James Rodríguez-Coutinho: comparing Bayern's playmakers
Following confirmation of the Brazilian's loan move to Bayern Munich, Opta data reveals whether he could succeed as the Colombian's replacement.
Philippe Coutinho's loan move to Bayern Munich is complete and so begins the club's season-long assessment of whether to activate their option to buy him on a permanent basis.
The former Liverpool star has suffered a loss of form since making a big-money move to Barcelona in 2018 and will now have the chance to reinvent himself in the Bundesliga.
While Bayern have chased Leroy Sané throughout the transfer window, it appears Coutinho and Ivan Perisic - signed on loan from Inter - will be the players tasked with replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry.
Niko Kovac must also fill the creative void left by James Rodríguez's return to Real Madrid and Coutinho, who is accustomed to playing centrally, could be anointed chief playmaker.
Here, we use Opta data to assess the merits of such a move, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of his game in comparison James.
Direct and dangerous
Shedding the more pedestrian James and deploying Coutinho in his place should give Bayern a greater degree of dynamism going forward.
The Brazilian causes problems with his willingness and ability to beat defenders, traits not exhibited quite so regularly by James.
Over the past two seasons, Coutinho attempted an average of 2.4 more dribbles per match and completed them with a success rate of 58.1 per cent.
James trusts less in his ability to go beyond markers, a dribble success rate of 44.2 per cent explaining his hesitance.
Yet, as the silky former Real Madrid man showcased at the Allianz Arena, his skills in other departments are sharper than most.
@Brazzo: "@Phil_Coutinho made it very clear during our talks in Barcelona that he was adamant about moving to #FCBayern. He is a world-class footballer with outstanding technical ability and is a versatile attacking option."#ServusCoutinho #MiaSanMia pic.twitter.com/PIutgOznT7— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) August 19, 2019
Bayern to get creative with solution to missing assists
James tallied 67 appearances across all competitions in his two seasons with Bayern.
Coutinho, in the same period, featured in 96 matches for Liverpool and Barcelona, clocking up over 2,000 more on-field minutes.
Despite the huge discrepancy, the pair each recorded 19 assists.
James, with his 89.2 per cent passing accuracy, created 3.5 chances per 90 minutes, during which he averaged 95 touches.
He outperformed Coutinho in both departments, the former Anfield favourite averaging 2.1 chances created from 82 touches per game.
Perisic will help bridge the gap, but it seems Robert Lewandowski might have to make do with a less consistent supply line this season.
James, it's been a pleasure pic.twitter.com/yttLA2I2Gd— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) June 5, 2019
New firepower in front of goal
Where the champions can reasonably expect clear return on their investment is in goals scored.
Despite well-documented difficulties, Coutinho still did his part at Barca by notching 13 times in LaLiga. Those goals contributed to a solid combined two-season tally of 33, averaging out at 0.5 per 90 minutes.
James, the Golden Boot winner at the 2014 World Cup, managed seven in each of his Bundesliga campaigns.
He struck a total of 15 times in all for Bayern, having averaged 2.3 shots and 3.5 touches in the opposition box per match.
Coutinho's role is still to be determined and how his team-mates receive him remains to be seen, but an average of 3.3 shots and 4.6 touches in the opposition box over the course of 90 minutes portrays a player who will actively seek out his own opportunities.
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