Role reversal for Roberto Firmino shows he’s still the complete forward

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Usually, saying a forward is the complete version of a player for his position means that he stops just scoring and showcases an ability to do more. For Roberto Firmino, this week it has been the opposite.

Bobby is an integral part of the Reds’ attack, due to his work rate, movement and link play far more than his goalscoring, which Jurgen Klopp tends to leave to the duo either side of him.

Even so, without Firmino’s intelligence and self-sacrifice, they couldn’t perform the way they do.

That’s what Firmino’s game has become at Liverpool: the runner, the space-creator, the back-tracking, pressing, defend-from-the-front No. 9.

On international duty, it’s the complete opposite – his manager Tite has asked for more of a penalty-box presence, and Firmino has responded with goals, proving that side of his game remains firmly intact, too.

Contrary to some over-excitable individuals suggesting the demise of Firmino is near, the No. 9 himself says he feels he’s “at the best moment of his career” and wants to be the player “Brazil can rely on” in attack.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Brazil and Liverpool striker Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the second goal during an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. Brazil won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Yes [Tite told me not to track back]. It’s not that he asked me not to help out, but he wants me to always be in the area,” Firmino told Fifa.com.

“I still have to get back to mark, but he wants me to chase back less after the ball, be in the box more. I have a natural urge to help out, get back – I do this for Liverpool – so I have put this aside and do what Tite has asked of me.

“I enjoy being involved in play, creating goals, but I also enjoy being in the box, scoring goals.”

In a strange, convoluted way, this is really Bobby’s self-sacrifice: do less for the team, to do more for the team.

His urge, his inclination is the chase and harass, help out and restart, so to linger and watch on must be against everything he’s used to – though it’s still noticeable that one of his pressing actions led directly to a goal in Brazil’s last outing, where he scored twice against Bolivia.

Firmino also had words for team-mates and what he thinks of them, with his close friendship with Alisson having been apparent for some time.

RIO DE JANEIRO, RJ - 07.07.2019: BRAZIL VS. PERU - Firmino and Alisson celebrate title after the match between Brazil and Peru, valid for the Copa America 2019 final, held this Sunday (07) at the Maracan„ Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, RJ. (Photo by Nayra Halm/Fotoarena/Sipa USA)

“For me he’s the number one. I’m not just saying that because he’s my team-mate. The things he does on the pitch are incredible.

“He’s already done a great job for the Selecao.

“And off the pitch he’s a sensational guy. He’s a great person, a great friend, someone I get on with really well.”

While he describes former team-mate Phil Coutinho as a “magician” and Neymar as “unbelievable”, our own Brazilian also had words for his club-level team-mates, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.

“I admire Salah a lot. I love the way he plays. He scores a lot of goals. You wouldn’t believe how hard he works. I’m very grateful to play alongside him and Mane, another magnificent player.”

That’s why we see the side of Firmino we do – but it doesn’t mean he’s lost his touch in being a goalscoring forward. Next up, Peru in another World Cup qualifier -then a race back to Merseyside for the derby.

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