Roberto Firmino has been at the forefront of Liverpool's sensational attack, complementing the talents of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho perfectly.

By 90Min
December 05, 2017

A far cry from the football of yesteryear, in which 4-4-2 seemed to be the only formation in existence, the modern era has seen an abundance of 'hipster' terminology born into the beautiful game. 

Trequartista. Regista. Raumdeuter. False nine. These are all terms associated with various roles on the field of play, but it is the latter that is most applicable to one of the Premier League's most impressive performers this season: Roberto Firmino. 

Liverpool's flamboyant Brazilian arrived on Merseyside in the summer of 2015 having made his name in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim, and he began his career at Anfield under Brendan Rodgers, who initially played the forward on the wing or in behind Christian Benteke. 

Once Jurgen Klopp had arrived, however, it quickly became apparent that Firmino's role would differ from his previous one under Rodgers. The former Borussia Dortmund manager set about utilizing Firmino in a deep-lying forward role, the 'false nine' role, and just two years since his £29 million move to England we are beginning to see the best football of the 26-year-old's career. 

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In his first full season in red, Firmino scored 11 goals and set up 10 more as Liverpool finished runners up in both the League Cup and the Europa League, impressive statistics for a player who floated all over the pitch without a truly nailed down position. 

In the time since his debut season, however, and as a result of the arrivals of both Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Firmino's game has gone to another level. The Egyptian winger and Senegalese forward could both be deemed 'inverted wingers,' players who hug the touchline but make their runs inside the fullback to put them through on goal and a tactic that would seem easy to defend against in isolation. 

A deep-lying defense surely cuts out the space for those wide players to be effective, right? Well, that's where Firmino's talents come into play. In his role as a 'false nine', the Brazilian starts high up the pitch but drops extremely deep–sometimes well into his own half–to pick up the ball, or just simply to attract a center back with him. 

In doing so, the opposing defenders cannot sit as deep as they please, or they run the risk of the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mane, Salah or Firmino running at them and taking them on, whereas if they commit to following Firmino, space is afforded for Liverpool's wide players to invade. 

The system is certainly bearing fruit for Klopp and Liverpool. Salah is currently the Premier League top scorer with 12 goals in just 15 games, while Firmino has recorded 16 goal involvements in all competitions, that stat made all the more impressive given the fact his heat maps show him being heavily involved in the Reds' defensive duties and pressing. 

The aforementioned quartet has scored 38 goals combined so far this campaign, with the fact that it is merely December making that stat even more eye-catching. 

Of course, Liverpool's attack has so often been compared to a Ferrari, with the defense a Toyota Yaris, but if Klopp manages to sort his back line out in the near future, the Reds will most certainly be one of the most well-balanced and potent sides in Europe. 

It's a shame that the false nine role is rarely used around Europe, although if Liverpool's workmanlike Brazilian forward continues in this vein of form, more managers will surely be looking to employ it given it's obvious effectiveness if played properly. 

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