Can Roberto Firmino capture enthrall Anfield crowds?
Liverpool fans will be watching the club’s most recent recruit Roberto Firmino, currently on duty with Brazil at the 2015 Copa America, with eager eyes, having seemingly staved-off competition from the likes of bitter rivals Manchester United to land their man.
Reportedly snaffled for around £29m, what can the Reds expect from their newest addition to the Anfield attack? Brendan Rodgers clearly values versatility in his forwards, and Firmino, who is able to operate anywhere across attacking midfield or as a false nine, can certainly provide that. Liverpool (5/2 with Coral for a top four finish) have acquired much more than a luxury utility player, though.
While no slouch when it comes to speed, the nine-capped Brazil international, who has an impressive strike rate of four goals from those games to date, relies much more on his intelligence, movement and tricky feet to take on defences. Following a campaign where Rodgers’ Reds were often painfully predictable going forward, Firmino’s vision and artistry should have fans on their feet, in a similar way to a certain Uruguayan.
Also a hard-worker and never one to shirk a challenge, Firmino’s rise from Brazilian minnows Figueirense to the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, owes as much to an impressive mentality as raw talent, and he can now link up with compatriot Philippe Coutinho on Merseyside, so the Reds will not go wanting for guile.
Though Rodgers has added a new striker in Danny Ings to his roster, and is hoping to welcome back sidelined Daniel Sturridge in the autumn, Firmino has proven he can lead the line in an unorthodox style which will likely appeal to Rodgers’ tinkering tendencies, and will have been snared for his finishing as well as his ability to act as foil and provider.
With the aggression of Ings up top and directness of Jordan Ibe down the wing, plus the thoughtful play of Adam Lallana, Firmino’s flair and explosiveness will complement what now looks to be an attacking force with bite.
Having recently popped up to net the winner that sent the unsettled Samba Boys through to the quarter-finals in the Copa America, Firmino has seamlessly stepped up to be the main threat in superstar Neymar’s absence, despite being widely regarded as being far from his best.
After striking 23 times and providing 22 assists in the Bundesliga over the last two terms, there is little doubt that the Brazilian wizard has a nose for goal and, though the forward will be expected to make an immediate impact, he still has vast potential to improve further.
Liverpool’s transfer activity, while savvy in snapping-up free agents Ings and James Milner plus young defender Joe Gomez, still felt a little lacklustre, reminiscent of last summer’s splurge on quantity rather than quality and potential rather than finished products, still notably failing to replace the stardust provided by Suarez.
Firmino’s thrilling arrival unquestionably alters all that, signalling an abrupt change of tack as the playmaker will, subject to a medical, become the second most expensive signing in the club’s history behind £35m target man Andy Carroll. After a disappointing season, and rumours of yet another star player in Sterling angling for an exit, there is no doubt Liverpool needed this.
So, in a sense, the skilful Samba Boy’s signing is just as vital for the Merseyside men (10/1 to win the FA Cup) off the pitch as well as on it, as a statement to fans, Premier League rivals and future transfer targets, that Anfield has lost none of it’s ambition.
Watch Firmino’s thrilling skills: