Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Liverpool’s problem with poetry in motion

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It is some prospect, one to bring the Premier League to its knees.

On one side, the pace of Sadio Mane; on the other, the acceleration of Mo Salah. Between them, the dovetailing Roberto Firmino; turning, twisting, feeding.

If that isn’t enough, then consider what lies behind them.

Philippe Coutinho, bobbing and weaving with that fluid stutter, his antennae forever searching for the right pass or right time to fire the ball into the top corner. Alongside him, Adam Lallana in perpetual motion, moving forward with the hot potato between his in-soles, driving at an opposition already close to submission.

In terms of a front five, there would be few better in Europe, let alone England. An ideal solution to those clichéd parked buses, and a quintet worthy of the ‘poetry in motion’ of which the Kop sing.

But is it actually realistic?

Jurgen Klopp is close to discovering that. Soon, for the first time, he will have all five at his disposal.

The immediate inclination is to place them together at once, front and centre, much like the best china would be used when the mayor comes for tea. It is a front five worthy of one of Klopp’s best sides, a true reflection of the sort of football he has tried to implement at Liverpool.

Five different players bound together by the German’s indelible imprint. Klopp may have only bought two – his African wing wizards – but the other three have been moulded in his vision, much different players to what they were when he arrived at Anfield.

Can Coutinho and Lallana play together in midfield?

But this is a side which still has its critics, and fierce ones at that, which centre around Liverpool’s defensive vulnerabilities.

Those issues have come with a midfield of players who employ a more conservative philosophy to the game. A pack of dogs, a troop of baboons, and a safety-first of James Milner, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum.

If Tottenham and Manchester City can run roughshod over that combination, if Leicester and Burnley and Watford can hurt them, how would a midfield two of Coutinho and Lallana fare?

That will be Klopp’s ultimate dilemma when selecting the line-up.

City manage it with Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva, but they are backed up by Fernandinho, a different sort of holding midfielder to Henderson or Can.

For Liverpool, the team where caution is thrown to the wind, it feels like caution could be flung into the incinerator with a midfield of that ilk.

Both Lallana and Coutinho are front-facing players. Though Lallana is credited for his pressing, it is often in an offensive, rather than defensive, situation. If he were to play alongside Coutinho as a no.8, he would be required to sit a little deeper and hold his position more, limiting some of his best attributes.

Likewise, Coutinho could be affected by Lallana alongside him. If the Brazilian lines up next to the more conservative Can or Wijnaldum, he has the freedom to gallivant forward and move into the space between defence and attack. That might be curtailed slightly – whether through tactics or instinct – with a similar operator next to him.

For those who complain Liverpool are too open and too expansive, this line-up might be too much to take.

But the opposition would have to get the ball first.

That temptation to play the two together, with the regular front three ahead, remains because it would be irresistible on the front foot. Liverpool would dominate games, and do so in the important areas. It would be a relentless set-up, both on and off the ball, and one that would give opponents little room for error, and even less room for manoeuvre.

There will be a time and a situation to unleash Liverpool’s new-look front five. Discovering when that is might be the hardest task of all.

It could be beautiful. It could be kamikaze. Like a fair portion of Klopp’s time on Merseyside, it might prove to be both.

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