Roberto Firmino: Liverpool's underrated hero
Liverpool’s coach, Jurgen Klopp, who developed a lot of young players in the past, offered to the world Roberto Firmino. The latter isn’t a traditional center-forward because Klopp transformed him into a false 9. This role is heavily associated with Messi who attained perfection under Guardiola. In fact, Firmino is currently claimed as the best false 9 since Guardiola’s Messi.
In addition, Firmino is also viewed as one of the most underrated players in the world because the fans didn’t show him the recognition he merits.
While Salah was stealing the show during the 2017/2018 season, Firmino was still instrumental and indispensable in the attack. Moreover, an unpopular opinion affirms that he is Liverpool’s finest player of the season.
Although Firmino is a center-forward on paper, he exceeds the limits of this position by participating in other vital aspects of the game and roaming freely on the pitch.
The Brazilian talent drops deeper in a pivotal position between the lines during Liverpool’s ball circulation and rapid attacks. Firmino creates a positional superiority when he gets the ball behind the adversary’s midfield before making a run.
Therefore, the defenders are frustrated and face a tough dilemma because they don’t know whether they should stride forward to stop Firmino or remain fixed in their positions.
In both incidents, their choice will never satisfy them because; on one hand, if they move forward to take the ball from him, the flying wingers, such as Mane and Salah, will be unmarked in dangerous scoring opportunities.
On the other hand, if they don’t leave their places, they will provide a brilliant chance for Firmino to fly towards them and their penalty area.
For this reason, Salah and Mane are generally in advanced areas on the flanks while Firmino is the deepest forward in the middle.
Liverpool’s Anfield game against Roma can exemplify what I’m saying; Firmino received a splitting pass between the rows to encourage Salah to make a run between the defenders. As a consequence, Firmino assisted Salah who scored a fabulous first goal.
Apart from that, Firmino also drifts wide to play key passes and support the ball's recycle, in this instance, Salah will occupy the opposition’s defensive line in the middle.
Firmino showed to the biggest football stages the worth of his technical capabilities and the quality of his dribbling.
He is the ideal type of player to perform as a false 9 because he can protect the ball under pressure thanks to his close ball control and the use of his body as a shield.
Furthermore, he is a magnificent playmaker who brings his teammates into the action and attempts to provide the key pass and the great pass before the assist. All these qualities make him a solid attacking pivot for the team to move forward.
For his prolific ball retention, Firmino is again required to drop behind the halfway line to help in Liverpool’s build-up and to suggest a counter-attacking option for his teammates’ clearances under pressure.
He holds the ball for a moment; until the sprinting Mane or Salah reach advanced positions, to deliver a long through pass later.
His significant defensive contribution is a witness to his tactical versatility in Klopp’s high pressing philosophy.
Klopp’s teams want to adopt an immediate pressure to get the ball back whenever they are dispossessed.
As a result, they intercept the ball in the final third and deal with a shaky defense because the opponent is already in a transitional phase.
Liverpool presses the opposition’s central defenders and build-up with the attacking trio while Firmino is the central and highest player.
In addition, he drops deep and shocks the midfielders from their back in order to dispossess them when the opponent beats Liverpool first line of pressure. In fact, Firmino intercepted the ball 14 times in the 2017/2018 Premier League season.
Aside from that, Firmino also does his job as a natural center-forward whose fundamental objective is to finish the attempts into the net. He exploits the spaces between the central defenders in order to convert crosses and key passes. In addition, he runs to the far post to convert the low crosses, and he also enjoys a remarkable first touch finish.