When the news broke on the 8th of January 2022 that Aston Villa had confirmed the signing of Phillipe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona for the season all hell broke loose throughout the Villa fandom and even the wider premier league. One of the greater players of recent times in Premier League history had returned, reuniting with his old teammate and captain Steven Gerrard, and to show the league he could still strut his stuff and run any game and he's gone and shown so many doubters up.
I think I can speak for so many of us Villa fans that none of us believed this would happen, then when it did it all but confirmed Aston Villa Football Club has now moved to a new era of signings and development in the team, this has brought us a clear vision that Gerrard has, signing quality first-team ready players. At the time, Villa were playing a 4-3-3 under Gerrard with his clear style of playing slowly coming through but it was clear Gerrard wasn't totally sold on playing sole wingers on the flanks, adopting an inverted forward almost style for Buendia and Watkins when they ventured to these areas and when Phillipe came on for his first game in the 2-2 against United settling into the midfield areas but making darting runs to the box, small flicks and passes made instantly showing his class it became immediately obvious we'd made one of the signings of the season. It would be easy for us all to get carried away from Phil coming on making a goal and scoring another but it wasn't just that, it was the evidence of a top player who had come off the bench for his return to the premier league having been relatively unfit for game time but showed nothing but class and elegance of the highest order and treated the team with the level of professionalism of a man with a point to prove...and boy has he proved it.
Looking more into what P.C brings to the team in an overall sense, if we take a look through our last game against Southampton where we ran riot as 4-0 winners Coutinho came out with a whoscored rating of 8.66 with a goal and two assists (wonderful for my fantasy football team btw) but when we take a wider look with his heatmap it shows that the majority of Coutinho's 47 touches came in the centre of the opposition third, an average position of the centre field as a 10 almost it shows how he managed to influence the game in a way we'd been screaming for over the season and a system where we've had to rely on young Jacob Ramsey on for too long. Having a player of this quality clearly influencing play in the way he does (much like in the 3-3 game against Leeds) opens up so many other players to show what they have to offer, I am certain it enables players like Ramsey and Ings to show what they have always had and can bring to the team. It doesn't have to be just in a pass, shoot and goal sense of football but the actual lift of having this calibre of player in the team can only be a lift and whilst of course it changes the aspect of the starting XI it is only to the advantage of the team, the club and the fans. Coutinho is pure joy to watch as he glides through defences, constantly looking to create or to take a shot on goal. The simple fact is, we have one of the premier league's best at our club, especially in his position giving us the powerful position of attracting players of the standard we need to take the club where it needs to be and where it should be and that quite simply is the top 8. I'm not sitting here typing this up saying we SHOULD or WILL get there this season but it should always be the goal for us at a club level (not an expectation this season) but a goal for sure. When it clicks, it clicks and Coutinho is the spark for the team to make any dreamland final push to those spaces.
'Never fall in love with a loan player'. Too late. By thefinal whilst against United (2-2) Coutinho had reached cult hero status immediately amongst us Villa Faithful and the demand for him had sky-rocketed. He's back with a bang and everyone has their eyes open looking, hoping we slip up in the summer so they can nab him straight out of Claret and Blue. Coutinho brings status to the club and whilst we regard Villa continuously as the greatest team the world has ever seen, to many we have fallen by the wayside and are a 'lower table side' which has been hard to argue against which would originally mean we lose the players we want in the market (Rashica...) but we've turned a corner. Having who is renowned as one of the (if not THE) best midfielders for England as well as one of the League's brightest ever talents in our squad now gives us the level we've needed to return to us in terms of global standard. Aston Villa Football Club is coming back to where it belongs, the top side of the PL and a team to fear playing slowly but surely and Coutinho is key to this.
So, how much @Barca? Cause there's surely no world where we don't sign this man at the end of the season? I have high regard for our board and for our technical team also as it has to be said our signings of recent have been nothing short of wonderful (if only just a tad injury prone) but that's usually what happens when you sign technical and pacey players like Bailey or Ings who has one of the most infamous histories of injury. Anyway, what I was trying to get across was, I have this pure hope we have an option to buy or preliminary agreement with Barcelona of 'first refusal' almost because there can't be a world where this man doesn't become our number one signing of the summer. In 7 games, Coutinho has 6 goal contributions directly whilst clearly having a hand in many other progressive parts of Villa's game and a clear follower of Gerrards' vision for the squad and the systems he wishes us to adopt in our play. It simply has to happen...I can chip in a tenner!
This was written initially as a passion piece for a player who I still cannot believe plays for the Villa, but it became clear during looking through all of our statistics since Mid January when P.C became a Villa player that the level of quality in the team takes a skyrocket upwards with his inclusion and the standard of play is only improving with each extra minute he notches on his belt. We have to keep him, we have to show that this is just the start of Villa signing pure quality. Digne, Coutinho, Bailey. Exciting talents who can be or are among the current league's best. Let's keep them fit. Let's keep them in Claret and Blue and watch this mighty club of ours climb back to the perch we belong to sit upon.
@Dan_Clarkey - @AVFCFaithful_