With Philippe Coutinho’s future at Liverpool subject to intense speculation, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three candidates who could replace him at Anfield
Philippe Coutinho, Liverpool’s talisman for the last couple of seasons, looks destined to join Barcelona this summer. Widespread reports claiming that the Brazilian playmaker has formally handed a transfer request to the Merseyside club, and is eager to make the switch to Camp Nou.
Thus, the worst possible fear for Liverpool fans seem to be coming true as one of the Reds’ most influential players seems to be on the cusp of departing from Anfield, even as manager, Jurgen Klopp as well as owners, the Fenway Sports Group have gone on record to state that they won’t sell the player.
Therefore, with the chances of Coutinho leaving Liverpool increasing by the day, The Hard Tackle takes a look at three potential candidates who the Merseyside club could turn to to shoulder the creative burden at Anfield over the course of the season.
Not exactly a like-for-like replacement for the diminutive Brazilian, whose creative abilities are bettered by few in the Premier League. But what Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain brings to the plate is clever movement and unmatched work rate that can create spaces for the front trio to exploit.
Perhaps, that’s the reason why Liverpool have been heavily linked with the England international in recent months, with Jurgen Klopp admittedly a fan of the player. And alongside the intelligent and tenacious Adam Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain can help add a lot of bite to the Liverpool attack.
Having said that, throughout his time at Arsenal, Oxlade-Chamberlain has blown hot and cold, often flattering to deceive. Granted, a constant shuffling of positions and injuries have hampered his progress, but at 23 it’s high time the Englishman started grabbing his opportunities, as he did last season.
With less than 12 months remaining on his current deal, and with the player refusing to put pen to paper on a new deal, Liverpool could potentially snap him up on the cheap. They will have to make a move soon though, as Chelsea too, are rumoured to be interested in him.
The Moroccan has set many a tongue wagging in Eredivisie ever since he rose up through the ranks to make his senior debut for Heerenveen in 2012. But, it is at Twente and later on at Ajax where Ziyech’s potential seems to be coming to fruition, slowly but surely.
And it was last season in particular when the player ran riot for the Dutch giants. A stellar return of 12 goals and 20 assists in 46 appearances across all competitions last season is testament to just how well Ziyech has been developing in his formative years of senior football.
Perhaps what is most promising about Ziyech and a possible move to Anfield is that he possesses a similar skill set as Coutinho, with his ability to split defensive lines with ease as well as having a keen eye for goal. And the 24-year-old, like Coutinho, isn’t too bad on dead balls either.
Therefore, it’s not surprising why Liverpool have been monitoring his progress for a while now, and have been constantly linked with him in recent months. Indeed, with his qualities, Ziyech could be just the playmaker to add a creative spark in the Reds’ attacking play while being the perfect foil to Mane, Salah and Firmino.
A surprise name that has been quite heavily linked with Liverpool in recent weeks. But then again, Manuel Lanzini has not been an ordinary addition for West Ham either.
While the more sought-after and recognised Dimitri Payet grabbed the headlines for his playmaking regalia during Lanzini’s first season with the Hammers, the Argentine well and truly went on to take the mantle of being the East Londoners’ talisman during his second campaign at the club.
Keeping things ticking in the final third while also putting balls through the lines, the player, like his fellow South American also possesses nimble feet that help him dribble effortlessly while finding his way out of tight spaces with ease.
In addition to that, his defensive output is a cause for optimism for Liverpool, making him an ideal fit in Klopp’s all-action style of play. While it is true that his end product could do with a bit of work, perhaps, Lanzini would fare better in that regard with a more adventurous set of players at Anfield.
So while the Argentine might not be at Coutinho’s level yet, he certainly has the qualities to fill the void left by the Brazilian’s possible departure.
A player who has asked to leave current club, Leicester City, Mahrez could be the most easily accessible among the lot. However, Liverpool have not really been linked with a move for the Algerian of late, with Arsenal and AS Roma being his reported suitors.
Nevertheless, his creative abilities are in no doubt, with Mahrez arguably being one of the best playmakers in the Premier League, while also having several goals in him. Maybe, just maybe, a move for the player could be what both the club and the Algerian need to progress further.