Liverpool need to make sure they have a different backup plan for Roberto Firmino next season.
The Brazilian’s injury led to Daniel Sturridge’s somewhat surprise inclusion against Huddersfield Town. But despite the 5-0 win, that game highlighted how difficult replacing Firmino is.
Sturridge is a very talented player who doesn’t fit Liverpool’s style. Firmino does, however – he’s been arguably the key component since his £29m move from Hoffenheim.
How many strikers can offer the all-around game of Firmino? Remarkably few – possibly none at his level.
The way he drops back to get involved, times runs, links the midfield, links the forward three, and of course, the workrate with which he does it, is a dream come true for Jurgen Klopp.
Like Klopp told the club website last season, ‘he looks like the engine of the team’. And so Sturridge’s inclusion highlighted that Liverpool can’t expect a regular number nine to work as backup.
Sturridge was rarely involved, trying to lead the line alongside Mo Salah and Sadio Mane – two players who want that job for themselves. He’d drop back on occasion but he simply didn’t offer the link between players that Firmino does.
The Reds scored five, but it’s notable that four of those came from wide positions, the other in the first minute. There was very little offered in the middle of the pitch.
Sturridge’s contract is up in the summer and it’s clear that Liverpool can’t sign another number nine to replace him. They would run into the same problems whenever Firmino is out of the side and couldn’t afford any long-term absence.
Reports link them with Luka Jovic, for instance – that’s an expensive signing that really wouldn’t fit.
Perhaps signing more of an attacking midfielder/wide player makes more sense. Someone used to focusing on more than just goals and leading the line.
There’s been a link to Memphis Depay recently, and while he certainly doesn’t have Firmino’s work rate, he does link with players more than someone like Jovic.
That does feel more like the signing Liverpool need. Someone who is more than a goalscorer and can also play other positions, not necessarily just as a backup plan to Firmino.