Analysis: Coutinho magic having crucial influence on Villa’s attacking play

Following Aston Villa’s 4-0 win over Southampton on Saturday, boss Steven Gerrard was full of praise for Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian playmaker bagged a goal and an assist to take his respective tallies to three apiece in seven Premier League games since joining Villa in the January transfer window, with that marquee addition looking like a genius piece of business from Gerrard and the club hierarchy.

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While he has been quiet at times too, having gone three games previous to Saturday’s win without a goal involvement, his performance this past weekend showed the level of quality, intelligence and influence that he is still able to provide as he rediscovers his best form.

Coutinho the driving force in Villa’s attacking play

As seen in the images above, Coutinho was involved in all four of our goals against Southampton.

While he was obviously on hand to make it 3-0 himself, his movement, vision and passing were all pivotal in our build-up play as he found ways to hurt the visitors throughout.

Whether it was dropping deep to pick up possession, drifting out to both flanks or finding himself more centrally and still causing problems, Coutinho’s ability to find pockets of space to then showcase his technical quality was a joy to watch on Saturday and Gerrard will hope it’s a consistent theme in our play moving forward.

The 29-year-old will even be frustrated with himself that he didn’t add to his tally having had a couple of glorious chances in the first half to stretch our lead, and if he had been more clinical, he would be celebrating our win with a hat-trick to his name.

Nevertheless, it just showed his awareness, positioning and understanding of the game, and it was particularly promising that he continues to build chemistry with Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins ahead of him.

What it means for Emiliano Buendia remains to be seen, as he’ll be desperate to come back into the starting XI as soon as possible, and in his defence, he had been one of our brightest players prior to dropping out.

However, Gerrard will arguably now want to avoid changing a winning formula and system for as long as it lasts, and that means making Coutinho the creative hub of the side and giving the Brazilian international the stage to showcase his class.

If Saturday was a taste of that, then as Coutinho continues to get fitter and stronger with regular playing time and builds up a rapport with his Villa teammates, it will hopefully lead to more magical moments and a strong push to end the season on a high.

As per Gerrard in his comments below, time will tell if Villa can secure Coutinho on a permanent transfer this summer, but we’ve seen enough now to know that he’s still got plenty left to offer and could be an important player for us not just in the short term, but also in the long run in taking us to the next level.