Robert Firmino proved beyond doubt that he’s a complete no.9 against Crystal Palace. The Brazilian was sensational.
Roberto Firmino hasn’t had his best season. There were games where he just didn’t really get involved and for a player like him, that’s worrying.
Because Firmino isn’t like typical no.9s. Some strikers thrive on not getting involved, only to score with their only touch. It’s a skill that not many have.
But Firmino is different. He’s effectively a permanent ‘False 9’, playing the role like an attacking midfielder. He’ll drop deep and drift wide, linking with the midfield and creating space for wingers to run into.
And he’s sensational at it. It’s why even when he’s not scoring goals, Firmino is vital for Liverpool.
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Jurgen Klopp did recently say that he’d had conversations with Firmino about a lack of goals, though. The boss had also combated criticism of the Brazilian by saying he ‘plays 12 instruments’ in the Liverpool orchestra.
He also said he ‘can’t help’ people criticising Firmino last month, seeing his importance as obvious.
So there is pressure on Firmino to score goals, rightly or wrongly. Despite the way he plays his role, the traditional expectations of a no.9 remain.
But this week, Firmino proved he can do that, too. He’s a complete striker.
Firmino’s goal against Tottenham Hotspur was about as ‘traditional no.9’ as it gets – a thumping header into the far corner.
But he kicked that up a gear on Saturday. Firmino scored twice against Crystal Palace and the second was a finish any striker on the planet would love.
Mohamed Salah played a quite sensationally weighted pass for Firmino, who took it in his stride, bounced off a defender, and somehow lifted it over the advancing goalkeeper. Quite how he did that off-balance is beyond us.
It was, effectively, the exact goal you’d expect from one of the game’s leading strikers.
But as good as it was, Firmino’s first is the one that summed him up. He received the ball in his own half, before sending it out wide to Andy Robertson.
From there, Firmino just ran towards goal. Robertson found him with a cross that the £29m man somehow controlled with ease, before poking it into the corner.
It was a goal that showed his link-up play in midfield, his energy to get forward, and his fantastic control. Firmino in a nutshell.
So next time anyone doubts Firmino’s the complete package as a striker, we can point them to this week, and this game against Palace, in particular.