In times of collective inconsistency often there are those players who step up and display regularly brilliant football, that has been Roberto Firmino
Liverpool have had yet another season of mass uncertainty. Fans were massively excited when news emerged that Jürgen Klopp would be signing to manage the club. Such was the excitement that when the news was announced on Twitter it received a record breaking 60 million retweets which further increased to around 80 million in the following months. His biggest success since coming to Anfield has been his impact individually on players and drawing the best out of each one. The best example of this is the misuse of Roberto Firmino under Brendan Rodgers and how the Brazilian is flying in the Premier League since being deployed as a number nine.
I tried as hard as I possibly could, following Liverpool’s heartbreaking Capital One Cup final loss to Manchester City, to stay positive but it felt like the world had ended on that Sunday evening. Despite playing one of the strongest teams possible Klopp’s men only managed one shot on target all game and that was Philippe Coutinho’s late equalizer. That alone just shows that Liverpool are not incisive enough.
I defy you to find a single person who doesn’t wholeheartedly love Ronaldinho. The man was a genius in his time but, a bit like Thierry Henry, his opinions surrounding some players are somewhat skewed. For example, this time last season he was waxing lyrical about Philippe Coutinho. And why wouldn’t he? Coutinho shares the same samba flavour that Ronaldinho showed off in his era. He also said Liverpool should build their team around the little magician. Again, not a bad point but a year on and he’s switched from Coutinho to Firmino. Despite his almost schizophrenic change of mind he’s got his finger on the right page.
During the Capital One Cup final there was some marvelous link up play between the trio of Daniel Sturridge, Firmino and Coutinho. The foundations are there for Klopp to build a team with a formidable attacking line with only a few reinforcements. It’s the final product which has been lacking in abundance and that has been Liverpool’s downfall.
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It has become abundantly clear that Roberto Firmino is at his absolute best in the false nine position. Playing as an out and out forward he has notched all 7 of his goals including two brilliant doubles at home to Arsenal and away at Norwich City
Jurgen Klopp has a tremendous task on his hands in transforming Liverpool from the disappointing midtable team that years of mediocrity have transformed a once burgeoning team into. The core of Klopp’s team will be shaped around Firmino and Coutinho. There were worries several months ago that Barcelona were keeping an eye on him but an inconsistent season coupled with Klopp’s charisma the odds would now be on him to stay on Merseyside.
While this season has been massively disappointing especially the performances in the Premier League it’s comforting to know that Firmino has silenced all his critics after being labelled a flop. His poor performances were as a result of Brendan Rodgers’ knack for playing a talented player out of position. He did it with Emre Can and now he is maturing into a fine box-to-box midfielder. He also did it with Lazar Marković who has had some splendid cameos for Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Süper Lig.
In the pre – season hype Firmino was compared against Manchester United’s then new signing, Memphis Depay. The Brazilian forward cost Liverpool £29 million whereas United paid £25 million for the Dutch winger. Initially it seemed as if United had edged the better bargain with Depay’s early performances glittering with promise. However he hasn’t managed to push past the potential of his game and take it to the next level. Firmino, since being moved into the false nine position by Klopp, has looked much more mature than Depay. This could be attributed to their age difference with Firmino older by two years.
According to WhoScored.com, Firmino has played 9 games as a centre-forward and in these nine games he has scored six goals and assisted 5. This is comparable to his statically poor performances in the attacking midfield role where he only scored 1 and assisted 3 in 8 games. Furthermore, Memphis Depay has 5 goals in all competitions across 32 games this season and not a single assist. It has to be said that neither player has scored off the bench yet this term.
Since Daniel Sturridge returned from injury (again) the front line has looked far more menacing with the attacking trio of Sturridge, Firmino and Coutinho all needing constant attention from defenders leaving teams stretched. While Sturridge is arguably Liverpool’s most talented footballer he cannot be relied upon to last a full season which can exceed 50 games. With this in mind it would be wise to continue to play Firmino in the number 9 position and in the summer sign someone who can provide suitable back up to Sturridge and, if necessary, take his place when injury strikes as it inevitably will.
Firmino has shown this season that he has the quality to play in the Premier League. His continued form will be pivotal if Liverpool are to progress to the latter stages of the Europe League. If Klopp can inspire some consistency in his team where the Premier League is concerned then it is still possible for a late push for Champions League qualification via the top four places. But, whether or not it is this season or next, Firmino, under Klopp’s tutelage will bring success to Anfield.