By Andrew Fanko (TTT Subscriber Arisesirrafa).
The attacking third is undeniably the area we have improved most under Klopp. In Brendan Rodgers’ final full season and the first eleven games of 2015/16, we scored 1.23 goals per game. This figure stands at 1.56 goals per game under the German, and that’s working with someone else’s players and without the benefit of a pre-season and hardly any time on the training pitch.
So if we’ve made improvements in this area, it’s unlikely that there will be much call for change. Still, there are a couple of interesting calls…
NB: Remember I’m only featuring players who made more than five competitive starts (an appearance of 45 minutes or more) for the Reds’ first team in 2015/2016. Also, I’m including Coutinho and Lallana in this final instalment as they spent most of the season playing in forward positions. PPG = points per game when starts; Win% = win percentage when starts; MPGoA = minutes per goal or assist – I feel like this stat is more revealing for attackers than the personal goal difference per game stat I used in the other articles.
Roberto Firmino / Age on 1 September 2016: 24 / Contract expires: 2020
2015/16: Starts: 39 / Sub apps: 10 / PPG: 1.67 / Win%: 46.2% / MPGoA: 166 / Goals: 11 / Assists: 9
Reasons to keep: Firmino took a while settle at Anfield, but once he did, the numbers he delivered were just exceptional. In fact, considering he was largely ineffective for the first 3 or 4 months, producing a goal or assist better than once every two games is remarkable. If he hits the ground running next season, we could be looking at a 20:20 season (20 goals and 20 assists), something that only the very best forwards in the history of the game have achieved.
The reason the Brazilian makes such an important contribution is that his game seems to be based around getting into areas that hurt the opposition, whether that’s finding space between the midfield and defence, breaking past the back line to latch onto a through ball or bursting late into the box to meet a cross.
Allied to this clever movement is the kind of technique you expect from a Brazilian forward: terrific close control, a deceptive body swerve, a really clean strike of the ball, a cheeky nutmeg and (of course) the occasional juggle.
A player with Firmino’s gifts can’t usually be relied upon to work all that hard. Well, the former Hoffenheim man delivers in that area too. According to Whoscored.com, among strikers and attacking midfielders, only Fabregas, Lamela and Oscar made more tackles per game in the PL last season, while the excellent pressing stats compiled over at Anfield Index highlight how insanely good Firmino is at this part of the game that is so crucial to Klopp’s style: he made 32.24 presses per 90 minutes, comfortably more than anyone else in our squad.
With Sturridge always a major injury worry, Ings coming back from a lengthy lay-off and Origi also looking a touch susceptible to injuries, having Firmino as an option in the false nine role is a real bonus. He played it a handful of times last season and always looked menacing.
I’d expect a bit of interest in Coutinho this summer given our failure to qualify for the Champions League. Having as many of his compatriots around as possible will help us to retain his services.
Reasons to offload: At his worst, Firmino can be something of a liability. He’s not a man to just take stock and keep it simple; sometimes it’s just not your day, and you’re better off storing the flicks and tricks away for another time, but Bobby will just carry on regardless, which can be hugely frustrating to watch as he gives possession away time after time.
And it’s that carelessness in possession that is my biggest gripe with the Brazilian. Yes, he’s mighty effective at winning the ball back, but all too often it comes seconds after he’s given it away in the first place (actually, I remember hearing on the Anfield Wrap once that this may be a deliberate tactic – lose the ball deliberately so you can win it back higher up the pitch and cause more of a threat – if so, I take it all back!).
I guess the only other slight issue is trying to establish Firmino’s best position. I don’t see him as a number 10 or a wide forward. He’s more of a second striker or (as already mentioned) a false nine; how many games a season will Klopp play him in one of those roles?
How did you rate James Milner's season out of 10?
- 7 (68%, 185 Votes)
- 6 (15%, 40 Votes)
- 8 (14%, 39 Votes)
- 5 (2%, 5 Votes)
- 9 (1%, 2 Votes)
- 10 (0%, 1 Votes)
- 4 (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 272
Verdict: Keep. After a slow start, it really was a great debut season for Firmino. He’s entering his peak years and is clearly one of the players most suited to Klopp’s style of play. Not a difficult one, this.
The rest of this article, which looks at Lallana, Coutinho, Ings, Origi, Sturridge, Benteke, Ibe, Ojo, Markovic and Balotelli, is for Subscribers only.