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Talismanic Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s greatest threat against West Ham

28 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Talismanic Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s greatest threat against West Ham

The Brazilian playmaker is enjoying a greater influence on Brendan Rodgers' side following the departure of former captain Steven Gerrard

Despite often being lamented by supporters, the departure of high-profile footballers always offers the opportunity for existing players at a club to be emancipated.

Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Manchester United to their first league title in three years after Ruud van Nistelrooy was sold in 2006, while Cesc Fabregas became Arsenal’s leader and eventually captain following the departure of then-skipper Thierry Henry in 2007.

It is not hyperbole to say that, sans Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho is Liverpool’s new talisman.

To borrow one of manager Brendan Rodgers’ favourite adjectives, the Brazilian has been outstanding in the first few weeks of this Premier League season.

Coutinho scored a brilliant late winner against Stoke on the opening weekend and was the best player on the pitch in the creditable draw at Arsenal on Monday, where he was unlucky not to open the scoring with a curling drive that Petr Cech expertly turned on to the post.

The playmaker’s positional switch – from the left-hand side to a central position behind the main striker – reflects his growing importance to the team.

Having combined sporadic moments of excellence with occasional discreet spells since arriving at Anfield in January 2013, the recently-turned 23-year-old has now added the consistency that comes with maturity, experience and added responsibility.

Rodgers will look for Coutinho to be the difference when his side host West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday.

Liverpool have won seven of their last nine games at Anfield and opened the scoring in 11 of their last 12 fixtures on home turf.

That man Coutinho, meanwhile, has scored first in two of their last three victories and the stylish No. 10 is 11/2 to score first against the Hammers.

The Reds have demonstrated a new-found resilience so far this campaign – keeping three consecutive clean sheets – but it has been at the expense of Rodgers’ trademark expressive and explosive attacking.

Scoring only twice should not concern the Northern Irishman – seven points have been accrued, after all – but Coutinho’s ingenuity will be key for Liverpool at the weekend.

The lack of width and firepower that causes their opponents West Ham to struggle at Upton Park is not an issue away from home, as was demonstrated in their tactically-astute 2-0 win at Arsenal three weeks ago.

Their performance at the Emirates was near perfect and the visitors, who have suffered two losses since that opening-day victory, are 15/2 to triumph again.

Slaven Bilic’s side, who have failed to score in four of their last five away trips, are bound to sit deep again and the match finishing with under 2.5 goals is priced at 11/10.

There are unlikely to be a slew of goals, but Liverpool have an individual who can be relied upon to make tangible contributions to their points tally.

For so many years, that responsibility was Gerrard’s.

It is Coutinho’s turn now.

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