Liverpool may want Kylian Mbappe this summer but he surely won’t fix their biggest problem. The situation will be a nightmare task.
Now we have Mbappe down as the ‘dream’ option for Liverpool this summer. But he might not be the answer to the Reds’ biggest problem.
The game against Manchester United showed it best. Roberto Firmino just isn’t firing on all cylinders and it hurts the whole team.
Firmino consistently made poor decisions and didn’t link play the way we all know he can. He looked a level behind Xherdan Shaqiri in that regard.
Subscribe to Rousing The Kop TV now
And this is a huge problem – Firmino is fundamental to how Liverpool play. The entire structure revolves around him and his movement.
Firmino drops into space, which allows the midfield to pass between the lines. He drags defenders with him and that, in turn, creates space for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to attack inside.
Their movement then leaves the wings open, where Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold thrive. Their runs need cover, though, so the midfielders drift wide instead of running forward.
But their lack of vertical movement is okay – Firmino is dropping into the no.10 space to replace it.
That’s a simplified telling of it all but fluidity and structure is how Liverpool won everything over the last few years. Take Firmino out and it all falls apart.
Firmino has been integral since his £29m arrival back in 2015 – but that was nearly six years ago. Inevitably, he ages and declines. The Brazilian is 29 now and will turn 30 early in next season.
Liverpool can’t escape replacing him but that’s a nightmare task. We just went over his influence on the ball – we haven’t mentioned how much he does in terms of pressing off the ball.
Put it all together and you have a really unique player. So how do you replace that? There is no natural replacement for Firmino as no one plays like him.
It’s why even if Liverpool want someone like Mbappe, he isn’t a quick fix. He’s the best player Liverpool can sign but he comes with his own questions.
Mbappe plays the game completely differently to Firmino. Play him down the middle and he wants to attack the space in behind.
Well, if he’s doing that, he’s not pulling defenders away to create space for Mane and Salah. If they can’t cut inside all game, how do the full-backs attack as much?
And who’s linking with the midfield if Mbappe is running in behind?
Mbappe is a sensational player but he’s not the automatic answer in this instance. No one is, in all likelihood.
Liverpool need to think about replacing Firmino but that really could involve completely reshaping their team.