Roberto Firmino is difficult to put your finger on – which makes him all the more fascinating.
The tricky Brazilian continues to defy most footballing traditions and seemingly the appreciation of backward thinking pundits.
When Liverpool play well it is the likes of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho – more obviously eye-catching in terms of style – who usually garner the most plaudits.
But Firmino is arguably the most vital cog in Jurgen Klopp’s well-oiled machine.
He is the perfect ‘striker’ in the German’s system without actually playing a traditional striker’s role.
Firmino’s relentless pressing and harrying of opposition defenders allows his entire side to push further up the field.
His role is certainly similar to a false nine in the way he drops deep, allowing Mane and Mohamed Salah to come in off either wing.
But the 25-year-old’s pressing in advanced positions means he’s an unconventional hybrid of a few roles moulded into one.
In a way he’s arguably the most stylish unstylish player in the Premier League, adding vital goals and clever assists to his tireless work rate.
That’s because – as much as the phrase is overused – a lot of his most crucial and effective work is genuinely off the ball, making clever darts into space to allow the likes of Mane and Salah more space.
Firmino has certainly been accused of not getting enough goals himself but his contribution to a bristling attacking unit is more subtle than just finding the net.
It is ironic then that the Brazilian swapped number 11 for number nine this summer, adopting the digit sported by the likes of club greats Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler in the past.
Firmino, despite his critics, bagged 11 goals last season in the Premier League last season – a fair return for an non-traditional forward.
But, given the Brazilian has assumed penalty taking duty with James Milner not a regular starter, that total should really rise this season.
In fact if you were to add the seven goals Milner bagged from the spot to Firmino’s league tally last season he would have bagged 18 goals, one more than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
He has three goals and two assists in all competitions so far this season – making him Dream Team’s top points scorer with 41 – which suggests he will improve in both categories across the 2017/18 campaign.
If he can continue at that goalscoring rate and couple that with his indefatigable work off the ball, he could become absolutely priceless.
Firmino’s current form has seen him emerge from the shadow of compatriot Coutinho, which begs the question – are Barcelona going after the wrong Brazilian?
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