The Curious Case of Bobby Firmino

The Curious Case of Bobby Firmino

Our transfer record under Rodgers has been filled with expensive mistakes and poor decision making with names like Markovic, Balotelli and Lovren all being proved as flops in their first season at the club. However, the general feeling was that we actually had a successful transfer window this summer with the free signing of James Milner and the signing of a goalscoring Christian Benteke looking like first-team quality. One signing that caught many by surprise was the signing of Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim. An attacking midfielder whose stats show 23 goals and 21 assists in 66 league games makes excellent reading. The feeling from the fans and media alike was that Roberto Firmino was the marquee signing of the summer at £29million. With this arguably being the first marquee signing since Luis Suarez, there was optimism on Merseyside for a promising season. Sure, we’re only 6 weeks in to the new season, but things haven’t quite exploded for Firmino as expected.

The latest South American to arrive at Liverpool has featured in 6 games for the Reds and played a total of 240 minutes in the league. So far, Firmino has failed to score or register an assist for his new club. If we look at his first six games last season, the Brazilian had already scored one goal and assisted 2 goals in the Bundesliga. Is Roberto Firmino struggling?

 Curious Case Bobby Firmino

Being shifted to the wing

At Hoffenheim, Roberto Firmino was stationed behind the striker in the number 10 position. This central area allowed Firmino to flourish as he utilised his dribbling skills and vision to become the chief creator for the German side. His link up play with Kevin Volland in particular was a positive from this role. Playing as a central attacking midfielder was what earned Roberto Firmino his price tag and you’d assume that is where he would be played at his new club. You’d assume wrong. Yet again, the naivety of our current manager (at the minute) has seen our marquee signing be shifted out to the wing where he has been ineffectual. It is like buying a brand new Ferrari and only taking it out on the local streets. Take the Ferrari out to the motorway or a race track and you’ll see what it can really do. The potential is there for Firmino to strike up an understanding with Benteke/Sturridge and even more excitingly his fellow countryman Philippe Coutinho. If this is created, we could once again become an attacking force in the league. For us to see his true ability, Firmino needs to be played in his favourite position.

Adapting to the English game

When any foreign player comes over to the Premier League there is always the ‘they need time to adapt to the English game’ excuse ready in the manager’s vocabulary. Many players have previously arrived with a big reputation and ended up being forgotten and eventually sold. Andriy Shevchenko is one of the most high profile examples of a world class player who was unable to shine in England despite his undeniable quality. In Germany, the brand of football played is fairly similar to what we are used to, maybe just not quite at the same intensity. This could be part of the reason that we are yet to see the Roberto Firmino of the last few years. After building up his match fitness and adapting to the new environment we may see more of Firmino’s quality.

Injury at Carlisle makes things even harder

If things weren’t quite working out for Firmino so far, the injury he picked up in the League Cup on Wednesday will only add more pressure once he returns. Why we felt the need to play the Brazilian against a mid-table League Two opposition is beyond me, but early in the game Firmino fell awkwardly which has caused a significant back injury. Rumours of a broken bone in his back could see a prolonged absence from the first team. This will bring more issues for Firmino. We all saw last season how injury stunted the form of Adam Lallana just as he was finding his feet. After scoring a brace against Swansea in December 2014, Lallana was injured just over a week later against Leicester City. Upon returning Lallana was never able to regain this form and has continued to struggle through to this season. The hope is that once Firmino returns he will be able to find some form quickly. However, if other players in the squad have performed well, Firmino may find his chances limited despite his Bundesliga pedigree. After a full rehabilitation from injury it is important that Firmino takes his chances and shows all the fans how impressive he can be for the team.

Lies, damned lies and statistics

0 goals, 0 assists, so what? Sure, a goalscoring midfielder who can change the game at the flick of a switch is what all fans dream of, but unfortunately, there are not many of those around. Having to deal with changing clubs, countries and on top of all having to play under a tactically inept manager is very tough. In my opinion Roberto Firmino has been solid if unspectacular. One stat that is overlooked is that Firmino has made 7 key passes in his 240 minutes on the field. That is 4 more than Coutinho (played 398 minutes), 1 more than Wayne Rooney (played 450 minutes) and only 1 less than David Silva (played 343 minutes) who is considered to be one of the best number 10’s in the Premier League. They are outstanding numbers for the Brazilian and it really highlights his key abilities.

Another massive part of Firmino’s game is his pressing when his team don’t have the ball. It is a quality that would perfectly match the supposed high pressing style we were expecting at Anfield; unfortunately we have not seen this pressing much. However, Roberto Firmino has continued his impressive pressing game with 13 tackles. To put that in perspective, Coutinho and Rooney have only made 2 tackles, and David Silva has made 5 tackles. This is a quality that will endear him to the Anfield faithful as we see Firmino chase down the opposition and win the ball back for our team.

After the last two seasons that Roberto Firmino had the expectations were very high upon his arrival at Liverpool. Many were expecting to see a number of goals and confident performances in his first few games. The reality is that Firmino has failed to score so far, but he has been played in an unnatural position and he has been slowly integrated to the side. In time he should become more comfortable which should allow his natural game and skill to be shown every game. Also, with it looking possible that we may see a new manager at the helm of the club soon, it could be that Firmino has played his last game under Rodgers. If Rodgers is sacked in the next 10 days as has been reported, we could see Firmino played in his natural number 10 position under a top class manager. This will hopefully allow us to see the true attacking ability of Bobby Firmino.

Comments

6 responses to “The Curious Case of Bobby Firmino”

  1. Jay Wright says:

    I don’t think that our defence is much more secure with 3 at the back, than with 2; with Sakho constantly being dragged out to the touchline, Can often looking uncomfortable with picking up runs behind him and Skrtel still not actually assuming responsibility for marking anybody.

    The midfield 3 yesterday was exactly the same configuration as at the base of the 442 diamond. I would advocate removing one of the centre-backs and replacing him with a No.10 – allowing Firmino/Lallana to flourish in their natural position at the tip of the diamond.

    Admittedly we’d lose a little bit from Moreno’s game going forwards, but on the flip-side we’d gain from having Clyne in his natural role at RB. The pressing up the pitch could be even more effective with an extra body in the midfield and I’d definitely see the attacking gains outweighing any loss defensively.

    • John Glenson says:

      Completely agree, the only issue with that is that Benteke would struggle in a diamond because it lacks width and crosses even more so than the 3-5-2

    • Jay Wright says:

      Just as I don’t believe that Skrtel is (anywhere near) good enough that the defence should be configured just to make him feel most comfortable, I also don’t believe that Benteke is good enough that the attack should be configured to get the best out of him to the detriment of our other attacking options.

      I would argue that either Benteke should either be adapted to the teams’ best style and formation (quick, 442 diamond) or he should just be the Plan B option from the bench

    • James Lambert says:

      Totally agree, although I think Moreno could still play an attacking role in a 442 diamond because Clyne could hang back and form a three with the two centre-backs whilst Moreno is marauding. Would then give us the option of Firmino/ Lallana in the ten.

  2. Simon says:

    The starting premise of the article – that last summer’s transfer business was poor – is in my opinion wrong. Taking players like Balotelli, Lallana, Lambert, Markovic and either playing them out of position or in systems that are not designed to bring out the best in them was the real mistake. The shame of it is we will never know if some of those players could have clicked, but it is gently obvious that they are not bad players given their goals/assists stats at every other club they have played at.

    Which is to say – your point about Rodgers’ ineptness not bringing the best out of Firmino applies t many of his other signings.

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Published by Anfield Index
Updated: 2015-09-27 10:37:26
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