Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino has often been described as a ‘Jurgen Klopp player’ for his versatility in front of the goal. Still, his turbulent performances have catapulted Liverpool’s faltering rate of goals. This has invited many suggestions for the reigning champions to opt for a future beyond the Brazilian.
The Merseysiders’ fell to their first defeat in four years at Anfield, and it was the fifth successive game where Firmino drew blank in front of the goal. The former Hoffenheim attacker has managed just five goals and three assists in the 2020/21 season, a far cry from his previous campaigns’ output.
With the Premier League title race heating up, and Liverpool in a race against time to strengthen their grip in their title defence, here are a few reasons why the Reds must take a bold step in finding a replacement for their number nine.
A landslide in minutes per goal ratio
Firmino, who signed for Liverpool in 2015, has registered 62 goals in 194 appearances at an average of 0.32 goals per match. While often a frontline attacker, the 29-year-old has plied his trade as a rotating forward which he now battles for, with Diego Jota. This development has reduced his chances of featuring for the first team while taking a toll on his confidence to score when given starts by manager Jurgen Klopp.
In the last four seasons, Roberto Firmino has seen his minutes per goal ratio take a rollercoaster route. The Brazilian’s most ambitious campaign in a Liverpool shirt came in 2017/18, where he scored 15 goals and clocked 185 minutes per goal. However, he has since failed to live up to those figures, scoring a goal every 333rd minute in the championship-winning campaign and currently has taken 297 minutes per goal. Judging by the standards with which Liverpool play, it is a far cry from a classic number nine standards.
A stumbling block in the front three
The front three of Liverpool - Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane - may have dominated the scoring charts in the past few seasons. Still, at the same time, there have been plenty of drawbacks that have unsettled the trio’s relationship on the pitch.
20 - Roberto Firmino has scored his first @premierleague goal at Anfield in 20 appearances, ending a run of 1,591 minutes of play and 56 attempted shots without scoring at the ground since he netted against Tottenham in March 2019, 479 days ago. Relief. #LIVCHE pic.twitter.com/vq63ZEmUib— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 22, 2020
While Salah and Mane are either scoring or creating opportunities for Liverpool to score goals, Roberto Firmino has been a let down as he has lost the ability to be a creative link-up for his team-mates. The Brazilian’s pass per game ratio in 2018/19 (37.62) dropped to 30.55 in the 2019/20 season, thus indicating that Firmino is currently surplus to the fast-paced football that Liverpool has played in the last few seasons.
Firmino failing to lift the number nine curse
Number nine carries the scoring duties for a team in a competitive league as the Premier League. Liverpool have produced some of the greatest attacking players in the competition, but none have been as prolific as Fernando Torres.
The Reds have seen as many as four players take up the mantle of the number nine, and Roberto Firmino is the latest player to don the iconic number. But if one had to compare Firmino and Torres, one can safely say the former isn’t a full-fledged striker.
In his four seasons at Liverpool, Torres scored 65 goals in the Premier League with a goal per game ratio of 0.74, while Firmino’s record reads as 0.37 goals per game. The likes of Jamie Carragher and Peter Crouch have been critical of the Brazilian’s performance levels. They have voiced their claims for the 19-time Premier League winners to find an immediate solution to lift the number nine curse.
A host of Liverpool fans and football pundits have recently stressed out how the Reds must prolong their current style of play if they are to challenge for trophies. The presence of Firmino has unsettled the balance in the playing XI, and while Jurgen Klopp has publicly defended the Brazilian’s faltering life at Anfield, the clock is ticking for the club to find a reliable replacement to fit their standards of attacking football.
Feature Image courtesy: AFP / Peter Powell