By Anthony Onifade

10th Jul, 2023 | 11:10am

Unai Emery must not waste time on Philippe Coutinho exit decision at Aston Villa

It’s certainly been a tough season for Philippe Coutinho, with the Aston Villa attacker struggling to reach top form under Unai Emery and Steven Gerrard and the Spaniard must not waste time on showing him the exit door.

Emery has clearly shown he has his favourites and, at present, the Brazilian has found himself well down the pecking order at Villa Park. With the summer window now within view, it’s not a surprise to see the 30-year-old linked with a move away from the West Midlands.

The links to several clubs have been rampant with Turkish sides Besiktas and Galatasaray reportedly keen on his services, while Steven Gerrard is desperate for a reunion with him at his new club in Saudi Arabia, Al-Ettifaq (Daily Mail, 14 June).

Coutinho signed for Villa for a big-money £17million fee last summer from Barcelona after a successful loan spell with the club the season before where he hit eight goal involvements (five goals and three assists) from 16 Premier League starts (19 appearances in total).

However, since then, the former Liverpool player’s form and confidence took an incredible hit, with injuries proving the decisive factor, only making just three starts since the turn of 2023.

In fact, Coutinho’s star has sadly been on the wane over the past few seasons and the 2022-23 campaign did indicate a player who struggles to influence a game like he used to.

Coutinho managed just one goal and zero assists, starting just seven league games and appearing in 20 in total. Indeed, he had an expected goal rate of only 1.4 and an expected assists rate of a mere 0.5 [FBRef].

He contributed only eight key passes and zero goal-creating actions. It makes for hugely disappointing reading for a player who is in the team to create opportunities for teammates and chip in with goals.

At this juncture, with Villa about to embark on a Europa Conference League ride next season, Emery can ill-afford passengers in the squad, let alone passengers on big money wages at Villa Park.

The Spaniard suffered a major blow to his pre-season plans at Villa Park recently, with young Englishman Jacob Ramsey now out for around 10 weeks, after suffering a meniscus tear on international duty for the Under-21 European Champions England, while playing in the quarter-final against Portugal.

Such a hit may well give Emery all the inclinations to hand Coutinho a shot at redemption at the club, given his depleted attacking weaponry at his disposal, but the Brazilian’s injury record is a huge worry and with his astronomical wages proving potentially a stumbling block financially for Aston Villa this summer, the former Villarreal must be quick to show him the door in order to fund his major rebuild.

The Villans have been linked with some established and exciting attacking names around Europe to bolster their squad, but such statement signings simply can’t be made if players who are on huge wages and hardly showing keen interest in proving their worth to Emery can’t be moved on.

With Tielemans, Emi Buendia, Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn set to form a key part of Emery’s creative hub, coupled with some key additions, Coutinho’s role at the club looks a non-starter.

How Aston Villa will look to sell him looks like an impossible job, but with the knowledge and experience of the market that the new President of Football Monchi holds, it won’t be long before Coutinho is packing his bags and shown the Villa Park exit door.

Emery simply has to be quick with this decision, as pre-season already gets underway.

In other Aston Villa news, a first-team ace has emerged as the “Master of the Dark Arts” for Unai Emery and has become the club’s most underrated player.