After each round of Premier League fixtures, ESPN FC brings you its Team of the Weekend. Our panel of experts carefully selects 11 star performers along with a manager.
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After a week where Manchester City were convincingly defeated by both Barcelona and Liverpool, with 2-1 losses flattering the English champions on both occasions, manager Manuel Pellegrini's tactics inevitably came under fire.
For both contests, his 4-4-2 formation was outplayed in midfield and exposed between the lines, leading to many questions about whether the Chilean has the tactical nous necessary to get results against the biggest sides.
The 4-4-2 itself isn't necessarily a problem, although...
Three months ago, Liverpool looked like a lost cause in the Premier League title race. The team had just been eliminated from the Champions League tournament, and sat in ninth place in the Premier League table heading into a matchup with rival Manchester United on Dec. 14. At that point, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers made the change to a 3-4-3 formation, and while the team initially stumbled in a 3-0 defeat to United, the players quickly rebounded, took ownership of their new roles and have seen almost remarkable results since.
Liverpool is now unbeaten in its past 11 Premier League games, and ranks third in the Premier League with 21 goals scored in that time period. Leading the attack is 22-year-old Brazilian international Philippe Coutinho, who recently signed with Liverpool through the 2020 season. Coutinho has led the team in attacking-half touches throughout its unbeaten run and the attacker's efficiency and vision in the attack has led Liverpool from the middle of the Premier League table to a fifth-place position; according to SPI the team now has a 44 percent chance of finishing in the top four, just three percentage points behind the United team that last defeated them.
How impactful has Coutinho been? Here's a look at how his role has changed since the beginning of the season, what he brings to Liverpool and how he can maintain his form through the rest of the season.
What's changed for Coutinho?
When Rodgers moved into a 3-4-3 formation, he shifted Coutinho from a central attacking midfield role into a left forward position. This move let him receive the ball in less crowded areas, which allowed the Brazilian to process everything in front of him before quickly being closed down in a more crowded central area. It also gave Coutinho the option to cut inside on his natural right foot, and still utilize the creativity and decision-making that made him an above-average central midfielder. ...