Coutinho vs Firmino: An analytical insight into who is more important for Liverpool
Liverpool are currently placed seventh in the Premier League table, seven points behind league leaders Manchester City. The Reds have a woeful goal difference of one, despite scoring 13 goals. Having conceded 12 in just seven league games so far, it is evident that the Reds need to revamp their defence in order to achieve the objectives that Jurgen Klopp was appointed to achieve about two years ago.
Rest assured, the charismatic coach can count on his attackers to continue scoring goals, after Liverpool scored 78 goals in his first full season in charge of the team. And, having added Mohamed Salah and young prospect Dominic Solanke to his attacking ranks, Klopp has had to make few modifications to his 'heavy metal football' tactics and personnel this season.
The summer-long drama surrounding Philippe Coutinho's potential move to Barcelona concluded with the Brazilian staying at the Merseyside club.
Regardless, Coutinho was left out of the team for the first four Premier League matches until the rest of the squad came to terms with the Brazilian's decision and his failed attempt to force a move to Catalonia.
The 25-year-old was reinstated in the side in the Reds' 1-1 home draw against Burnley. Ever since, however, the Brazilian has started every game, scoring a goal each against Leicester City, Spartak Moscow and Newcastle United.
Coutinho appears to have turned his back on the dismal summer he encountered and his goal in the last gameweek was an example of that.
After picking the ball on the left wing, Coutinho drifted in swiftly, moving past a couple of Newcastle defenders before placing the ball near-perfectly into the top left corner, giving Robert Elliot no chance to make a save.
And while he looks to pick himself up - his Brazilian colleague, Roberto Firmino, seems to be drifting apart from his early season form.
Firmino scored two goals and provided two assists in the first three Premier League games this season, but has failed to register any in the last few games. Despite having the prowess to play anywhere in the attack, the 26-year-old is generally deployed as a false nine at Liverpool, helping the team unlock the opposition defence.
An unorthodox modern day striker, Firmino's importance to Liverpool can be comprehended by the fact that he started six league games more than Coutinho last season, scoring 11 goals and providing seven assists.
On the contrary, Coutinho comes across as more effective than his counterpart, as he netted 13 goals and provided the same number of assists as Firmino.
Unleashed through the midfield, Coutinho has a far superior number of touches-per-game at 59.67 compared to Firmino's modest 28.14. But Firmino, who has created two big chances for his teammates this season, has a better shot accuracy of 33%, compared to Coutinho's 18%, who has registered eight accurate long balls as he continues to grow in his attacking midfield role at the Anfield.
In search of different solutions, Klopp has looked elsewhere certainly. Daniel Sturridge has featured in the last three Premier League games, but the English striker remains a shadow of himself compared to the form he once displayed alongside Luis Suarez under the management of former Kop boss Brendan Rodgers.
Dominic Solanke has come off the bench in almost every alternate league fixture and will supposedly be handed time to prove his worth.
But the Samba duo remain the heart and soul of Jurgen Klopp's attack. They tend to play particularly well together, switching positions frequently, with Firmino pulling behind often and Coutinho moving further forward with an eye for a goal.
The fans witnessed the highest level of fluidity when the pair work together in the final third, producing some of the finest and most unpredictable attacking football in the Premier League.
On his day, few players are better than Coutinho in the Premier League, while Firmino thrives with the right men around him up front. And although Liverpool won four out of seven games this season in the absence of Coutinho, the stats don't really add up to tell the real story.
The Rio de Janeiro-born attacker mustered more dribbles, chances and assists than any other Liverpool player last campaign despite being eighth in overall minutes played. It not only bespeaks the significance of Coutinho over Firmino but perhaps over any other Liverpool star.