Liverpool‘s fifth signing of the summer proved to be quite a pleasant surprise given no one was expecting the Reds, who were accumulating freebies till now, to actually go ahead and land a player like Roberto Firmino, who looked like he was headed to Old Trafford some days back.
It is of course, unknown to us, how much Manchester United were in the chase for Firmino till the end. However, it was encouraging for the Reds fans to see the club be so ruthless and decisive in their move for the Brazilian star, especially because their slow nature of “closing in on players” has lead them to lose so many in the past with Mohamed Salah, Henrikh Mkhtariyan, Willian and Yevhen Konoplyanka being just a few of them.
Many have labelled Firmino to be Liverpool’s next Suarez, many have flinched at the A?29m he is costing the side but there has been a large consensus that the Reds have finally landed a marquee-esque player.
Who is Roberto Firmino?
Firmino began his professional career in 2009 with Brazilian Serie B team Figueirense. He went on to make nearly 40 appearances for the side and scored eight goals in the process. His style of play and confidence ensured a European move came his way and in January 2011, he was signed by Bundesliga side Hoffenheim for about a 4m. At 19 years of age, the player got his Bundesliga debut. Since then, he has made 153 appearances for the German side and scored 49 goals in the process. He received his first national call up last October and has since established himself in coach Dungaa s plans.
Style of Play
Firmino has incredible awareness and vision in the attacking third and his dominance in that crucial part of the pitch makes him an attractive prospect. The 23 year-old can play on the wings or as a secondary striker and has been deployed there for his club and country, but he is more naturally a number 10 and prefers that role.
Firmino is an intelligent player who is very inventive and can hunt down defenders with finesse. He has a keen eye for goal but what is most impressive about his game is his work rate and selflessness. In the last two years in Germany, he also has created the most chances from open play (140) and completed the most dribbles (291). He had ten assists last season, a feat bettered only by Kevin de Bruyne in Germany, and eleven assists the season before. In the process, he has been the Sinsheim sidea s highest goal provider in the last two years. The attackera s hard working attitude will make him a fan favorite at Liverpool quickly, given the Kop’s fondness for players like Dirk Kuyt and recently Jordan Henderson. He is also confident of shooting himself and scored seven goals last season and nine goals the season before.
He is incredibly talented on the ball and his movement and intelligence in the game is particular eye catching. This goal against Werder Bremen is doing rounds in Liverpool forums recently and one can see his footballing intelligence and finishing skills through this sublime strike.
The player has a great passing range as well. He is a hard worker who also pitches in defensively and regularly tracks back. Firmino works tirelessly and tries to do everything from contributing upfront and giving opposition attackers a defensive fight too. The fact that he has great fitness and hardly misses games with injuries also makes his name more attractive.
How does he fit in?
Given Firmino’s versatility and ability to play virtually anywhere in the attack, he creates more problems than solves them at the moment for people trying to figure out where he would play for Rodgers. For the manager though, it will be a nicer selection headache as opposed to the ones he has faced last season due to the paucity of options.
Firmino’s preferred role is where he sits behind the striker. But with Philippe Coutinho’s services already there, and his redundancy in a wider role, Firmino could play on the wings in a 4-3-3 formation with one of Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana or Jordan Ibe playing on the opposite wing (assuming Raheem Sterling goes to Manchester City. If he doesn’t Sterling is likely to play on the wings now that there are two players vying for the number 10 spot). To play Firmino in the number 10 role, Coutinho should be shifted to the left side of the midfield and one of Henderson or Milner will occupy the right sided role in the heart of the pitch with Emre Can playing the deepest in the midfield. It could also be one of Henderson or Milner playing the deeper role if Rodgers wants to persist with both the players.
In a 4-2-3-1, Firmino could play behind the striker and Coutinho could be shifted to the wider role, and vice versa. However, with Coutinho working best centrally and proving to be largely ineffective so far on the wings, it is probably better if Liverpool’s sole representative in the PFA Team of the Year plays that role.
The other option is to play with two number 10s behind the striker, how Rodgers played last season in his 3-4-2-1, that proved to be so successful for a long while (Liverpool’s 13 game unbeaten streak in the league). Regardless of whether it is a four man defence or a three man backline, both Firmino and Coutinho will play behind the striker.
Alternatively, Firmino could himself play up-front as a striker. He could drop deep in his more comfortable position during the game, and move up-front to feed off chances from the other attackers. This will give Brendan Rodgers another option for the striker role and if the club is unable to bring in a top quality striker this summer, or if someone is missing through injury or suspension, Firmino could be deployed in that role. He will be like Raheem Sterling last season, only more suited in that role due to his good finishing.
Roberto Firmino gives Brendan Rodgers a lot of options due to his ability to perform various roles. His pace, tenacity and vision would add to the Reds side which became synonymous with attacking football in the successful 13/14 season. Liverpool’s big weakness for the first four months of last season was the lack of chances being created. Brendan Rodgers resolved it by switching the formation in December but there was an even bigger problem seen towards the end of the season- the lack of goals. This obviously means that despite the addition of Firmino, the priority for the club still is an out and out striker, whether that be Christian Benteke (who is still supposed to be on top of the wanted list) or anyone case. But goals are required from other positions as well. In Firmino, Rodgers has got a player who will give him that, in addition to creating chances.