Premier League transfer round-up: Aston Villa agree loan move for Philippe Coutinho
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Philippe Coutinho’s arrival from Barcelona will come at the perfect time for Steven Gerrard and Aston Villa. The Brazilian sealed a loan move to Villa Park with the option to buy for £33million in a deal which will him reunite with his former captain.
Having shared a training ground, a pitch, and a changing room with the Brazilian midfielder, Gerrard is more than aware of his unquestionable talent.
And the Villa boss will be praying to the footballing gods that the 29-year-old can rediscover the form which convinced Barcelona to spend £142m on the attacking midfielder, because his side struggled in the final third again.
The Midlanders have impressed under the former Liverpool captain, but their finishing did not match their creativity apparent in their FA Cup clash against Manchester United.
While the potential benefits of Coutinho’s arrival speak for themselves, there were also several moments which suggested Lucas Digne’s potential arrival from Everton could also bring Gerrard’s side to another level.
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Reports from the Daily Mirror understand Gerrard’s side have become the favourites to sign the defender from Rafael Benitez’s side, and if Scott McTominay’s early goal is anything to go by, then he could be a worthy investment.
Fred and McTominay – a midfield partnership regularly derided and bemoaned by United fans – combined to give United an early lead.
Fred was afforded far too much space when he cut onto his favoured left-foot and whipped in a wonderful cross for the Scottish international to nod home at the back-post.
Villa’s wingers and defence simply did not close the Brazilian down quick enough, as he had time to take a touch, look up and find McTominay, before floating his delivery into the danger area.
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Digne is a defender who is used to playing on the front-foot, whether it is pressing opposition players high up the pitch or marauding forward to join the attack.
The Frenchman may have been able to close the space and the cross down, before it was whipped into the penalty area.
While Digne’s presence at the back could refresh the back-line, there is also the possibility of a blossoming partnership on the left-hand side between the Everton defender and Coutinho.
Jurgen Klopp often deployed Coutinho on the left-hand side of Liverpool’s frontline, enabling him to cut-inside onto his stronger right foot, float into the midfield, and take on the opposition full-backs.
However, the positive display of summer signing Emiliano Buendia against Rangnick’s side, suggests Coutinho could very well be used as well as the Argentine rather than instead off. Buendia tormented Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the left-hand side of Villa’s attack, linking up brilliantly with Watkins and Danny Ings.
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When Coutinho and Gerrard shared a midfield with each other, the Brazilian played in-between the England star and the striker.
If Gerrard decides to stick to what he knows and put the Barcelona loanee at the heart of his side, he could complete a terrifying frontline of Watkins, Buendia, and Ings. However, the likelihood of Gerrard altering his preferred 4-3-3 formation could be unlikely; therefore, Coutinho may also slot on the left-hand side of his three man midfield.
Doulaz Luiz and John McGinn have a sturdy and balanced understanding with each other, while Jacob Ramsey’s attacking exploits and late dashes into the box have also garnered praise.
Gerrard has plenty of exciting attacking possibilities with Coutinho, while Digne’s possible arrival would add extra experience to his back four.
All he needs to do now, is find the perfect balance which enhances his side at both sides of the pitch.
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