Roberto Firmino; Unsung hero!

Jurgen Klopp loves Roberto Firmino! He is the archetypal Klopp player; great technical quality extremely hard working and very good football intelligence. The Anfield faithful have taken,”Bobby”, to their hearts and appreciate what he brings to the team. Outside of Liverpool though, he is rarely lauded and will make it in to barely any fantasy football teams.
Roberto Firmino was brought to Liverpool by Brendan Rodgers in July 2015, after scoring sixteen goals in thirty three games for a struggling Hoffenheim side the previous season. Brought in as an attacking midfielder, he has been converted once by Klopp to play as “false number nine”, and then converted again to play as a genuine number nine. When considering Firmino’s quality it is always worth remembering that he started life as a midfielder and now finds himself playing the centre forward role in one of the most exciting attacks in Europe. He is not a natural centre-forward and he he is certainly not a natural goal scorer. In fact, if he has time to think in front of goal he rarely converts his chances which has added fuel to his critics fire. Firmino’s sheer hard work, clever movement and football intelligence allied to a silky first touch make him the perfect number nine in Klopp’s system. Klopp demands constant fluid interchanging of his attacking players, producing clever movement, clever passing and plenty of chances created. In this system, Roberto Firmino thrives, his intelligence in making the right run, in the right direction at the right time has brought rich rewards for Salah and Mane to profit from his unselfishness. Firmino’s hard work drags defenders out of position and creates space and opportunity for alert team mates.
Roberto Firmino also fits with Klopp’s vision of a work ethic. Klopp likes to employ,”gegenpressing”, as a tactic. Normally when a team loses possession they fall back regain shape and look to give their opponents no gaps to exploit. Under ,”gegenpressing”, a team will look to go and press the opposition high up the field of play in an attempt to quickly win the ball back and also to win it in a position where opponents are vulnerable. It requires a good tactical understanding of when to use it. If only one player goes to press, the ball can be passed around him, it needs the “gegenpressing” team to hunt in packs. It requires massive fitness levels and a huge willingness to close down lost causes. Firmino leads from the front in this respect and for an Anfield crowd, fully immersed in the legend of Ian Rush constantly closing down and harrying defenders, fulfilling the old adage that the centre forward is the first line of defence, they can’t help but love him.
Why then is Roberto Firmino not universally acknowledged as the great player he is? His critics say that he doesn’t produce enough end product, not enough goals and not enough assists. The rewards of his hard work doing the ugly stuff as well as the exciting stuff are intangible though. Roberto Firmino misses chances, perhaps more than he should but this season, twenty two games, thirteen goals, seven assists that is a top quality return. Maybe he should make it into a few more fantasy football teams!

by Clive Palmer

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