Roberto Firmino has been in poor form to start the season. That’s far more worrying for Liverpool than it first seems, though.
The form of Roberto Firmino is a worry, so let’s have a quick look into his stats for the season so far.
The good stuff first – Firmino is creating. He’s got two assists in his four games and has made seven key passes (passes leading to shots). In that regard, it’s hard to complain.
His tackling, too, has been good. He didn’t make any against Aston Villa, but Firminio made two tackles against Leeds United, one against Chelsea, and another two against Arsenal.
Now the bad. Firmino has no goals this season. In fact, per Understat, Firmino has an xG of 0.2 goals per 90 minutes. It’s not even finishing that’s the problem, then – the Brazilian isn’t getting into good positions.
Then there are stats like how many times teams dispossessed Firmino. Leeds tackled him three times, Chelsea twice, Arsenal once. Then there are the times he gave it away through bad control.
Three times against Leeds. Twice against Chelsea. Another three times against Arsenal. Then a whopping six times against Villa.
Firmino’s passing percentage even dropped under 68% at Villa Park. That means he’s misplacing nearly 1 in 3 passes. None of this sounds like Firmino.
Decision to make
So should Liverpool drop Firmino? You can see our thoughts on that here after the Echo suggested the possibility.
But this is a bigger worry than just dropping Firmino. He’s become a fundamental part of Liverpool’s system since joining for £29m and replacing him is a huge task that the Reds aren’t ready for.
Let’s use Sadio Mane as an example. If Mane went through a period of terrible form, Diogo Jota would take his place. Liverpool would play largely the same way as the two are similar players. If Mane never recovered his form, the team would stick with Jota. Simple.
But with Firmino, Liverpool would use Takumi Minamino as a backup. But Minamino isn’t a natural centre-forward and we don’t know if he can play the role to a high level.
Minamino is the only player capable of playing as a False 9, though, and that’s a massive part of the system. The striker drops off and leaves space for the wingers to run into. He’s also the link player to the midfield.
If Liverpool went with a traditional no.9, they’d lose all of that and need to change how they play.
Hopefully, then, this is just a blip. Minamino could deputise for a few weeks if necessary but Liverpool have to hope Firmino is just going through a patch of poor form.
If not, this could be a difficult season.