outspoken playmaker, behind the attacking trio, while Lionel Messi can play as an imaginary right-winger or as an imaginary striker.
Or, as the Catalan newspapers talked about Ronald Koeman,he may apply the 4-2-3-1 method, to make Depay the striker if he arrives and place Coutinho behind him.
We will try to explain where Coutinho can advance to his true potential with the team.
With Messi’s presence as a false wing, he can enter the depth in coordination with Coutinho to clear the space for the Argentine star to move. This should be assisted however, by the presence of a pure left-winger, most likely Ousmane Dembele, who is characterised by speed.
Ronald Koeman may apply the same ideas of the Netherlands with three attacking players who can score goals followed by a playmaker behind them.
Coutinho could prove to be a crucial player in the time of need, to connect the lines between each other, similar to his role with his national team as a midfielder stationed on the centre circle.
Coutinho is a distinguished player in passing the deciding balls, in addition to his ability to shoot from outside the opponent’s penalty area, which is one of his biggest strengths and this could be observed with Bayern Munich in their successful campaign.
Coutinho, with formerly at Barcelona, was playing on the left-wing in the offensive line, which caused him some real problems.
In this article, we tried to shed light on Ronald Koeman’s possible ideas with Philippe Coutinho’s playing style and how he could flourish under Koeman. He surely had a below-par season with Barcelona, but with a new coach, hopefully, we will see a new Coutinho shining in the Blaugrana colours.