Roberto Firmino has been unreal over the last 12 months. After playing at the World Cup 2018 with Brazil, the Liverpool No. 9 was a major part of the Reds’ Premier League runners-up finish and Champions League triumph.
Firmino won the Copa America with Brazil over the summer showing Neymar was not needed to lift the trophy on home soil. It capped off a brilliant 12 months of football for the forward.
On Saturday, Firmino showed just how brilliant he is once again. He didn’t score yet he was the creative hub for Liverpool’s attack and catalyst for starting the counter-attack. Firmino didn’t even start Saturday’s win over Newcastle United but finished the day with an assist and four key passes.
He came on after Divock Origi was forced off in the first half with an injury. The Brazilian didn’t score against the Magpies, but he was still the man of the match for many viewers.
A No. 9 and No. 10 hybrid
While Firmino wears the No. 9 shirt and spearheads Liverpool’s attack, he has played as a pure No. 10 this term.
Firmino has tallied three assists in five Premier League matches. He is halfway to his total from last term when he tallied six in the league. Firmino’s assists are 1.18 better than his expected assists figure. The Brazilian has tallied two goals in five games showing he can score goals as as well as create in the final third.
It is easy to forget that when Liverpool’s recruitment team signed Firmino, he was an attacking midfielder for Germany’s Hoffenheim. Then-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was against Firmino’s signing and only agreed to the Brazilian’s arrival if Liverpool bought Christian Benteke too. We saw how that worked out for all parties.
From Hoffenheim to Liverpool
Liverpool paid £36.9 million for Firmino in 2015. At the time, he was a relatively unknown Brazilian playing for a mid-table German team and the fee seemed huge. Hoffenheim made over £33m in profit on Firmino when Liverpool came calling.
Firmino spent five seasons at Hoffenheim as the team’s creative hub in midfield and not as the team’s No. 9. It wasn’t until Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield that Firmino became a centre forward to lead the Liverpool line. The manager saw the attacking ability and potential in the Brazilian and it has led to Firimino’s continued rise as a goalscorer.
Firmino’s passing and ability to create goals shouldn’t be a surprise thanks to those salad days at Hoffenheim. He notched 16 assists and 22 goals in all competitions in 2013-14. A season later, his last at Hoffenheim, Firmino bagged 10 goals and 12 assists.
The Brazilan tallied 17 assists in all competitions in the 2017-18 season for Liverpool. This season could be a repeat of that campaign as Firmino is arguably in his best form as a passer right now since arriving at Anfield.
The Premier League’s most important player
Firmino was called “the Premier League’s most important player” following Liverpool’s win over Newcastle United. It is a big claim but one that is not incorrect. Liverpool were not bad with Firmino off the pitch against the Magpies. Yet, his introduction completely changed the way Liverpool played.
His 60-plus minute performance was one that showed he doesn’t need to score goals. Firmino creates goals, wins the ball, and starts Liverpool on counter-attacks. It was Firmino’s defence and winning the ball that allowed Sadio Mane to score his second goal of the game.
He is the Premier League’s most important player and a big part of Liverpool sitting five points above Manchester City after five matches. This season could be Firmino’s best ever at Anfield.