Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes the evolution of Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson are prime examples of the strides being made at Anfield.
Coutinho was signed just over a year ago from Inter Milan for £8.5m and immediately showcased his abilities as a playmaker with an eye for a defence-slitting pass. Where the little Brazilian came up short was going the other way where his defensive contribution was often found wanting.
Coutinho’s arrival also coincided with a return to the team of Henderson, who — after rejecting the chance to join tonight’s opponents Fulham the previous summer – had been a fringe player in Rodgers’ first season. A year on and the pair have cemented their positions as first choices and the manager credits the players with stepping up their efforts.
On Coutinho, Rodgers said: “He’s got wonderful technique but obviously coming into the British game and this league there are other components you need to play. “He’s five foot seven, he’s got brilliant technique, he’s tactically cute and clever, but physically he has to cope. “People always wonder about small players in this league, can they play and can they cope?
“I think for players like him and Joe Allen, it’s about the talent and if you’ve got the strength, your brain, the power and the mentality, you can succeed.
Coutinho’s presence in Liverpool’s midfield, harrying and harassing Arsenal in Saturday’s 5-1 victory, showed how he was putting that improved physicality into practice.
“He can get on the ball, penetrate with his passing, and he gives us a wonderful cutting edge to go and put our talented players in.”
Coutinho may well have taken note of Henderson’s all-action, high-energy approach in Rodgers’ up-tempo pressing game which has seen him flourish over the last year.
“Jordan is taking that mantra on as well as anyone,” added the Reds boss, who believes the 23-year-old is deserving of a starting place in Roy Hodgson’s England team at this summer’s World Cup.
Rodgers believes had Hodgson come to Anfield last weekend instead of sending assistant Ray Lewington, he would have seen England’s first-choice midfield in action. “For me you had the three England players on the pitch on Saturday with Jordan, Stevie (Steve Gerrard) controlling and (Arsenal’s) Jack Wilshere,” he said.
Meanwhile Fulham must admit defeat in their bid to sign West Ham forward Ravel Morrison, at least in the short-term, according to boss Rene Meulensteen. With the window shut to Premier League clubs, but open for those in the Championship and below to make loan moves, QPR boss Harry Redknapp has claimed his side are aiming to tie up a deal for the former Manchester United man.
And if Redknapp’s promotion candidates can secure a return to the top-flight, they would surely become favourites to get Morrison on a permanent basis if West Ham were to let him go, particularly given the relationship between the east London club and Fulham following events last month. Fulham had a transfer bid for Morrison rejected in January, with the Hammers accusing the Cottagers of an illegal approach.
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