London – Brendan Rodgers backed new signing Philippe Coutinho to revitalise Liverpool after watching his side squander a two-goal lead in a frustrating 2-2 draw at Arsenal.
Goals from Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson had put Liverpool on course for a much-needed victory at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, but they were pegged back by two goals in three minutes from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott.
It was another blow for Reds manager Rodgers and his team just three days after their humiliating FA Cup fourth round defeat at third-tier strugglers Oldham.
But Rodgers insisted afterwards he was proud of his players and he is hopeful Coutinho, the 20-year-old Brazilian midfielder who arrived for £8.5 million from Inter Milan this week, can make an instant impact with his inconsistent side.
“I love players that can make the difference at the top end of the field,” Rodgers said.
“He is a young player with more than 100 appearances and a lot of them at the top level. I have known him since he was 15 and watched him come through from Brazil.
“He is a wonderful talent and a great technician. He has great pace, strength and power and is flexible. He can play in the midfield in that zone or he can play off the sides.
“So it is really exciting, another great product to come into the league. I'm looking forward to developing him. He has experienced but still has a load of potential. He can come in straight away because he's got the game.”
Southampton were also keen on signing Coutinho, but Rodgers was always confident of fending them off.
“There was a big interest from there but a club like Liverpool will always attract top players,” he said.
“Even though we are not where we want to be, the history of this club will always get top players to want to come and once he found Liverpool were interested he wanted to come. It was a real coup for us because Inter Milan didn't want to sell him.”
Rodgers also praised Uruguay forward Suarez, who played in a wide position to allow Daniel Sturridge his favoured central role and has now scored nine times in his last nine games.
“He's a different type of winger to Theo Walcott, he plays on the inside and will always be direct and go for the goal,” Rodgers said.
“He has played in three positions for me and all of which he is comfortable in and has scored goals in. Suarez is bright and clever but he also worked hard for the team.”
Rodgers also confirmed it was unlikely that Blackpool's Tom Ince – a former Liverpool player – would be returning to Anfield this month.
“We could still do the deal but it looks like one that is a bit too complicated at this stage,” he said.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was disappointed with his side's poor defending, particularly in the first half, and has also been hit by confirmation that left-back Kieran Gibbs now faces three weeks on the sidelines after being forced off with a thigh strain.
The Gunners had made poor starts against Manchester City and Chelsea recently and Wenger admitted his defenders were nervous again.
“I believe recent history has an impact on the way we started the game,” he said. “I believe we have to get that out of our minds and focus on playing football and what we want to do to the opposition.
“I believe the quality is there and we have to trust it and forget what happened in the past. What happened in the past, you could see it played in our heads at the start of the game.”
Wenger also admitted he does not expect to make any deadline day signings but insisted he was happy with the players already at his disposal.
“This squad is at the top, top level,” he said. “We have to learn to trust these players again and to keep faith in them.” – Sapa-AFP