Why Coutinho hasn't lived up to expectations at Barcelona
Philippe Coutinho joined the club for £142m and was signed as a long-term replacement for Andres Iniesta. A player entering his prime, he was the third most expensive signing of all time in January 2018.
Previously, the little wizard made a name for himself in the Premier League. He bamboozled defenders with his array of tricks and split defences wide open with his sharp vision. Hence, since making the switch, he was expected to immediately fit in at Barcelona.
Barcelona, one of the biggest clubs in the world, brings an added pressure of the world watching your every move. (That's apart from the pressure due to politics in Catalonia). With the club, fans and the media expecting goals and assists every match, it is common to see his hefty price tag mentioned in headlines every now and then.
With such high expectations and lowering confidence, comparisons with Andre Gomes have never been so close. So, let's have a look at three possible reasons why Coutinho has struggled to find his feet at Barcelona.
#3 Rise of Ousmane Dembele
In the minutes before Levante vs Barcelona, the first leg the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, Barcelona assistant manager Jon Aspiazu acknowledged that "Dembele has moved a bit ahead (of Coutinho)." He added, "Hopefully it will improve, since Coutinho is a very important player for us."
However, in the weeks since then, the only thing that has improved is the status of Dembele as the first choice. His form, since the turnaround in November, has been too good to ignore, so much so that Ernesto Valverde has been comfortable switching from his preferred 4-4-2 formation to a 4-3-3 with Dembele on the left flank.
Due to the injuries Dembele suffered in his debut season, the Frenchman could only show glimpses of what he could do. However, his second season has been a revelation. His raw pace and directness have rightfully bagged him a place in the front three. Even, a three-week injury to Dembele in February, couldn't dislodge him from the first team.
All of this simply sums up that, Coutinho has been a makeshift winger. He definitely lacks a lot in what is expected of a Barcelona winger. And therefore, he will continue on the bench, for Dembele doesn't seems to be stopping any time soon.