Excuses can and have rightfully been made for the Brazillian’s lack of goals in the past. Many were quick to point out the work he does off the ball- initiating the press and linking play. But, what is Roberto Firmino when you strip all of that away? A striker who fails time and time again to produce the goals.
Assurances have often been made that Firmino would never lose what makes him so important to this Liverpool side; he’d never become the thorn in Liverpool’s side, they said. He is the system, they reiterated. Well, the system is now broken, and Liverpool must find a new one before it’s too late.
Time for Liverpool to Be Ruthless Regarding Firmino
From a Liverpool Strength to Their Greatest Weakness
Firmino’s pressing has become insignificant, perhaps even non-existent, his sharpness that of a blunt pencil, his first touch, unlike a silky Brazilian’s. You watch a Liverpool game before coming away, pondering just what Firmino actually does.
Before, his job was there for all to see, and he would complete it almost every game. Liverpool fans knew not to expect goals from Firmino and accepted this because of his work off the ball. Now that is gone, the poor performances to match the lack of goals should no longer be acceptable.
But, this is the first time in Mane’s Liverpool career that he has failed to deliver. He may be on strike one, but Firmino, for the second season running, has looked increasingly off the pace; one more strike, and he could be out.
Jota Must Take Firmino Place at Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp must have realised the drop-off, too, with Diogo Jota arriving in the summer before kicking on immediately- leaving many to question Firmino’s place in the side. And then, as the story of Liverpool’s season goes, injury struck- leaving Klopp with an option of Firmino or Divock Origi.
A few months on from that injury, however, and Jota is back, Liverpool are on their worst run in years; something has to change, and that must be the front three. The clock on Firmino’s starting place was already ticking by but, now that Jota is back, it’s just sped up to a potential breaking point.
And, it shouldn’t be a case of a like for like change, either. Jota must not just walk into the role Firmino was failing to fulfil. Instead, it is time for Liverpool to evolve in the Brazilian’s absence. They must adjust from a false nine to a clinical, out and out striker who will turn the growing number of crosses into goals.
Time to Switch System
At this point in the season, too, they have nothing to lose; they have no choice but to try something different. After all, placed outside of the top six already, things can’t get much worse. So, why not experiment?
Klopp has utilised the tried and trusted 4-3-3 for four successful years, but perhaps it has become predictable and vulnerable in the absence of the system’s spine. With nothing to lose, it could be time to adapt to a 4-2-3-1 in a system that sees the most clinical forward Liverpool have in the best position possible to take a chance.
In a 4-2-3-1, Salah could find himself leading the line, taking advantage of the chances Firmino has so often spurned. Meanwhile, Mane and Jota could play on the wings, and Firmino could find a new role in the side as a number ten.
The point is, all of a sudden, with one formation change, Jurgen Klopp’s options expand immediately, and Liverpool’s predictability lessens.
Either way, whether it be dropping Firmino or changing formation, one thing for sure is the need for change at Liverpool if they are to qualify for Europe. Klopp must bare his ruthless side. So often, we see the smiling, passionate version.
High Line Must Go
Now, Liverpool need a manager with the ruthlessness to guide his side out of a devastating rot. Klopp, himself, must think long and hard about his next tactical move.
The injury excuse is running out. Liverpool have had time to make some tactical adjustment to advocate for the absentees. The high-line, accompanied by slow central defenders, should have been abolished as soon as Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk suffered season-ending injuries.
The worry is that is could be too late; the damage of the stubbornness to stick with a faltering system may have already been done as Liverpool’s chances of European qualification remain slim.
Embed from Getty Images