What trait that you cannot see ultimately determines whether a good player is ‘great’ or not? Consistency. The ability to reach a particularly high standard on a regular basis even when things aren’t necessarily going well as a team – that’s what makes a player truly stand out from the crowd.
Consistency is the key facet because by its very definition it refers to being to do something more or less all the time and a quick glance at the world’s very best players brings up a list of individuals who rarely have bad games.
Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale – all of them are exceptional almost every time they play, whether that refers to their ability to beat a player and set up chances, or their habit of finishing off such opportunities.
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Of course, it’s a fine line and one not easily measured. But without that trait a player can’t really be considered one of the best and that’s why Philippe Coutinho can’t yet be included among that top bracket.
He is obvious a good player; clever in possession, a wonderful dribbler and a hard-worker, but don’t let his recent form deceive you. He’s done this before.
Currently Coutinho has five goals in 11 Premier League appearances and three in his last six games stretching back to the end of September. He also has four assists in that time, so he is, without doubt, in fine form.
But last term the Brazilian enjoyed similarly impressive bursts of form, scoring four goals and assisting three more inside a month from the end of October last year, before another three-goal spell in three weeks in March and April.
During both runs last term he looked to be really finding another level, yet each time he time he was unable to sustain his form. His inability to maintain that level proved somewhat costly in the Europa League final against Sevilla.
He set up Daniel Sturridge for the opener, but Coutinho was a largely peripheral figure thereafter as the Spaniards ultimately cruised. It was that kind of game in which he should have been leading the way.
Coutinho’s recent run has seen rumours linking him with a switch to Barcelona crop up, proof of course that he is enjoying himself at the moment. But, just for a moment, consider where he would fit into Barca’s team.
Precisely, nowhere. The front three are unimpeachable and essentially undroppable, while he wouldn’t get ahead of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets or Andres Iniesta (when fit) in a deeper role as their attributes are all far more suited.
Coutinho is obviously a talented player in fine form, much like Liverpool. But we’ve seen similar explosions of tempered brilliance from him before.
Calm down until he’s done it for a full season, then we’ll talk.