Roberto Firmino has been a huge part of the reason for Liverpool’s success, but it looks like his time as Liverpool’s starting striker may need to be at an end.
This is not to say Firmino has not been a great Liverpool player. He was integral to Liverpool’s journeys to the 17/18 and 18/19 Champions League finals. He also led the line in Liverpool’s first-ever title win. However, now, teams are learning to stay deep and not follow Firmino’s runs to pull them out of position.
Add this to his lack of finishing ability and his time at Anfield may be coming to an end. Of course, he has still managed to make contributions. His spectacular assist against Leicester as well as his last-minute winner against Tottenham will be remembered fondly.
However, a lack of a true number 9 has been hurting Liverpool badly in recent weeks. With only one open play goal at Anfield in 2021, they’re in desperate need of a player who can finish the chances they create. Roberto Firmino is simply not that player.
This season, we’re seeing him drastically underperforming his expected goals. According to FBref, The Brazilian has scored only six goals, in comparison to an expected goals ratio in the Premier league of 9.8. The biggest worry, however? That this is a continuation of a pattern. In the previous two seasons to this one, Firmino averaged 13.3 and 13.5 expected goals, scoring 12 in 2018-19 and nine last season.
Now, of course, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have always been able to cover up this lack in goals. However, with Sadio Mane’s form also declining, if not quite in the same vein, Firmino’s lack of contribution in front of goal has become a serious problem.
Diogo Jota’s return will go some way to arresting this issue. However, it won’t fix all the issues Liverpool face. Roberto Firmino has gone from being an integral part of an all-conquering system to a major part of that system’s failings. A lack of a number nine getting close to the box and getting on the end of the balls being fired into the box by Liverpool’s full-backs has blunted Liverpool’s attacks.
This is not of course to say he is useless to Liverpool. Operating behind a traditional striker, or even as an auxiliary striker in a two, he can still be effective. However, at 29 years old, is it too late for a role change?
Firmino is valued by Transfermarkt at €72 million. It’s unlikely that value is going anywhere but down. There have been previous reports of interest from Bayern Munich, and now could be the right time for Firmino to leave Anfield.