Roberto Firmino now faces the toughest test of his career. The pressure is firmly on the Brazilian.
No matter what, Roberto Firmino will look back on his career with pride. The 28-year-old has just played a key role in both European and English success, after all.
But now Firmino faces the toughest test of his career. He’s not playing well and there’s a new kind on the block in Diogo Jota.
In 11 appearances this season, Firmino has one goal and two assists. Now, you should never judge the player purely from those figures but they’re certainly worrying.
Firmino has been an integral part of Liverpool’s system since arriving for £29m. He leads the press, creates space for others, and links to the midfield.
He doesn’t technically need to do much with the ball to make those things happen but you do expect some quality when he does have it.
But Firmino hasn’t delivered with the ball. He’s created zero chances in his last three starts. In his last two, the Brazilian has completed one dribble and had just two shots.
That wouldn’t have seen him out of the side last season as Liverpool lacked competition for places but this campaign is different.
While Firmino is struggling to produce with the ball, Jota isn’t. He had six goals in four appearances before facing Manchester City – he’s a constant threat.
It’s why Firmino had a spell out of the starting XI recently, in fact. Jota is the one player well, so Jurgen Klopp put him in.
The boss tried something new against City, though, as he started a front-four, featuring both Firmino and Jota.
Neither played particularly well but this was a bigger game for Firmino. He needed to prove he could recapture his form.
He didn’t, however, and his struggles led to Klopp taking him off at the hour mark. And that highlights the test for Firmino now.
He’s no longer the automatic first-choice forward, now that Jota is here and shining. The biggest problem for Firmino, though, is that Jota is only 23.
The Portuguese will only get better – we can’t say the same for 28-year-old Firmino.
So there’s the real test for Firmino. If he doesn’t drastically improve, he may never get back in as first-choice ahead of Jota.
It’s as simple as that. If Jota keeps improving, particularly as a centre-forward, Firmino will have to be on another level just to get back in the side, let alone keep that place.
It’s the biggest test of his career, then. If he doesn’t pass it, Liverpool may have a new ‘front-three’ from here on.