Ever since Neymar’s world-record move to PSG from earlier in the summer, the Catalans have been visibly worried about the lack of attacking intent upfront, with the then record purchase of Ousmane Dembele proving futile due to the youngster’s swift injury that has only recently shown signs of a recovery.
But with Coutinho safely in the bag, the Spanish giants can begin to breathe more easily, and look to integrate him into their side in a manner that will best serve them for the years to come.
Owing to the kind of player that he is, there are several options in which the side can lineup with him. Let’s look at 3 of these possibilities:
1. 4-3-3 As Neymar’s Replacement
Replacing Neymar was seen as the prime intention in the mind of manager Ernesto Valverde when he began pursuing the Liverpool playmaker early on in the summer. A failure to do so saw the eventual transfer of Dembele go through, but now that they have safely secured the purchase, the possibility can be revisited.
This would mean that a trio of Coutinho, Messi, and Suarez will be deployed up front, akin to the memorable MSN formation. As usual, it will be Messi who is apt to play the deeper role, with Suarez doing what he does best in the La Liga, and the Brazilian acting as a firm creator and an equally creative presence at the side.
Further, it is also the position that the 25-year-old wishes to be deployed at preferably in the Brazilian national side, but has to make do with the opposite position owing to Neymar’s success manning that spot.
Moreover, Coutinho’s antics in the Premier League have seen him have a natural tendency to switch to an attacking role, and deploying him right there besides Messi and Suarez could function as a masterstroke if the trio is able to gel aptly.
One daunting hitch in this plan would be the presence of Dembele, who would also prefer to be deployed as an attacker, and who was undoubtedly lured to the Camp Nou with promises offering an attacking partnership with Messi and Suarez.
The above problem can be aptly solved should the next lineup be used.
2. 4-3-3 As Iniesta’s Replacement
At 33, the Spanish midfielder has been a legendary servant of the club, and his very presence has dictated much of their success over the years. However, in Coutinho, the Catalan faithful could find the perfect replacement for Iniesta.
The position occupied by him in Barca’s current formation is familiar to the Brazilian owing to his days at Liverpool in the Premier League. As of such, it is a spot that he will be most fresh at, and can potentially contribute the highest to in his opening days as a player of the world-renowned outfit.
Further, it would give some much-needed rest to Iniesta, who can focus his attention elsewhere. With the winter transfer going through, fans of the club will be disappointed to know that the Brazilian playmaker will be cup-tied in the UEFA Champions League due to outings with Liverpool in the group stages.
Hence, Iniesta’s experience can be utilized better in the knockout stages, while Coutinho could get used to replacing the veteran at the domestic level.
Besides, as mentioned before, this would allow for Dembele to be smoothly reintegrated into the squad after he makes a full recovery. This formation appears to be the smarter choice considering that the huge amount spent on the youngster cannot be allowed to go in vain.
3. 4-4-2 As A Wideman
This one is a more tactical formation, and is one that the boss has occasionally deployed so far this season to best deal with the injury of Dembele. In this formation, Coutinho and Dembele would occupy the wings of the squad, while Messi and Suarez will be allowed to function as linked-up strikers up-front.
This would make their wings laden with expensive talent, but is nevertheless a wiser choice to opt for due to several reasons. First and foremost is the fact that this would exponentially increase the width and size of their formation – a flaw that many critics have attributed their last season’s UEFA Champions League exit to.
Secondly, with the quality that the likes of Paulinho, Busquets, and Semedo possess, a 4-4-2 does significantly more justice to their abilities than a 4-3-3, in which their expertise appears to play second fiddle.
Lastly, with Messi’s tendency to link up the midfield with the attack quite well, he could be the ideal connection paired with Suarez up front, with the Uruguayan striker having ample opportunity to score away to glory.
Moreover, this formation would benefit the La Liga giants more in the long run owing to the kind of talent available in the market, and should they swoop for further reinforcements, the positions in this formation seem friendlier for newcomers of a different league.
One criticism can be the redundancy of Coutinho on the wing, as it might be a waste of his talents. But to this, one can argue that 25-year-old has always been remarked more for his ability as a creator, and furthermore, as a positive catalyst than as a goal-scorer. In that respect, this formation could do as good a task for Barcelona as the one where their new arrival is deployed as a replacement for Neymar.
Here is the starting 11 that best uses Coutinho:
All in all, one must not forget that in his truest essence, Coutinho is a very versatile player, and can thus be deployed in a variety of roles apart from the ones mentioned above as well.
Needless to say, his arrival at Barcelona is bound to provide the world with another spark of brilliance to relish in a team that is already famous for dispersing quality entertainment.
Written by Naveen Kelvin
A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.