OPINION: Selfless Firmino is perfect No9
Liverpool are cruising to their first championship in 30 years and Saturday’s victory over Bournemouth was their 22nd consecutive home win — a new record in the English top flight.
And yet, amid all this, their No 9, Roberto Firmino, has not scored a single goal at Anfield in 2019-20. How remarkable is that?
Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have contributed 16 and 10 at home in all competitions by comparison, and this highlights two things. It shows the way the Premier League champions elect use Firmino as a link-up man and also the importance of the modern-day winger’s ability to get goals and assists.
I spoke to Frank Lampard about this at Chelsea’s training ground recently. Frank told me he’d been speaking with Callum Hudson-Odoi and said he’d told the 19-year-old: ‘Look around, at Mane, at Salah, and ask why they are racking up numbers. If you want to play as a winger at a top club, you have to get numbers.’
Then Hudson-Odoi scores a tap-in against Burnley by arriving at the back post, and Frank tells me it’s probably his favourite goal this season! Why? Because his wide man was there, getting in the box at Stamford Bridge.
Right now there is an onus on wingers to do that. That is the way the game has evolved and Liverpool are at the forefront of this. Firmino (above) comes short for the ball, creates space for others, connects attacks and creates opportunities for his team-mates who love to come inside. They don’t stay stranded out wide, and we saw that against Bournemouth on Saturday. Mane won possession centrally off Jack Simpson before playing the ball to Salah, who made up for a poor pass by scoring anyway to make it 1-1.
For the winner, Virgil van Dijk made an interception on the halfway line and played a through-ball into Mane, who was central again. He then beat Aaron Ramsdale from the one on one.
Jurgen Klopp will recognise the job that Firmino is doing, too, even if he isn’t the one banging in the goals at Anfield himself. The Brazilian is the modern No 9 — selfless and not purely relied upon for scoring. He is the focal point of Klopp’s 4-3-3 system.
After their mini blip, it was important for Liverpool to get back to winning ways before Wednesday’s Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid. Having captain Jordan Henderson back in midfield could be big, because he is so good at setting the tempo for the team.
We know Liverpool are going to win the Premier League but this European encounter is huge. If they are to turn things around against Diego Simeone’s Atletico then everyone will need to be at it.
Let’s see if they can make it another special Anfield night.Daily Mail