Roberto Firmino came to Liverpool as a supporting act. Seven months later he’s arguably their leading man.
- Name: Roberto Firmino
- Position: Midfielder
- Fantasy Price: £10.8m (PlayON), £8.1m (FPL)
- Starts: 18
- Goals: 7
- Assists: 7
The look of joy plastered on Roberto Firmino’s face as he cradled the ball under his shirt like an expectant mother was the polar opposite of the grimace of the man he had just beaten – Joe Hart. As if his goal, Liverpool’s third of the night, wasn’t enough to rub salt into City wounds, the Brazilian’s sleight of hand in his celebration ended up making the England number one look like the uninformed stooge in a street magic trick.
Joe Hart shouldn’t feel aggrieved though, Firmino is forming a habit of making keepers look foolish.
His goal against City was the Brazilian’s seventh of the league campaign and he looked perfectly at ease being the primary attacking threat of a Liverpool team shorn of the service of Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. It’s no surprise that the winger-cum-forward has flourished under Jurgen Klopp, his work rate is unquestionable and his technical ability is far more adept than he’s given credit for.
Unlike the more privileged upbringing of his comrade, Phillipe Coutinho, Firmino has come up the hard way. The 24 year old’s origins took place in the northern city of Maceio where he’d sell water bottles from a cart outside football and concert venues to contribute financially to the family home. Then, after just two years with Brazilian yo-yo side, Figueirense, Europe came a calling.
23 goals and 21 assists across his last two seasons in Germany convinced Liverpool to stump up nearly £30 million pounds for his services and now he’s starting to hit that kind of form in the Premier League.
Over the past four Gameweeks, Firmino has contributed two goals and three assists from midfield, beating the likes of Mahrez, Payet and Ozil – each with two assists – in that time for creative production. Admittedly, this has come from fewer chances created on his part, with Liverpool’s no. 11 forging just seven goalscoring opportunities in total.
For comparisons sake, Dmitri Payet created double that amount in the same timeframe. Still, it’s clear that the division of labour at Liverpool – especially when Coutinho is on the field – means that Firmino isn’t often presented with as much time on the ball as he was against City in Gameweek 28.
Our understanding is improving and I am learning more and more about the way he likes to play, as well as his movement off the ball – Coutinho on Firmino, in an interview to World Soccer
In fantasy terms, one thing that makes Firmino such an advantageous selection is his position – or lack thereof. In both PlayON and regular FPL, the ex-Hoffenheim man is defined as a midfield player. However, in the intermittent absences of Daniel Sturridge, Klopp has used Firmino as a kind of false nine on at least nine occasions. In all competitions, Firmino has scored six goals from this role. On those occasions, having Firmino in your fantasy line-up is akin to having a extra striker on the field.
With veritable bogey side Crystal Palace and old rivals Chelsea on the horizon over the coming two fixtures, it’s difficult to exactly gauge Liverpool’s chances. Palace are scoring again, but conceding at an equal rate, so Firmino could be a canny acquisition for the 76% of fantasy managers in both FPL and PlayON who don’t boast the Brazilian in their line-ups.
It’s worth bearing in mind however, that Liverpool will skip regular Gameweek 30, so for some, as an FPL squad member, Firmino might not make immediate sense.
With two wins on the bounce, Liverpool are certainly on the up and looked formidable in both of their recent games against Manchester City. The likes of Lallana and Milner may now be supplementing Firmino’s goal threat, but the dream attacking trident of Firmino, Coutinho and Sturridge remains elusive combination on the field.
Liverpool aren’t out of the running for a late assault on fourth place, Klopp will play down their chances, but in Europe and across their remaining ten Premier League games, this particular Brazilian could be talismanic.