Roberto Firmino took just eight minutes to show Darwin Nunez what he’s up against at Liverpool. The two no.9s will battle this season.
Liverpool paid a lot of money to sign Darwin Nunez in the summer. While he’s evidently a fantastic player, the transfer was a little surprising as Jurgen Klopp hasn’t used a traditional striker at Anfield.
The move, then, suggests change is coming and we could see tactical change at Liverpool this season. They now have a physical, powerful, pacey striker who wants to challenge centre-backs and score goals for himself. It’s a real departure from Roberto Firmino, who is essentially none of that.
Firmino brings others into play, drags defenders about and tries to play in his teammates. Mohamed Salah thrives alongside the Brazilian, able to use his own pace to exploit the space Firmino creates.
That will be a tough thing for Klopp to let go of and Firmino took just eight minutes against RB Leipzig to show Nunez what he’s up against earlier today.
Liverpool’s opening goal came from Virgil van Dijk winning a header on halfway. Firmino was already playing in the hole, dropping between Leipzig’s defensive lines and standing unmarked. Thiago received the ball and immediately looked to play-in Firmino, who made a run from deep.
That didn’t quite come off but the confusion led to Salah picking up the ball and exploiting the space. The ball found its way to Firmino who instinctively flicked the ball back to the Egyptian, who was now in the striker-spot for the goal.
Roberto Firmino and Darwin Nunez
That was a very, very typical Liverpool goal. The Reds had Firmino doing the work of a no.10 – of a true False 9, really. Salah capitalised on that movement and playmaking to score but it’s not something Nunez provides.
Of course, Nunez scored a ridiculous four in the second half – the first from the penalty spot – to show Firmino what he can bring himself. But it is a change for Liverpool, who were a different team with the Uruguayan on the pitch.
Nunez’s task is now to show that they’re also a better team because as things stand, Firmino still looks perfect in his role. There’s a reason, after all, why Klopp calls him ‘insane’ for all he does there and feels you could write a book about him.
The way he can make the team tick from the centre-forward role – without trying to score himself – improves everyone around him. Including Salah.
Can Nunez provide goals while also making the entire team tick? He’s not going to score four every week, after all. That’s the big ask for him as a Firmino replacement. It’ll take time but Liverpool plainly think he can get there. To start the season, though, we think Klopp might keep relying on his ‘insane’ tried and true.