Liverpool have reportedly held talks with representatives of Hoffenheim’s Roberto Firmino this summer, Jack Lusby explores his talents.
1899 Hoffenheim forward Roberto Firmino could be the star attraction in another busy summer of spending for Liverpool, if reports are to be believed.
Currently starring for Brazil at the Copa America in Chile, Firmino would a real galvanising signing for Liverpool.
But just how would he boost Brendan Rodgers’ side in 2015/16 and beyond?
A young player obsessed with football, Firmino worked tirelessly in testing conditions at second-division Brazilian club Figueirense, earning a move to Hoffenheim and the Bundesliga in 2010, for a lowly £3.5 million fee.
Manager Ernst Tanner said at the time that: “We are very happy that we’ve been able to secure the services of one of the most promising youngsters around in Brazil.
“Big clubs from all over the world were after his signature.”
Keen to hone his skills on a smaller stage at Hoffenheim—compared to the very biggest clubs—Firmino has certainly earned a transfer this summer.
A highly versatile forward, Firmino can play as a left or right winger, and as a No. 10.
He can also be utilised as a centre-forward, as he has been for Brazil under Dunga who, upon meeting the 23-year-old, declared that he “smelled of goals.”
This has translated onto the field, with seven goals and 10 assists in 33 Bundesliga games in 2014/15, averaging at a goal or assist every 172 minutes.
Firmino has developed into a devastating goalscoring midfielder under Tanner, and boasts a well-rounded skill-set.
He’s quick and intelligent in his movement, as well as being a great finisher—as evidenced by a sensational no-look goal scored after dancing in behind Werder Bremen defence in August’s 1-1 draw.
Furthermore, he’s typically talented on the ball—understandably, given his heritage.
With a similar build to that of Daniel Sturridge, Firmino combines physicality and aerial prowess with speed and dexterity, and given his German pedigree, he should transition well to life in the Premier League.
The Liverpool Way?
With current Liverpool U16s coach Pepijn Lijnders looking set to be promoted to the position of Rodgers’ first-team coach this summer, the Dutchman’s words on his footballing philosophy are intriguing:
“Our style is to attack, with and without the ball. We realise that the game is played with one ball, our ball, and we steal it back wherever on the pitch and we use it to attack the opponent.
“It doesn’t matter who we play against, we will press them high and aggressively and we will attack and attack them again. You can make a top team or top players look bad by pressing them intensely and aggressively.
“This, in combination with the Scouse mentality, makes for a very effective path to success.”
Whether Firmino has a Scouse mentality or not is up for debate, but there are definite hallmarks of his game that align with Lijnders’ vision, and in turn with Rodgers’ tactical viewpoint.
His work rate is very high, he closes down opponents in attacking areas and he is bullish enough to dominate defenders.
“My function is to defend without the ball and that is something our team does well: pressing without the ball. Then, when we’ve got the ball it is easier.
“That is one of the reasons we are playing well and consequently individually we also improve.
“I have improved from last year—especially on marking as it is something my manager requests from me a lot.”
In terms of their defensive work, Firmino and Coutinho are very much alike—they both have that South American tenacity that proves so effective in the Premier League, and perhaps more importantly they enjoy great chemistry on the pitch.
Coutinho could be key to seeing where Firmino would fit in at Liverpool.
Where He Would Fit in at Liverpool
Next season, Liverpool could kick off away to Stoke City without both Sterling and Sturridge in their attack, and signings like Firmino, as well as Carlos Bacca or Salomon Rondon, will be required in order for Rodgers’ side to succeed.
The potential sale of Sterling would leave a void in the advanced midfield positions.
Meanwhile, Sturridge’s long-term injury problems will deplete Liverpool’s striking options until at least September.
Firmino, able to play all across the front line, would be a very useful addition with this in mind, as he would fit in in a variety of systems.
In a 4-2-3-1, he could be utilised as a No. 10, with Coutinho shifting wide-left, or vice versa.
Perhaps most effectively, he and Coutinho could be deployed in a tandem in the 3-4-2-1 that proved so successful over the turn of the year for Rodgers, with the pair combining behind the striker. [td_ad_box spot_id=“custom_ad_3″]
Alternatively, he could perform in a centre-forward’s role in any system, dropping deep when required to aid build-up play and playing off-the-shoulder to feed off Coutinho’s creativity.
In short, Firmino offers Rodgers both quality and flexibility in all areas of the game.
For £18 million Firmino would be a bargain; for £30 million his signing would arguably still be justified.
Statistics via WhoScored.
Should Liverpool make Roberto Firmino a transfer priority, or focus elsewhere on the pitch? Let us know in the comments below.