Liverpool’s attack has proven to be the best in the Premier League so far, and Roberto Firmino is a huge part of that.
Liverpool are perched atop the Premier League as the international break tears us away from club football for a short time. You can read that as many times as you like, but it’s real.
Though still suspect on defense, Liverpool’s attack is flying high, scoring 30 goals so far in this campaign. Chelsea are next-best with 26, only after a four-goal outburst against Everton—bettered by a six-goal bashing of Watford by Liverpool a day later. Everything seems to be clicking, mainly thanks to Brazilian no. 10 Philippe Coutinho pulling all the strings (five goals and five assists).
However, another Brazilian must be credited with the rapid rise of the Reds, and that is Roberto Firmino. Acting as a center forward in a front three with Coutinho and winger Sadio Mané, Firmino really operates as a false-nine. He facilitates attack from a deeper forward position, and willingly interchanges with his fellow forwards in a way that confuses defenses to no end.
Firmino’s statistics are similar to Coutinho’s, as he has registered five goals and three assists so far in the 2016/17 Premier League season. Coutinho is one better than Firmino in chances created, with 30 to his compatriot’s 29, but the creation of goals goes far beyond these three statistics. While Coutinho is a masterful player and one of the Premier League’s best so far this season, it is Firmino that is perhaps the most important man in attack for the Reds.
Liverpool’s goal total has come in an assortment of ways. According to WhoScored.com, the Reds have accumulated eight goals from set pieces, and another four from penalties (two of which Firmino has drawn). The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals, but there is more to his game than that.
Firmino’s most admirable aspect is his work ethic. That is why manager Jürgen Klopp is so enamored by him, as the German prefers Firmino to a fully-fit Daniel Sturridge. The Brazilian runs endlessly, and suffocates opponents with his pressing ability. He applies the same defensive mindset to attack — when he isn’t providing goals, he’s working off the ball to ensure that they still happen.
The above photo from Liverpool’s September 24 matchup with Hull City is a perfect example of Firmino’s contributions. Philippe Coutinho holds the ball about 20 yards from goal. Firmino, circled in red, makes a run from the center of the 18-yard box. Though he is running toward space where the angle is poor, he knows he isn’t receiving the ball, such is his unselfish nature. He opens space for midfielder Adam Lallana, shown at the base of the red arrow, to run into the box, take a touch from Coutinho’s pass (the route of the ball is shown by the blue arrow), and score the opener of an eventual 6-1 drubbing (watch the goal HERE).
Above here, against West Bromwich Albion in October, Firmino darts in front of goal to open up space for Coutinho to shoot at the far post, something he is renowned for doing. Despite the fact that Coutinho ends up beating keeper Ben Foster at his near post, Firmino’s run is still admirable, showing his quick thinking and near-telepathic relationship with his fellow forward.
So, with Liverpool’s eight set-piece goals, four penalties, and Firmino’s 8 contributions to the list, there are 10 goals to be accounted for. However, runs like the above ones have contributed to five separate goals over the course of the season. With stunning individual efforts from Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, and Sadio Mané making up much of that list, Firmino has virtually been involved in every goal from open play for Liverpool this season.
It is not a recorded statistic, the fruitless runs made to open up space for teammates, but it almost acts as an assist. And, judging by the tape, Firmino has made several contributions of that type since joining Liverpool in the summer of 2015. As far as recorded statistics go, he’s thriving in that area too.
To go with the five goals, three assists, and 29 chances created, Firmino has also delivered 26 key passes, according to Squawka. He has also completing 79 percent of his passes, and directing 68 percent of his shots toward goal, which is strikingly spectacular from a frontman, regardless of his style of play. Firmino is showing how quickly he is learning the number nine position, averaging three shots per game (one more than last season) and limiting his offsides offenses to just once every two games despite moving from an attacking midfield role.
Most passes completed by forwards in the Premier League this season:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 10, 2016
R. Firmino (382)
Z. Ibrahimovic (339)
A. Sanchez (327) pic.twitter.com/hlPJUKqtSB
He may not possess the magical feet of Coutinho, or the blistering pace of Mané. He may not have more passes in the Premier League like teammate Jordan Henderson, or cover more ground than anyone else in England’s top tier like Adam Lallana. However, Roberto Firmino’s contributions to Liverpool come in so many different ways, and more often than not, he has a role to play when the Reds score a goal. He has developed from a bust in just two months under former manager Brendan Rodgers to a full-fledged star under Jürgen Klopp. Liverpool would not be top of the table without the Brazilian no. 11, and he will be integral in keeping them there as the season goes on.
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