Philippe Coutinho’s reported £105 million transfer to Barcelona from Liverpool in the 2017-18 winter transfer window was one of the worst-kept secrets in footballing history. However, the move that he once hailed as, “a dream come true,” has now become a nightmare.
He enjoyed a terrific half-season with the La Liga giants, contributing to 16 goals (scoring 10 and providing six assists) in 22 league and Copa del Rey matches overall. However, the following campaign, in what would be his first full season, Coutinho failed to improve on the tally – recording the same goal-contribution return in all competitions, despite making 32 more appearances.
With the re-emergence of winger Ousmane Dembélé and the impressive form of versatile midfielders Arturo Vidal and Arthur, Coutinho had seemingly lost his place at the Camp Nou, and was sent out on loan last summer to Bayern Munich, in the hope of rediscovering his form.
In Germany, the Brazilian appeared to be back to his stellar self, scoring eight times and providing six assists in 23 league appearances, his second-best campaign to date, but, hampered by persistent ankle injuries since March, the midfielder made only two appearances since lock-down, completing 31 minutes.
Mikel Arteta has transformed players’ careers before
With his Barcelona future in doubt, the Brazilian has been the subject of much speculation, linking him with a host of potential suitors in the Premier League. One of the clubs reportedly interested in Coutinho is Arsenal, and he should seize the opportunity with both hands.
Mikel Arteta has helped to transform fortunes at Arsenal since predecessor Unai Emery left the club, defeating Premier League champions Liverpool and FA Cup holders Manchester City in the same week, as they qualified for the FA Cup Final and ultimately finished eighth in the league.
A player under Arsène Wenger and the previous assistant to Pep Guardiola (who he briefly played alongside while at Barcelona B’s academy) at Manchester City, the Spaniard has learnt from the very best, and has now developed his own style of management in the dug-out in the red side of north London.
Arteta has already shown examples of his nurturing nature, giving hope and instilling confidence to the so-called ‘forgotten players’ at Arsenal, such as David Luiz, Nicolás Pépé and Dani Ceballos. The trio, who had joined in the summer, had been the subject of much criticism earlier in the campaign, but have shone since the Spaniard took over from compatriot Emery, particularly in the FA Cup.
Coutinho could become the latest player to excel under the influence of Arteta. The Brazilian has arguably struggled with confidence, as a result of injuries halting his progress. However, a patient manager in Arteta could be what’s required to give the former Liverpool man the u-turn his career deserves.
Arsenal would fit Coutinho’s style of play
Coutinho would complement the side, bringing a more creative and dynamic aspect in attack for Arteta’s men. Combining with other ‘flare-players’ such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Pépé, the midfielder could be the missing piece of the puzzle to once again bring Arsenal closer to challenging for the Premier League title, if not the top-four.
Arsenal in many ways share certain similarities with that of Barcelona. They are a side that like to go on the offence, have a lot of pace on the counter-attack and most of the time, see a lot of the ball. So the midfielder would certainly adapt well. Although the levels of pressure for the players to perform may vary and there being less targets than those at-stake in Barcelona – where a league title isn’t enough to be seen as successful campaign, it might enable Coutinho to find his feet with far less scrutiny.
However, in order to join The Gunners, Coutinho would need to put his previous Liverpool loyalties aside. The Brazilian spent five years at Anfield and has also been linked with a potential return to his former side.
Although, some Liverpool fans believe the midfielder is surplus to requirements and the club have progressed just fine without him.
On the other hand, other Liverpool fans believe that Coutinho could still have a future on Merseyside, including former Reds player Emile Heskey, who told Sky Sports that the Brazilian ‘would be welcomed back with open arms.’
It remains to be seen how Coutinho’s immediate future will play out, but if the midfielder wants to resurrect his career, Arsenal seems like the place to be. With a sympathetic boss in Mikel Arteta, whose trusting and confident manner reflects onto his players, and a side that benefits his style of play, it seems like a straightforward decision.
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