Is Roberto Firmino the best striker in the Premier League outside of Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero? Some would argue he’s not a striker at all, but that’s exactly what makes the Brazil international so effective in his unique role for Liverpool; part centre-forward, part playmaker, he prioritises industriousness off the ball and bringing others into the game as much as finding the net himself.
Indeed, Jurgen Klopp’s system and preference for prolific wingers renders the centre-forward position a rather unorthodox challenge, but one that plays itself to Firmino’s strengths as a nomadic and versatile attacker with an impressive all-round game.
That was evident once again on Sunday as Liverpool strolled to a comfortable win over Southampton at St. Mary’s. Although Saints hardly provided the Reds a compromising challenge, that shouldn’t take away from another display that combined Firmino’s ability to create, to apply pressure when out of possession and to get on the scoresheet.
In fact, it took just six minutes for the 18-cap international to find the net, converting Mohamed Salah’s square pass with a composed and calculated finish beyond Alex McCarthy. And just before half-time, Firmino turned provider – his backheel putting the ball perfectly into the path of the Egypt international, who slotted home the final goal of the afternoon.
But equally impressive was the fact that, amid scoring one goal and supplying another, Firmino made the most tackles of any player on the pitch – a whopping four.
Whether Firmino would be as effective as a centre-forward at another top Premier League club remains a subject of debate – it’s certainly true that Klopp’s emphasis on wide forward appeals to his rather unorthodox game. But the question can be applied in reverse as well; is there another Premier League striker who would do as good a job as Firmino in pressing off the ball, scoring goals and bringing the likes of Salah and Sadio Mane into the game at Liverpool?
The list of plausible alternatives certainly isn’t long, because Firmino is one of the world’s best at what he does.