Unlike Philippe Coutinho whose head was turned by Barcelona, compatriot Roberto Firmino has been Liverpool’s stand-out star at the start of the season
Philippe Coutinho has stolen the headlines in the world of the Liverpool media in recent weeks, but for the wrong reasons. On the other hand, a Brazilian whose fame is also growing in the English Premier League, is Roberto Firmino. But for the right reasons. The 25-year-old impressed during pre-season, and has managed to maintain his form in the opening games of the campaign.
Liverpool had a very intense preparation ahead of the new year, featuring several friendlies as well as the Audi Cup in Munich. Roberto Firmino was one of the standout players, and the one with most goal-involvement during pre-season. As the official matches have started, the Brazilian has not disappointed. Having already found the back of the net twice, and provided two assists in four starts, Firmino was able, with the help of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, to help the Reds overcome the absence of their most influential player in the past few seasons, Philippe Coutinho.
Mohamed Salah’s arrival meant that he would take number eleven, that previously belonged to Firmino. The Brazil international has decided to sport the number nine, which suits the position where he usually operates, as center-forward. Alongside this change, Jurgen Klopp has made the very interesting decision of making Roberto, Liverpool’s first-option penalty-taker instead of James Milner, who seems to have fallen down in the pecking order and might well have lost his spot in the starting lineup.
Firmino was instrumental against Watford and Crystal Palace in league action, but where he really shone was against Hoffenheim in the return leg of the crucial UEFA Champions League playoff, at Anfield. Against the team that introduced him to the European stage, he had no remorse in putting in one of his best performances ever, in a red shirt.
With the Brazilian’s vision and through-balls, Firmino set-up his teammates on more than one occasion, and was directly or indirectly involved in the first three goals, before eventually scoring the fourth after a generous play from team captain Jordan Henderson, as Liverpool crushed the Germans 6-3 on aggregate, and secured their return to Europe’s elite competition.
It was a very special night for the five-times Champions League winners, and Firmino was the undisputed man-of-the-match. The Seleção was effectively all over the pitch, working as hard both defensively and offensively – making sure that he did not leave his German manager shy of making any statement to praise his work-ethic and importance. That is not to say that Coutinho’s presence is not needed at the club, but his absence has certainly helped other players prove their value. If there were any doubts how fundamental Firmino is in the Liverpool set-up, then it is fair to say that they are now over.
Brazil is set to face Ecuador and Colombia in the upcoming FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, and with the form that Roberto Firmino has begun his season with, it would be hard for Tite to leave him out of the equation, even-though Manchester City star Gabriel Jesus is seen by many pundits as the new heir to the Amarelinha’s number nine shirt. Let the competition begin!