There’s something that the Kop want you to know,
The best in the world his name is Bobby Firmino,
Our number nine
Give him the ball and he’ll score every time
Give the ball to Bobby and he will score
Lovingly nicknamed Bobby by the Kop, Roberto Firmino has managed to garner the respect and affection of The Kop and always loves to hear this chant as soon as he scores one of his distinctive goals.
Unlike his counterparts in the forward line, Firmino may not always enjoy the limelight. However, he plays a valuable role in ensuring that Liverpool’s free-flowing football generates many goals.
Often referred to as ‘the engine’ by his manager Jurgen Klopp, Firmino is the man at the helm of the attack, building things up and putting them together to propel the club’s attacking system.
Firmino’s top-flight journey started with the Bundesliga club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Firmino signed for Hoffenheim in December of 2010 and arrived at the club when the winter transfer market opened on January 1st, 2011. He signed a four and a half year contract which ran until June 2015. Upon his arrival, the then manager of Hoffenheim, Ernst Tanner mentioned that he was ‘pleased to have acquired a Brazillian Talent’, which was true in many ways. But Firmino’s false 9 talents hadn’t been discovered then, as he played as an attacking midfielder during his days at the Bundesliga outfit.
He made his Bundesliga debut against Mainz a month after his arrival, coming on as a sub in the 75th minute. Firmino managed to get his first goal for the club on the 16th of April of that year, the only goal in the club’s victory against Eintracht Frankfurt. Firmino scored a total of 3 goals that season. In 2011-12, Firmino slowly picked up the pace for the Bundesliga outfit, as he scored 6 goals that season, most of which were the goals that sealed the game for his club. He scored another 7 goals in 36 appearances in the subsequent season. Firmino really picked up the speed in the 2013-14 season. In this season he scored 22 goals across all competitions for Hoffenheim and he finished that season as the joint 4th highest top scorer in the Bundesliga. On the 27th of March 2014, Firmino extended his contract with the club for another 3 years. In the 14-15 season, Firmino scored just 10 goals, but this was soon to be his last season for the club, as when he was away with his International Team for the Copa America Cup, Liverpool and Hoffenheim agreed a £29 million deal to sign Firmino upon the conclusion of the tournament. The deal was officially finalized on the 4th of July 2015. Firmino was now a Red, a new phase of his career had began.
The Roberto Firmino way:
Firmino is not your regular striker, he tends to play in the false 9 position in the Liverpool front three, disrupting the opposition defensive lines and creating spaces for his team’s wingers to cut inside and score. He has developed into one the world’s best in that position at Liverpool, and he has one man to thank, his gaffer, Jurgen Klopp. But this was not how it started for him, initially the fans questioned his signing, as he was not perceived as being of ‘top-4 quality’. Initially, Klopp had difficulty finding the best role for the Brazillian, and with the fans unhappy with the lack of immediate returns in the form of goals and assists, it started out rather bad for Bobby. But he slowly started to prove them wrong, finding his position at the tip of the attack. Firmino slowly but surely started showing his quality.
As the seasons progressed, and with the Manager getting some new signings to play the style of football that he loves, Firmino has managed to find his perfect role in the Liverpool team – the false 9 position. This is where he flourishes, helping building play up, disrupting defensive lines, making spaces for his wingers only to link up with them again and set up or score a goal, Firmino does it all. But that’s not his only role in the team.
The Work Rate:
Jurgen Klopp loved the gegenpressing style of football. Also called counter-pressing, in this style of play, the team that loses possession instantly presses the opposition in an organized format and tries to hunt them down and win possession back as fast as possible. This style prevents the opposition from counter-attacking quickly after winning the ball and also helps in gaining the possession back almost immediately. The counter-pressing also helps the team to build their attack from an advanced position and build it up while the opposition defense is distorted. Firmino has been the ideal man upfront for Klopp to proceed with this style of play. Firmino, as referred to by the ‘Ultimate Pressing Machine’ by Martin Tyler, is the man up-front, leading the high press against oppositions and looking to gain the ball back. Another brilliant aspect of Firmino’s work rate is his ability to track back, Firmino is often seen tracking back during the transition to defense to help his team out and have an extra man to defend. This helps the team to maintain a solid defensive structure in the times where they cannot press and have to solidly hold their positions. Most strikers aren’t known for their work rate, they are more goals and positioning focused. But Firmino has shown that he can be a striker in his own way as alongside his defensive and pressing duties, Firmino also manages to get his fair share of goals in the season.
Dropping deep to create spaces:
Another excellent facet of Firmino is his ability to create spaces. During the attacking transition, Firmino drops into the midfield to receive a pass from his teammate. As the attacker has dropped inward, the defender marking him has 2 options, either to break the defensive line and mark Firmino and try to dispossess him, or maintain the defensive line and allow Firmino all the space that he needs to decide what to do next, either slot a pass through the defensive line or take a shot from distance. This creates headaches for defenders trying to mark him and often leads to a 1v2 against the defender if Firmino pairs up with either one of the wingers or one of the midfielders.
Finding space in the box and heading ability:
As any striker is supposed to, Firmino is also able to find empty spaces inside the opposition box and apply the striker’s instinct. For Firmino it may be an acquired attribute instead of pure talent, but he has acquired it well. Firmino has proven to be excellent at finding spaces inside the box when he has to stop being a false 9 and be a real striker. Scoring close-range tap-ins and headers are more of a second nature to him now.
With being a striker, one has to deal with the expectation of being good in the air and using those neck muscles and Firmino has proved that he has the knack for that too. Firmino has scored some brilliant headed goals all across his career and there is no doubt that he can be a lethal striker if the team demands it from him.
Holding on to the ball:
Another excellent aspect of Firmino’s game is his ball holding ability. Firmino can and will hold up the ball in the middle of the park, this helps his teammates create opportunities by running in behind the defense or into empty spaces. Firmino, with his ‘pass-master’ ability, is able to find his teammates beyond the defensive line leading to some brilliant looking goals.
Being an exceptional goal-scorer:
If the Champions League Winner’s career is anything to go by, Firmino is a brilliant goal scorer. When the job demands, Firmino is able to garner up some brilliant finishes of all types, ranging from volleys to half volleys, tap-ins, headers, penalties, freekicks, and his trademark, the no-look finish.
With the ability on field, Firmino also has the stats to back him, as his excellent goal-scoring form helped Liverpool reach back to back finals and win one of those. He scored 7 goals in the Champions League in the 2017-18 season and 4 goals in the Champions League winning 18-19 season. His goal scoring form this season has also been impressive as he emerged as Liverpool’s third-best goal scorer in the Premier League with 8 goals.
Rounding it all up:
We have all seen him in action. The Kop know that he is their best player given any day. And the manager? Well, he is delighted, as Klopp has said in an interview- “Everyone always talks about the goals of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, but for me, Firmino is the MVP of the team. How he finds gaps and works backwards – that’s the perfect fit”.
Firmino is definitely one the world’s best False 9’s and if you ask any of the Merseyside faithful or an educated football fan, they will tell you the exact same thing.
Give the ball to Bobby and he will score.