Martin King explains how Roberto Firmino can begin to plug the hole Luis Suarez left behind.
It may be true that Liverpool will never fully replace a player the class of former striker Luis Suarez, but in Roberto Firmino the Reds have a player who ticks most of the boxes that the now FC Barcelona man left empty two years ago.
Just like his fellow South American, Firmino possesses plenty of energy and work-rate, which he uses well to pressurize defenders both on and off the ball. That often leads to him winning the ball in the opponents’ half, and with it, he is a capable creator and finisher of goals. Firmino’s enthusiastic attitude and typical South American love for the game endears him to Liverpool fans, not to mention, his tendency to pull a skill from up his sleeve keeps the Anfield faithful delighted and entertained.
Firmino’s enthusiastic attitude and typical South American love for the game endears him to Liverpool fans, not to mention, his tendency to pull an outrageous skill from up his sleeve keeps the Anfield faithful delighted and entertained.
However, there is one aspect of Firmino’s game that when improved could perhaps put him level with the man who was once mentioned in the same breadth as Kop king, Kenny Dalglish, and that is his goals.
In his debut season at Anfield last year, Firmino netted a total of eleven goals in 42 appearances in all competitions. It was, and still is, seen by most as a decent return from a first season in English football, however, there’s probably no Reds fan who doesn’t feel as though the Brazilian could’ve done better.
Interestingly enough, Suarez’s first full season as a Liverpool player saw him score the same amount of goals in the Premier League as the Merseyside club finished 8th on the 2011/12 table.
The next two seasons after that saw the Uruguayan’s goal tally rise like an unstoppable rocket as he reached the 30-goal mark for both the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons before eventually moving on to Spain.
It will surely sound far-fetched to suggest that Firmino’s goal record will follow the same pattern but it’s also fair to say that with his ability, it can.
As far as weaknesses go, the former Hoffenheim man had only two major ones which played a huge part in limiting his goals return last season.
The first (and most obvious) was his lack of consistency in front of goal.
For instance, it took him almost three months into the 2015/16 season to score his first and second for the club, against Manchester City, and almost two more months for him to score his third, against Arsenal. The striker has already scored his first for this season in the EFL Cup but if he is to gain some consistency, he’ll have to start finding the net regularly after the international break.
The striker has already scored his first for this season in the EFL Cup but if he is to gain some consistency, he’ll have to start finding the net regularly after the international break.
The second weakness is Firmino’s poor offside awareness. The 24-year-old’s tactical discipline is excellent but as Liverpool’s leading striker, he got caught out by the linesman more often than not last season.
With all the creativity in the side, both Firmino and his fellow strikers are more than guaranteed to recieve the ball in dangerous areas in every match but getting caught offside decreases any chances of scoring a goal and that could be tough to take when Jürgen Klopp’s men are in need of it.
Therefore, the Brazilian needs to keep alive his and Liverpool’s chances of scoring by timing his attacking runs better. This was a vital (and sometimes unnoticed) part of Suarez’s game that when improved upon by Firmino will make him even more deadly thanks to a good finishing ability.
With Klopp’s side boasting some lofty ambitions for this season, their leading striker contributing more goals only counts as another of the improvements that could be made to strengthen the German’s team.
There’s no pressure on Firmino to hit the heights of Luis Suarez but the better the Brazilian gets, the more valuable he will continue becoming to the team and the more he will remind everyone associated with Liverpool of that exciting Uruguayan who is so brilliant, he could nutmeg a mermaid.