Bayern Munich playmaker Philippe Coutinho has revealed how some tactical tweaks by caretaker head coach Hansi Flick have kick-started an upturn in form for the defending Bundesliga champions.
The Reds were four points off top spot following the 5-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 10 that prompted Niko Kovac’s departure. Since then Flick has masterminded a 2-0 triumph over Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League as well as Bundesliga victories over Borussia Dortmund and Fortuna Düsseldorf – both by 4-0 scorelines – to sit just one point behind league leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach.
And Coutinho, who made his first start under Flick and scored his third Bundesliga goal of the season on Matchday 12, was full of praise for the 54-year-old coach and the changes he has put in place since taking charge.
“I tried to repay his faith in me,” Coutinho told TZ. “At the moment the team is doing really well at implementing what the coach wants. Pressing without the ball is very important to him. We close the opposition down early and in a structured way, which causes them a lot of problems. We didn’t expect it to be so successful so quickly.
“The changes Flick has made are mainly tactical,” Coutinho continued. “He places a lot of emphasis on compact, coordinated and, at times, high pressing so that the opposition can’t get into their game at all. Obviously it’s up to us players to execute that on the pitch, but from the very start we understood what he wants from us and how he ticks, both on the pitch and in the changing room. That’s why things are going well and we’re all happy.”
Yet it is not only Flick’s tactical know-how that has impressed Coutinho; the 27-year-old also appreciates his man-management skills in keeping everyone pulling in the same direction.
Watch: Philippe Coutinho's roots
“Even when he was assistant coach he got on very well with us and that’s obviously bearing fruit now,” Coutinho continued. “He’s got the talent to make every player understand that they’re an important part of the team. That might not seem important at first glance, but it’s actually the foundation for everything that’s happening on the pitch right now. The atmosphere has to be good in the team – and it is.”
Coutinho, who is expected to start Bayern’s Champions League encounter away to Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, also welcomed the opportunity to play alongside fellow attacking midfielder Thomas Müller. The duo lined up together in Düsseldorf on Saturday and dovetailed well, having rarely played together under Kovac, who stated such a formation would be “too attacking”.
“I’ve always said I can play with Thomas,” Coutinho explained. “He’s a great player and someone who’s very important for Bayern. He’s got everything, talent and experience, which makes him an essential part of the team. I’ve got my strengths and he’s got his – the only thing that matters is combining them together for Bayern.”