Firmino as the ace of Liverpool attack

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mong the three Liverpool attackers, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah get more attention than Roberto Firmino. 

Both Salah and Mane were both Premier League top scorers (along with Aubameyang) last season with 22 goals.

Firmino only scored 12 goals throughout the 2018/19 season. But who would have thought, it was Firmino who was the key to an important game for Liverpool.

Jose Mourinho said in an interview on Skysports , Firmino was a player Arsenal did not have in attack so that making their attacking trio was not as dangerous as Liverpool. After the match against Burnley, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said that Firmino was a special player not found in many other clubs. Liverpool left-back Andrew Robertson also said that Liverpool would have a hard time facing their opponents when Firmino could not play.

One example of a match that still wasn’t very long ago was when Liverpool faced Chelsea in the European Super Cup match. At that time Firmino was not 100% fit so Klopp did not include it in the Line-up arrangement. Klopp put Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in attack. Liverpool then fell 0-1 through goals scored by Pulisic and suffered a deadlock in the first half by only releasing 3 shots on target. Klopp then included Firmino in the second half and it only took 3 minutes for Firmino to make an impact for Liverpool. In the 48th minute his assistant got a goal for Sadio Mane. Liverpool’s game became more fluid in the second half with a total of 6 shots on target in the second half.

What is the real role of the Brazilian player in Liverpool? He was brought to Liverpool in 2015 from Hoffenheim as an attacking midfielder. But Daniel Sturridge’s injury that season led Brendan Rodgers to move Firmino’s position as center forward. The presence of Jurgen Klopp to Liverpool did not return his position to the attacking midfielder, Klopp actually reinforced Firmino’s position in the Liverpool attack line.

Then is Firmino a Liverpool striker? Brendan Rodgers does not agree if Firmino is said to be a Liverpool striker. His position is slightly back from the opponent’s defensive line. He is not the player who stands at the forefront of Liverpool. But he is also not an attacking midfielder. Jurgen Klopp who often plays 4-3-3 formations will usually put 2 midfielders behind the attacking trio. Klopp does not play formation with attacking midfield players.

Firmino plays the role of a player who stands between the midfield and the opposing defense. This role provides many advantages for the Liverpool game. The first is the existence of Firmino in that position to make the distance between Liverpool lines not too far away. Secondly, Firmino gives room for Salah and Mane to stab into the opponent’s penalty box. This is what makes Mane and Salah score more goals than Firmino.

The match against Burnley two weeks ago showed how Firmino had an important role for Liverpool. Despite playing away, Liverpool won easily with a score of 3-0 in the match. Burnley played a 4-4-2 formation that made them reach 3 points in the first week, and it was difficult for Arsenal in the second week even though they eventually lost. Two Burnley midfielders in the middle, Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork, are the types of combat midfielders who make it difficult for opponents to flow the ball in the middle. Arsenal, who played a double axle in the middle, made it difficult to penetrate Burnley’s defense in the first half due to their ball flow being blocked by these two players.

But Liverpool did not experience the same difficulties as Arsenal.  Liverpool’s 4-3-3 formation makes them superior to the number of players in midfield. Cork and Westwood have to face 3 Liverpool midfielders in the middle. This condition is increasingly difficult for Cork and Westwood with Firmino’s presence in their playing area. The battle in the central area was no longer the battle of Cork and Westwood against 3 Liverpool midfielders, but Cork and Westwood against 3 Liverpool midfielders plus Firmino.

Firmino’s position also allows him to press into the opponent’s defense, as well as the opponent’s midfielder. 

So it’s not uncommon to see Firmino win the ball in the area. One of them was Liverpool’s second goal against Burnley. Firmino’s interception in the opponent’s defense area was brought up with his pass to Sadio Mane who then scored.

This weekend Liverpool will face Newcastle United. Steve Bruce played a 5-4-1 defense by only putting Joelinton as the lone front forward. Liverpool will certainly find it difficult to penetrate the Newcastle defense from the wing. Mane and Salah also cannot freely enter the Newcastle penalty box due to the presence of 3 central defenders in the Newcastle penalty box.

Again, the role of Firmino will be crucial for Liverpool in this match. His ingenuity in making use of the space between the midfield and the defender could be the beginning of the creation of a hole in the Newcastle defense area. This hole then became the entrance for Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah to score for Liverpool.

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