Michael Mongie writes that Jürgen Klopp can look to raid Watford to find the perfect understudy for Roberto Firmino.
Jurgen Klopp is a very blessed manager in the grand scheme of the Premier League. The most difficult thing to do in football is to score and his Liverpool side rarely struggle to find the back of the net, having scored 59 goals in the Premier League this term – only runaway leaders Manchester City (71) have scored more.
The most prolific of his fleet-footed attackers is Mohamed Salah. The high-flying Egyptian has scored 26 goals in all competitions for Liverpool this season, also finding the time to set up a further 7.
Yet, despite Salah’s undeniable importance to the way Liverpool play, there isn’t a single player more important to the way Jurgen Klopp has his side play than Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian embodies the all-action, go big or go home football philosophy that Klopp has instilled at Liverpool.
The German manager has been criticised for the fact that his team has been weak at the back and lacks a sense of urgency when dealing with certain situations in defence but when he gets it right, the end result is spectacular.
Firmino has been central to everything impressive that has happened under Klopp since the former Dortmund boss became Liverpool manager in 2015 and his desire to win the ball back coupled with his ever-improving end product has seen him become the ideal “Klopp number nine.”
A lot was written around the time Klopp became manager at Liverpool that he would need a Robert Lewandowski type forward and there is no denying that this is true – but he has had him all the time and he is Firmino.
My issue, however, is what happens if Firmino gets injured for a prolonged period of time?
Although the former Hoffenheim attacking midfielder has only missed 10 games of football through injury since he arrived at Liverpool, if he were to miss an extended run of games, the impact it could have on the way the Reds play would be horrific.
As a false number nine, he links up play superbly by dropping in between the lines to receive the ball as well as running into the channels but his work ethic up front is nearly irreplaceable as is his intelligence on the ball.
There are certainly better finishers out there, despite the fact that he has scored more goals (18) than Alvaro Morata (12), Alexandre Lacazette (9) and the same as Romelu Lukaku. None, however, come as close to his total goal contributions (26).
For me there is a very clear like-for-like understudy available in England that Jurgen Klopp could look to buy in the summer transfer window. Watford’s Richarlison is six years younger than Firmino at 20 years of age and is very raw – perfect for Klopp.
With five goals and four assists in the Premier League this season, that’s only slightly fewer than the 10 goals and 7 assists that a 24-year-old Firmino finished with in the 2015/16 season. Plus, Richarlison has the remainder of the season to make up the difference.
Goals are important for a number nine playing under Klopp but what you could argue is equally as valuable is link play and creating space for teammates. Firmino does this so effortlessly and mindlessly that it must be a dream to play with him.
Richarlison is very good at bringing others into play although he can be guilty at times of holding onto the ball for too long and can get dispossessed by defenders quite a lot as a result.
As Klopp’s style of play is geared towards pressurising the opposition team into making mistakes, Firmino’s role up front is to lead the press and he often triggers his teammates into swarming around opposing defenders.
At Watford, Richarlison’s restless nature and energy make him the perfect player to lighten Roberto Firmino’s load during fixture congestion. At the moment, the next best options for Klopp are Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke – the latter is yet to score a single Premier League goal.
When Watford romped to a 4-1 win over Chelsea at Vicarage Road on Tuesday evening, Richarlison was taken off for Roberto Pereyra and the young forward left the pitch in tears, and the reason why is even more reason for Klopp to snap him up.
He told ESPN Brazil: “I was crying because I wanted to play and help my teammates, but in the end the guy that entered the pitch did the job well so it’s all okay.”
I’m convinced that Richarlison’s combination of Brazilian flair and his never-ending desire to win the ball back make him the ideal player to one day be Roberto Firmino’s heir to the number nine spot at Liverpool.