Analysis: Why Lucas replaced Coutinho against West Ham

Brendan Rodgers brought on one Brazilian for another at half time.

One of the key moments in yesterday’s win for Liverpool was the introduction of Lucas Leiva at half time in place of Philippe Coutinho.

There is a contrast between the two Brazilians, you have more creativity and craft in Coutinho whereas in Lucas there is the cool head and more experience that is keen to keep hold of the ball.

Liverpool were struggling to get a real foothold in the game in the middle of the park. There weren’t the sustained periods of possession required for the visitors to take control of proceedings against West Ham which Brendan Rodgers saw at the half time break.

There was switch in the system as Liverpool went back to the diamond formation which served them so well on the road, especially in the fixtures against Southampton and Manchester United.

What was evident in the second half was the way Liverpool looked after possession a little better. If we compare the pair’s passing statistics, Lucas made 20 more passes than Coutinho.

NameTeamPosTotal PassAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 50 1 45
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool MF 30 1 45

That was the principal reason, though Lucas gave Liverpool a bit more experience in the middle of the park than Coutinho. Statistically on other fronts, they lost possession on a similar amount of occasions [Coutinho 10-9 Lucas] and they won the same amount of duels [three each] meaning that Coutinho's best attributes weren't being put to good effect whereas Lucas was more suited to the situation.

Perhaps the biggest surprise out of the statistics was the amount of times that Lucas was able to get into the final third compared to Coutinho. Normally, you would be accustomed to Coutinho being the busier player of the two surrounding the opposition's penalty area but the statistics show you that Lucas took up a more advanced role in the diamond - and having a four man diamond rather than three in the middle allowed Lucas to join the attack every now and then.

NameTeamPosFinal Third EntriesAppsMins
Lucas Leiva Liverpool MF 6 1 45
Philippe Coutinho Liverpool MF 4 1 45

What Lucas gave Liverpool was a bit more control and allowed Liverpool to get to grips with a style that couldn't be more different from their own. His performance was capped off by a wonderful through ball for Jon Flanagan which resulted in the penalty that allowed Steven Gerrard to score the winner. In that sense it was a match winning substitution.

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