Philippe Coutinho has been dominating the column inches in the newspapers on a seemingly daily basis, with claim and counter claim about his long protracted move to Barcelona. That move is now imminent after both clubs confirmed the deal on Saturday night.
As the newspapers talk about Coutinho’s move to the La Liga leaders, it is also leading to speculation about who will replace the Brazilian at Anfield.
The latest rumours today is that Liverpool have made contact with Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez about a potential move to Anfield. How true the speculation is, is of course unknown at the moment, however, as an outsider looking in, I would suggest that the Algerian is far from an ideal replacement.
Throughout his Liverpool career, Coutinho has generally played in three positions. He predominantly has played on the left of midfield, while also playing as an attacking midfielder behind the striker. This year, he has been played in a more withdrawn role, on the left of a central midfield three, incidentally the role that Barcelona supposedly want to play him in. He has had an impressive start to the season in his new role, scoring seven goals and providing six assists in the Premier League in just 14 appearances.
The reason for his new position is two fold. Firstly, it has long been thought that he would be best suited in that position, however, he was a crucial part of a front three with Mane and Firmino last season, with very few alternatives to fill the role.
However, the arrival of Mo Salah who has started the season in devastating form, has given Jurgen Klopp a new option and a new attacking threat. Salah has banged in 17 goals and provided five assists so far in the Premier League this season, and in turn made the right wing spot his own. This has seen Senegalese speedster Sadio Mane pushed out to the left, and has subsequently allowed Coutinho to be played deeper.
So with speculation today that Liverpool have made contact with Riyad Mahrez, would he be a good replacement for Coutinho?
Well, his talents are undoubted, and he is a player who would suit Liverpool’s fast free flowing style of play. However, the Algerian predominantly plays on the right hand side of Leicester’s midfield, the exact same position that Salah has made his own. While Mahrez has had spells playing in the ‘number 10’ role at Leicester, it has not been to a hugely great effect.
So with Salah as the first choice right winger, and Mane down the left, where would Mahrez fit in? I would argue he wouldn’t!
Mahrez, despite his qualities, is not a central midfielder. While the likes of Kevin de Bruyne have transitioned seamlessly into a central midfield role at Manchester City, it’s difficult to foresee that the Algerian would be able to make the same transition at Liverpool.
I would suggest that Liverpool already have a more than suitable replacement in their ranks, the £40m Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is finally starting to settle at the club. The England midfielder has made no secret of his desire to play in a central midfield role, and with Coutinho now out of the door, it could be his time to step up.