The new Premier League season began with a bang this weekend, as Liverpool opened their 2020/21 campaign with a thrilling 4-3 win against Leeds United on their return to the top table of English football. Despite the victory, though, Saturday’s evening’s clash at Anfield did highlight a growing problem for the Merseysiders.
Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino Issue on Show Against Leeds
Some Attacking Issues to Fix
As the Reds began their inaugural voyage as league champions, they met a ferocious, hungry and driven Marcelo Bielsa side, that but for Rodrigo Moreno’s late flash of naivety, would have taken a well-merited point from Anfield.
Despite Mohamed Salah’s opening day hat-trick, Jurgen Klopp’s men once again seemed almost complacent of their opponents, in the Whites’ first top-flight game in 16 games.
Added to that, Liverpool have not been in the most impressive pre-season form and have begun to ship goals at an alarming rate.
In attack, though their Egyptian king again carried his side on a pedestal to victory, there remain issues, not least at the feet of Roberto Firmino.
Though netting four times against the Whites, Liverpool will unlikely come up against a side that will be more caution-to-the-wind than Leeds were.
For Firmino, when offered a rare sight of goal, the Brazilian’s shooting cross-hairs to goal looked rather squeaky and in need of a distinct oil.
Indeed, the numbers do not lie, with the former Hoffenheim forward having scored just two league goals since mid-January, finding the net only twice in 17 league outings.
With a concerning ratio of less than a goal every eight games, both Salah and Sadio Mane between them have 18 – a combined equation of just over 1:8 to their forward accomplice on Merseyside.
That may not scream panic stations for many Liverpool fans or indeed Klopp, but should the Reds find the goals in short supply from their two wide men, problems could emerge.
Salah may have had his sights well trained against Leeds as the per the norm, but on the opposite flank, Mane, in particular, looked a little out-of-sorts and away from the action.
One of the biggest onuses any Premier League winner must carry is the task of merely improving on a winning formula, at risk of disrupting a carefully assembled equilibrium within the team.
The further problem the champions could be presented with is – as good a player as Firmino is – perhaps the best around in supporting the Reds’ current attack – a greater onus on goals could come later in the season, given the way all the league’s top clubs have strengthened.
Defending the league title has become a tricky assignment, to say the least. Indeed, only Manchester City have done so in the last decade, so when and if push comes to shove, can Firmino be relied upon to bring the spoils this term and not just by way of assists?
With Rhian Brewster set to make a loan move away from the club once more this season, Klopp could be presented with a decidedly difficult problem to remedy as the campaign rolls on.