Liverpool's underrated genius: Roberto Firmino
The acquisition of Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah and the sale of Philippe Coutinho may have been the two most talked about pieces of business that Liverpool completed this season, but the retention of Roberto Firmino is proving to be just as vital.
The fact that Klopp has publicly said that he would like Firmino to sign a 'life contract' just goes to show how much the Brazilian is trusted and adored by the man in charge.
Mohamed Salah has really been on fire this season, scoring 33 goals in all competitions and chipping in with another 9 assists. He's definitely a contender for player of the season, but if we analyse Liverpool's performance, we will be able to see that it couldn't have been possible without Firmino.
Although his direct contribution to goals may not be as high as Salah, he has still managed a significant 23 goals and 10 assists (42 appearances) in all competitions. However, that's not what the focus should be on. Firmino's contribution to this Liverpool team is much more than putting the ball in the back of the net.
It is his contributions to the build-up play, his unending pressuring on the ball and his superb positioning - not just in and around the box, but also deeper in midfield when required, that is pivotal to Liverpool's rich attacking play this season. Thanks to him, Liverpool have been the second highest scoring English team in all competitions this year after Manchester city.
Just looking at pure statistics, Roberto Firmino averages 1.8 key passes per game - an outstanding amount considering the fact that Manchester United's midfield marshal, Paul Pogba averages only 1.5 key passes a game. In fact, Tottenham's young sensation, Dele Alli averages 2.0 key passes a game despite having more of a role as playmaker.
Talking about his positioning, it is quite clear to the keen observer that Firmino does not position himself in the way that a traditional striker would. In the recent game against Newcastle United, Firmino played in an almost Messi-esque False nine role, dropping back out of the box as he pleased.
Another fascinating statistic that popped up: Firmino averages 0.2 offsides a game. This is 2.5 times less than Mohamed Salah's 0.5 offside(s) a game, while Tottenham's Harry Kane averages 1.1 offsides a game; Manchester City's Sergio Aguero clocks in 0.7 offsides per game and Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku averages 0.6 offsides per game.
What makes him even more special is his enormous stamina and his defensive contributions to the team. Liverpool employs a consistent, high press and it starts all the way up front with Firmino. Another one of his multiple outstanding stats is that he averages 1.7 tackles a game.
To give some context, Pogba averages 1.3 tackles a game, and Liverpool's two centre backs, Lovren and Van Dijk, average 1.0 and 1.1 tackles a game respectively. That's right. Firmino makes more tackles than his own club's central defenders. All of this combined with smart, usually late, but well timed runs into the box make him a lethal weapon of mass goal scoring for the Reds.
It seems quite obvious with the stats, that Firmino does not play the role of a traditional striker. Yet he directly contributes to so many goals. It is a combination of superb positioning, relentless pressing, and smart runs into the box that make him a genius. An underrated genius, but a genius nonetheless.