Why Liverpool need Bobby Firmino step up in the next 8 days
- Firmino needs to bring his A-game for the next 3 matches in a spell of 8 days
What's the story?
Liverpool are about to enter a crucial phase in their quest to become league champions. Next 8 days will see them play away matches against Manchester United and Everton in weekend fixtures, while hosting Watford for a mid-week clash.
It is a strange situation for Liverpool. Even victories in all three matches won’t take them any closer to the title, such is Manchester City’s strength. On the other hand, if they drop points more than once, City in all likelihood will be ahead come next Sunday – a huge psychological boost for them given that they trailed by 7 points at the beginning of new year. So, while Jurgen Klopp’s men can’t win the league in these 8 days, they have a huge risk of losing it in this clutch of tricky fixtures.
Man City themselves faced a gruelling spell at the start of this month with matches against Arsenal, Everton & Chelsea in an 8 day period. They passed it with flying colours, winning all three matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding just one. If Liverpool have to follow City’s lead, they’d need their attacking trio to step up, especially Roberto Firmino.
In case you didn't know...
It is well known how much Klopp rates Firmino. A few months back he had this to say about his offensive triumvirate - "Mo Salah, world class, but not every day. Sadio Mane, world class, but not every day. Roberto Firmino, world class, pretty much every day."
There is no doubting that the Brazilian has been a vital cog in Liverpool’s current squad and has for countless times been the standout player on the pitch. His work rate off the ball, selflessness in front of goal and commitment to help teammates with their defensive duties – were the perfect attributes of gegenpressing style of football that Klopp employed for the past three seasons.
The heart of the matter
Liverpool’s approach to football this season though has been built from the back. The high press, counter-centric football of last season has given way to a more cautious, possession centric style. While it might not seem all that attractive to neutrals, this change seems to have worked. The Reds have conceded just 15 league goals thus far. They are joint top of the league in terms of points scored and have a game in hand.
Unfortunately, one player who hasn’t particularly enjoyed this change is Firmino. He usually prefers to receive balls on the half turn and is at is dangerous best in counter attacking one-twos. This season however he has been required to drop deep and link up play between midfield and attack, something that doesn’t come naturally to him.
While it’d be unfair to say the Brazilian has been poor in adapting to this change, it can be said that more consistency is expected from a player of his calibre. There have been too few of those 8/10, 9/10 performances that we have come to expect of him. Instead, on numerous occasions this season, when opposition isn’t playing attacking football, he has gone missing for long periods of the game.
This is something which he too will be desperate to correct and the next eight days present a great opportunity to do so. United and to some extent Everton and Watford aren’t sides which will always sit back allowing opposition to have all the possession. This should suit Firmino’s instinctive style of play a lot more than other opponents. That said, it is up to him to bring his A-game to all the three matches and do his bit in ensuring that Liverpool don’t cede advantage to City as they exit Goodison park next Sunday evening.
Liverpool will visit Old Trafford on Sunday - 24th February. They will then host Watford on Wednesday – 27th February. This will be followed by the Merseyside derby against Everton on Sunday – 3rd March.
Manchester City meanwhile has two league fixtures in this time period – a home game against West Ham and an away trip to Bournemouth.Published 24 Feb 2019, 09:24 IST