Roberto Firmino Liverpool’s Number 9

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Liverpool announce Firmino's signing on Instagram.

The mindset for Liverpool fans at times boggles me. They do not see the good in players, only their failures.

For example, against Maribor earlier in the season Roberto Firmino missed a sitter and Twitter exploded with, oh Daniel Sturridge would have scored that. He might have done but at the time there was one massive problem, he was not on the pitch.

A lot of debate has gone on this season about Firmino and whether or not he is the number 9 Liverpool have been craving since Luis Suarez upped sticks and left for Barcelona. For those of you expecting Firmino to score 20+ goals a season I feel sorry for you because that simply is not going to happen.

He does a lot of work off the ball that goes unnoticed. He presses defences, hounds the opposition when they are on the ball and makes runs off the ball that opens up spaces for the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané to score.

This off the ball work is missed by most fans. They do not see what Firmino has to offer apart from goals and assists. He regularly operates in the false 9 position made famous by Spanish team that won the World Cup and European Championships in 2010 and 2012 respectively, but also performs various other roles at the same time.

For a lot of players the number 9 jersey comes with the added pressure of emulating the greats who have worn it in the last.

Players like Roger Hunt, Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. Some players can not hack this responsibility but Firmino has embraced it. When Salah signed for Liverpool last summer he was quick to give up his favoured number 11 jersey and took on the number 9.

Since then he has flourished. He has been an ever-present for Liverpool starting line up this season and his performances of late have seen him called up to the Brazilian national team on a regular basis has bet the past 13 months.

His ability to interchange between positions in the front line is something Liverpool have lacked over the past number of years. He wants to get on the ball and is always looking for it, looking for that killer pass or looking for space to exploit.

Like the players around him, Firmino is always looking to pass the ball forward. He very rarely if ever can be seen passing the ball backwards. His energy and pace in attack has been the catalyst for a lot of Liverpool’s goals this season already. He has developed and understanding with Salah and knows 9 times out of 10 if he plays the ball in to the box there will be a Liverpool player there to receive it.

Firmino’s game is not perfect. It’s far from it. As I said already he misses sitters. And his inability to always find the back of the net is a stick that some Liverpool fans will beat him with.

This season so far he has played over 2366 minutes of football, and is one of only five players in the team to have played over 2000 minutes.

He is one of the first names on the team sheet for Jürgen Klopp and he is a player Klopp knows will go out and execute the game plan every time he steps foot on to the pitch.

So what if he is not Sturridge. So what if he is not the number 9 Liverpool fans are craving. He is much more important to the team. His ethic and teamwork make him an invaluable member of the match day XI. All of this was shown against Manchester City, not least in his excellently taken goal which involved strength, skill, and finishing ability.

He goes out and enjoys his football and is happy to let others have the limelight. His work is appreciated by those who actually watch Liverpool in action and not just jump on the whole Firmino is not a proper Liverpool number 9 bandwagon.

The next time you watch Liverpool play, watch Firmino. Watch what he does not only on the call but also off the ball. Watch the space he creates for others and watch how he encourages players around him to attack.

Maybe then you will appreciate Roberto Firmino for what he is, a very fine footballer who will create a legacy at Liverpool.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Ryan was just gonna say the same. Kinda embarrassing on a fan forum. Generic random footy blog maybe; not a lfc one.

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