To say that this has caused a stir on social media (particularly among Liverpool fans) would be an understatement.
As the PFA announced their Premier League Team of the Year this week, many were unphased to see Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah included in the 11, alongside Spurs’ Harry Kane, City’s Kevin De Bruyne and United’s David De Gea. However, the focus was more on one particular player who didn’t make the cut. That man is Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian has enjoyed an incredible season under Klopp, with some staggering stats backing up what many already know to be one of the finest individual seasons that a Liverpool player has had for many years.
Firmino has been directly involved in 39 goals in all competitions this season, scoring 25 and providing assists for 14 more in 47 appearances. This alone is very decent return for a striker, but when you consider that Firmino isn’t your typical striker, you realise just how much more he brings to the game than goals and assists.
Jürgen Klopp’s style of play is fast, ferocious and played on the front-foot. His gegenpress isn’t just about blindly chasing down defenders, thus leaving huge gaps for the opposition to exploit – it’s about timing, positioning and manipulating defenders into the positions you want them in so you can spring the counter.
Those who watch Liverpool regularly will tell you just how good Salah, Mané and Firmino are at doing this, but Firmino’s tireless running and desire to push his team up the field is perhaps the best of the lot. He is also so aware once he is able to spring the trap that the press releases. His use of the ball is sublime, his vision not impaired by what’s going on around him, and his touch magnificent.
This point perhaps leads nicely into another facet of Firmino’s game that sets him aside from every other striker in the Premier League, and probably the world over, which is his unparalleled work rate. When the stat emerged that he has made more tackles than every other top six defender apart from Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, it’s safe to say that it made people sit up and realise just how much grafting Firmino does for his team.
The team’s impressive turn overs of possession is something to marvel at, but how many times in particular have you seen Firmino charge back into his own half and win the ball back from an opponent, before getting up the other end to play his part in the attack? There’s too many times to recall.
He stops teams from getting out, from building a head of steam. If you can name another striker in world football doing what he’s doing right now, I’ll be shocked. It’s this that sets him aside from the likes of Kane and Aguero – he is a more complete footballer than either of them and still manages to notch 25 goals in a single season. Quite sensational.
Firmino’s impressive year is perhaps being noticed more since his dear friend and fellow Brazilian, Philippe Coutinho swapped Anfield for the Camp Nou in January. More often than not, Coutinho grabbed the headlines for providing a stunning assist or bending in one of his trademark long-range screamers, but since his move to Barcelona, Firmino has had to step up to the plate a lot more.
And boy, has he delivered.
Perhaps his development and growth into the player he is now was evident while Coutinho was still at the Club, but since then he has stepped out of his countryman’s shadow and blossomed into a talismanic player.
He has stepped up so much, that I can’t remember ever missing Coutinho. Part of that is also down to Super Sadio continuing his fine form, and the explosive arrival of Mo Salah, of course.
But Firmino must take huge credit. His start to life on Merseyside was a bit stop-start, and people worried we’d just splashed almost £30 million on another bog standard player. But my how he has proved his worth.
As I mentioned earlier, Firmino is one of the most complete forwards in modern football in the fact that he has everything that any top flight player needs to achieve – which is rare. You don’t see Kane or Aguero or Jesus or Morata or Aubameyang or anyone else doing the things that Firmino does. He’s not all about scoring goals – something which in all honesty has probably worked against him in terms of getting into the Team of the Year.
But surely it’s about more than that? Aguero has scored more goals than Firmino this season, as has Kane – but do they bring as much to their teams as Firmino does to Liverpool? I’m obviously going to say no and no doubt people will disagree. The complete-nature of Bobby’s game is what makes my mind boggle as to why he missed out on a place in that team.
Then again – what do I know?