AS has been said numerous times over the course of the last season, it’s all about having a big squad these days — especially when you’ve got Europe to think about. Rotating when necessary and utilising depth correctly can be key to success. Certain players for certain games and all that jazz, writes DAN VINCENT.
However with strikers it’s tough to do that. For sides that predominantly play with one upfront it becomes increasingly difficult to rotate and maintain the same level of quality. No top centre-forward is happy to play second fiddle. It’s why this summer, when there are some that are crying out for Spurs to sign a striker in case Harry Kane gets injured, they won’t be able to. Not one that comes close to him anyway. It’s no different for anyone else.
What if Chelsea lost Diego Costa last season for long periods and Michy Batshuayi had to step in? Hardly the same, is it? Pep Guardiola had to alter his formation slightly in order to get both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus in because neither will sit on the bench. Even lesser sides like Stoke had Wilfried Bony on loan, crying his sack off because he wasn’t getting the minutes. The step down from a first-choice striker is usually big, in quality or experience with a kid that’s still raw.
Liverpool are no different and it’s why they won’t sign one this summer, and rightly so.
At this point it’s worth pointing out that if Daniel Sturridge can maintain his fitness then The Reds could be the only side to have a genuine top class striker as an option from the bench. Or, like Manchester City, accommodate him alongside their other boss forward with a few tweaks to the system.
But the main reason Liverpool aren’t after the top quality strikers supposedly on the market this summer is the delightful Roberto Firmino, who signed on this day two years ago. Liverpool’s new number nine. A fully fledged centre-forward in his own right and one that can lead us to glory.
I see the names of other forwards being lashed around and none of them come close to what The Reds have in Firmino. If he’s played in the centre of the front three all season he’s capable of hitting around one in two. Add to that the way he spearheads Liverpool’s pressing and how he links up with Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, with the quick interchanging play that tore many a defence apart in the early months of 2016-17, and you’ve got the perfect storm. The lad is a complete nightmare for defenders and a complete warrior for his team-mates.
One of his more underrated attributes as a central striker is his strength and ability to battle. The best strikers in the league have it in their locker and despite not being a ‘natural’ number nine Firmino possesses it in abundance. That coupled with his fancy footwork makes him as much of a menace on the ball as he is off it with his positioning and clever running.
John Barnes told the club’s official website: “He has got fantastic ability. When you look at him, when you look at the way he plays, moves and controls the ball, his awareness, he doesn’t look quick but he’s quick and he moves the ball around.”
Another fella that truly believes in this is Jürgen Klopp. Firmino is everything on the pitch that Klopp is on the touchline. He loves having Bobby in his side and loves him leading the line. Jürgen knows how crucial the Brazilian is to the team’s overall goal return without the need for a stereotypical number nine who shoots for the golden boot, and the cool as ice German has bigger fish to fry when it comes to transfers this summer. The goals are spread around the Liverpool side and as such there’s no dependence on one player. It’s clever and arguably the best way to do things. It’s clear we net enough to challenge for silverware, it’s keeping them out that’s been the issue for too long.
Four Liverpool players hit double figures in all competitions last season; Coutinho with 14, Mane with 13, Firmino with 12 and Divock Origi with 11, with Sturridge and Adam Lallana looking like they could hit that with better luck with injuries.
You don’t always need a 25-goal-a-season man in order to be successful. Everton and Arsenal had that last year and we finished above both. And for those that think Liverpool do, it’s worth remembering that the last time they didn’t have a real talismanic striker they won the European Cup.
I’d like to finish by saying I had the pleasure of meeting the man himself earlier on in the year. When I say I met him, I mean I sat in my van at Speke Retail Park and watched him shopping, a bit like a stalking maniac waiting for my moment. As soon as I seen him heading for the doors of Tessuti I jumped out the van and headed for the same shop. To my delight he stopped and and started peering through the window of the shop next door. This was my moment. “Bobby! Love you lad,” he turned looking startled but nodded at me and said “Thank you”.
It was a glorious time to be alive.
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