Daniel Sturridge was the main man in the goal-scoring department when Klopp arrived and despite him ending the season as Liverpool’s top scorer that season it was clear his role in the team would be changing. A sparkly new centre-forward was expected and, in some quarters, demanded. However, no such signing was made. Instead, Sadio Mané arrived in 2016 followed by Mo Salah in 2017. Why is that? Well, because Jürgen Klopp already possessed the player needed to make his philosophy work. That player, the most underrated forward in the EPL, is none other than Roberto Firmino.
You can say all you want about Klopp’s decisions defensively since being appointed Liverpool manager, but when it comes to the offense, the German has turned Liverpool into a truly frightening outfit while silencing some doubters. Mané and Salah rightfully get a lot of the plaudits, but it the unheralded Firmino who should be getting praise.
Following another top display from Liverpool’s front three that handed Manchester City their first loss of the season, former Liverpool great Jamie Carragher had the following to say:
“Firmino is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League – he’s highly rated by Jurgen Klopp but outside Liverpool he’s not mentioned when talked about top strikers. He’s got 17 goals this season – he’s the first name on the team sheet. Yes, you’ve got Salah and Mane, but Firmino’s hold-up play and work off the ball makes him one of the best attacking players in the Premier League. He’s a top player.”
Carragher is, of course, 100% correct. How many of us would nominate Firmino as one of the best “strikers” in the world? Not many at all, but why? It is probably because we think of one thing and one thing only – goals scored. Whenever the connotation of “striker” is employed, the immediate thought process is “he must be scoring the most goals to be good.” However, that is not the case. It is truly interesting that in a world where we have seen so many varying types of ‘strikers’, ‘centre-forwards’, ‘target men’, ‘poachers’, ‘false nines’ over the years that it appears we are still so heavily focused on “striker” statistics as the be-all and end-all of judging the performances of whoever is leading the line. It is like people are unaware that certain teams and systems ask the “striker” to do more or something different from putting the ball in the net.
And this is why, despite enjoying his finest season in performances AND scoring 17 goals across all competitions, Firmino is often overlooked. Firmino will likely never be Liverpool’s out and out top goal scorer, but does anyone really have the impression that is what Klopp wants of him? Of course, he wants him to score goals but his job mandate also includes him pressing defenses at a ridiculous standard, holding up the ball when needed, dropping deep and linking play. He’s the man charged with providing the gas for Mané and Salah’s motorbikes.
⚽️ Goals Scored This Season:
🇧🇷 Roberto Firmino: 17
🇧🇪 Romelu Lukaku: 15
🇪🇸 Álvaro Morata: 12
🇧🇷 Gabriel Jesus: 10
🇫🇷 Alexandre Lacazette: 8
🗣 “Liverpool need an out-and-out striker” 🤔 pic.twitter.com/dz2uUwnyzs
— SPORF (@Sporf) January 14, 2018
Open your eyes people. Instead of dumbing down the argument re. forwards to who has scored the most, look at the collective. Look at the type of player, look at the role they are employed, get an idea of how it is the team is set up to succeed. Do all of this and judge and critique and praise according. And after you do all of that – just accept that.
False nine, complete forward, striker – whatever it is you want to call Roberto Firmino, he is very good and he should be nominated when the topic of the best ‘central forwards’ in the game is raised. His performances have earned him that right.