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Look at the performances, not the stats is the rule when looking at why Roberto Firmino is Brazil’s best bet to lead the line in Copa America

Roberto Firmino’s numbers may suggest that the Liverpool-man is not as good as he was last year, but in fact, Bobby is quietly having his best season ever and is set to take advantage of his convincing displays to book himself the starting spot for Brazil in two months’ time, for the prestigious Copa América.

17 goals and seven assists is by no means a stat that would be considered out of this world for a striker playing for one of the best clubs in Europe. But the fact of the matter is that Firmino has not been playing as a clinical striker this year, unlike the 2017/2018 season when he entered the campaign with the objective of scoring as many goals as possible after being handed the number 9 shirt.

This time around, in most matches, he is dropping deep and operating as a proper play-maker, in order to create spaces for Sadio Mané and especially Mohamed Salah, to exploit. In many situations, especially at the earlier stages of the season, it was Firmino basically operating as the attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, with Xherdan Shaqiri occupying the right-hand flank as the Egyptian would play right ahead of Firmino.

Liverpool’s formation has had several variations throughout the season, depending on injuries, and depending on the performance of new signings Fabinho and Naby Keita. Now that the duo is established, Firmino is back to being the nominal striker, although he still drops deep in most situations, retaining his characteristics of a false nine.

Case in point, Firmino’s goal against FC Porto in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, where the 27-year-old was deep enough to start the play, pass the ball and move vertically towards the penalty box, to find himself on the receiving end of a well-placed cross following a good passing combination between Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

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Prior to that, the Brazilian had set-up Keita for the opener, as Liverpool ended the night with a convincing victory that put them halfway through to the eventual qualification to the semi-finals.

Once again, it was big-game Firmino showing his worth. This season, he’s had two convincing performances against Tottenham, scored a hat-trick against Arsenal, was arguably man of the match against Manchester United, scored against Manchester City and yet again, stood up in his favorite play-ground, the Champions League.

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Right now, there is no doubt that Roberto Fimirno is Brazil’s best option for the Copa América. In last year’s World Cup, after an excellent season in Europe, he had to find himself bench-warming for Gabriel Jesus in every single match. But Gabriel was not experienced enough to make the difference, and has failed to impose himself as a starter at Manchester City since then. And then you have a central forward who is so versatile, so good at creating chances and applying pressure, a complete modern attacker who is living the best moment in his professional career.

Roberto Firmino has the opportunity to end the season with Liverpool and Brazil on a high, and could quite possibly finally win the first trophy in his professional career. As weird as that may sound, for a player as gifted as him.

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