BRENDAN RODGERS believes Philippe Coutinho is already showing he can “make the difference” after the Brazilian helped Liverpool FC romp to victory at Wigan Athletic.
Coutinho created the opening two goals for Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez as the Anfield outfit moved up to seventh place with a 4-0 thumping of the Latics on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who arrived from Inter Milan for £8.5million in January, now has one goal and two assists in three appearances.
And Rodgers has saluted the youngster’s swift integration into the first team.
“Philippe was brought in because of his talent and his humility,” said the Liverpool manager. “He is a young player with big experience and he is on the wave length of the top players.
“He has fitted in seamlessly into the scene because he is a wonderful technician and tactically he is very good.
"He is still not up to speed yet but you can see where he slots in.
“He is a player who can make the difference. He is clever with his passing and can make and score goals.
“You saw the pass for Luis's second goal was fantastic.”
Downing, who headed in a Coutinho cross inside the opening two minutes to send Liverpool on their way at the DW Stadium, has been similarly impressed by the Brazilian.
“He's had two good starts,” said the winger. “He will find it hard physically because this is different from the two leagues he's played in.
“I think he's settled in well and he's had two really good performances. If he can keep playing like that and Luis banging in the goals, then we've got a really good chance.”
Liverpool have now scored 12 goals in their last three games and remain in the hunt for Europa League qualification.
And Rodgers is convinced his team’s results point to a gradual improvement throughout a difficult debut campaign for the Northern Irishman.
“I have seen progress right along the way,” he added. “If you break the season into quarters, we had a difficult first with lots of application. In the second we got better, in the third we have kicked on again.
“The players have a confidence in the system as we go into the last period. Three of the four goals were built out from behind, playing through quickly with fast football.
“You saw the intensity of how the players pressed the game and blocked the spaces. Tactically, I thought they were terrific.
“But it just doesn't happen with a click of the fingers. But you can absolutely see it coming together.
"But I still think we need to strengthen the squad and bring in quality to make it become richer but the signs are certainly good.”
Liverpool had not won at Wigan for almost six years and Rodgers believes the performance and clean sheet underlines greater mental strength from his players.
“I just think that now we are better in our concentration,” he said. “Man United came here and won 4-0 and I am sure it wouldn't have been as good as that.
“Arsenal came here and won 1-0 against a team that notoriously know how to play at this stage of the season.”
Pepe Reina made a string of excellent saves to preserve his shut-out and further suggest he is emerging from a below-average run of form for much of the campaign.
And Downing said: “His save at 2-0 and if we had gone in 2-1 at half-time, that would have made it more difficult.
“People don't tend to see that, but we as players could see it was an important save and it gave us the platform to go on and get the third goal and it was easy from then on.
“He's a top-class goalkeeper. Everyone has dips in form and things like that. It's about the way you bounce back and he certainly has.”