Whichever way you look at it, Liverpool let themselves down at one end of the pitch on Sunday.
While a soft goal that saw Newcastle United’s Joselu drift between the two centre-backs before a fortunate finish off his shin cancelled out the Reds’ opener, Jurgen Klopp’s side could and probably should have scored more at St. James’ Park – they had more than twice the number of efforts at goal as the home side, but just two on target.
One of those belonged to Philippe Coutinho, whose blistering shot from outside the penalty area in the 29th minute left Robert Elliot dumbfounded and put Liverpool into a short-lived lead. The Brazil international was making just his third Premier League start of the season after a turbulent summer and only his third across all competitions as a central midfielder – a position the summer arrival of Mohamed Salah has essentially pushed him into.
Of course, we’ve seen Coutinho line up in midfield before, but after spending the last few seasons on the left wing, the ease in which he’s settled back into the engine room has been thoroughly impressive. In addition to providing the only moment of world-class quality in a tight and cagey 1-1 draw, the 29-cap playmaker weighed in with a further four shots and four created chances – the most of any Liverpool player on either front.
But more crucially considering Coutinho is now being deployed as a central rather than an attacking midfielder, albeit the most advanced in a midfield three, the 25-year-old contributed off the ball with three tackles, a tally only bettered by Jordan Henderson, and two interceptions, while completing 68 passes – showing that he can play the short game as well as launch those ranging through balls he’s become synonymous with.
Add in that sunning goal which will undoubtedly be an early contender for October’s Goal of the Month award and Coutinho produced a very complete midfield performance, one that saw him make an impact when Liverpool were both in and out of possession.