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Southampton were the latest team to unlock Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino was absolutely outstanding against Southampton. And that was largely down to the Saints themselves.

Southampton set up in a 4-4-2 formation at Anfield. It’s something we’ve seen before in an attempt to stop Liverpool’s fullbacks.

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

After all, if you can play more withdrawn wide players, it makes it a lot harder for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to find space. Tottenham Hotspur tried it last month, Napoli before them. It can work – at least, it did for Napoli.

But in doing so, teams open up another space. They no longer have a three-man midfield and thus there is a gap between their own defence and midfield.

And that’s Firmino’s space – when it’s there. Usually, it isn’t, as so many teams use at least one holding player. But in trying to stop the full-backs, they unlock the £29m man.

Suddenly, he can drop back and thrive in the hole. Firmino did just that against Southampton, setting up three of Liverpool’s four goals.

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He was absolutely incredible and arguably Man of the Match at Anfield.

But plenty of credit for that is due for Jurgen Klopp. He has created a system so versatile that teams make problems for themselves in just trying to stop one of Liverpool’s many ways of playing.

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Opposition effectively have to pick their own poison. Do you want to deal with the world’s best full-back pairing or risk unleashing Firmino on yourself?

Southampton picked Firmino. They may be wishing they didn’t.

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