Philippe Coutinho to Aston Villa: Why Steven Gerrard’s new loan signing could hurt Emi Buendia’s production

Philippe Coutinho to Aston Villa: Why Steven Gerrard's new loan signing could hurt Emi Buendia's production
Written by Publishing Team

When Jack Grealish left for Manchester City, Aston Villa’s recruitment team determined what they had done well and focused on three players to fill the role. These players are Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Amy Buendia. Five months later, Aston Villa realized how long the job would be to replace Grealish.

Villa finished 13th in the standings, moving from Dean Smith in November and appointing Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard as coach. And they announced Friday, the addition of Brazilian outcast Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona on loan with the option of securing a permanent deal for his services if things worked out. Villa may not make moves as they are expected to spend on left-backs. But in regards to Coutinho’s loan, was the move an admission that the plan to replace Grealish had not worked, or were they supporting the team to really compete for titles next season?

Since Gerrard took charge, Villa has mainly played 4-3-3 with Buendia on one of the flanks. He’s gotten creative in lineups, using Buendia in the middle behind two forwards when Danny Ings is healthy. With Coutinho, who has ties to Gerrard dating back to his Anfield days, favors the left winger, the expected setup is likely to be third place for Coutinho, Ole Watkins and Buendia.

That’s not something Ings and Bailey would like to hear, but since they both spent so much time on the treatment table, Gerrard could have come up with better terms to use them off the bench or as rotation options. With Bailey in particular, who has one goal and two assists from the bench this season, there could be some merit to that thought process as well.

If this is a vision that Gerrard can sell to the team, then things could go well if Coutinho can maintain and contribute to his health. But this is where things get tricky. Since the 2017-18 season, during which he scored 15 goals and made 11 additional goals for both Liverpool and Barcelona, ​​Coutinho’s production has decreased. Ankle and muscle injuries have hampered him over the past few years as Coutinho hasn’t broken 25 games since his first season at Barcelona and has only played 2,000 minutes once since.

In his limited appearance, he was effective and especially the only season on loan with Bayern Munich in 2019-20 where he scored six goals and assisted seven times in 23 matches (15 starts). The good news is that if things do not work out, the option to buy Coutinho can be rejected and he will return to Barcelona but in the short term, assuming he is a key player, gets along with the team and manages expectations by Gerrard. will be the key.

Having signed so many players, balancing playing time needs is especially important for those who hail from the Aston Villa academy and who may be considering their options now. There are also significant players like Trezeguet, Anwar El Ghazi, and Bertrand Traore who will either move through this window or be pushed to the bottom of the clicking order. As a new manager, these are the times when the changing room can turn on you if not handled properly. While Gerrard has had to manage those expectations at Rangers, with how fluid things are at Aston Villa, it will be a different challenge entirely especially if the moves are not successful.

Back to the field. At their best, Coutinho and Buendia are two ball-dominated players looking to shoot first and set up the others in second. But while Coutinho has shown the ability to do just that in the Premier League on the Liverpool wing, Buendia has not. Part of this is not his fault as he is moved between being a real No. 10 and a winger, but it is curious to see a player who shoots 71 and 110 in two seasons in the Championship with Norwich City and then drops to 40 and 19 shots in two Premier League seasons.





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It’s not like Buendia is bad at shooting either. He scored 23 goals in two seasons of the tournament. When he’s live and on the ball, he’s at his best. Adding Coutinho to the mix means there will be less ball to spread around. Coutinho is a high-volume shooter with a career average of 3.61 shots taken every 90 minutes, and he attempts 4.5 dribbles per 90 minutes. Buendia averaged 2.99 last season at Norwich and 1.62 this season at Villa. Because of that, we can see Buendia fade into the background of Aston Villa.

Buendia was Villa’s record signing for $42.2 million last summer and they’ll want the two to coexist or the original crop of transfers to replace Grealish will end poorly. There is a possibility that Coutinho has adapted his playing style as he got older to work better in this system, but if Buendia and Coutinho need the ball under their feet to succeed, they could stumble upon each other.

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