Written by Andy Jones (@TheRamblingHam)
Jurgen Klopp surprised everyone in the recent fixture against Manchester City when he opted for a 4-2-4 formation.
All the talk prior to the game had been whether the in-form Diogo Jota would start ahead of the ever present Roberto ‘Bobby’ Firmino, and the energetic German surprised us all when he opted for both.
📆 Goals for @LFC in 2020:
🇧🇷 Roberto Firmino
🇵🇹 Diogo Jota
— SPORF (@Sporf) November 3, 2020
Jota puts Bobby under pressure
Firmino has come under a lot of scrutiny this season, with only one goal and two assists in eight Premier League appearances. The ever-present forward has found his place in Klopp’s starting XI under pressure – at least in the eyes of pundits and fans anyway.
Despite calls for the Brazilian to be dropped in favour of new boy Jota, the Liverpool number nine kept his place as the Reds took a vital point away at the Etihad Stadium.
The arrival of Jota has given Klopp a headache though, with the former Wolves forward bursting onto the scene at Anfield – racking up an impressive haul of seven goals in his first 11 games for the club.
Klopp stuck to his guns and refused to drop him, instead, when the teams were announced prior to kick-off, both names appeared on the team sheet.
Bobby dazzler more than just your average number nine
Not your usual number nine, the Brazilian forward was in fact never a striker to begin with.
The Brazilian international arrived from Hoffenheim under the Bredan Rogers administration in 2015 and was considered to be an attacking midfielder who came in off the right flank.
The arrival of Klopp saw a new way of thinking up on Merseyside though, changing the way the club played, the way they trained and the way they think. The Liverpool Boss saw something in his then number 11 and started deploying the former Hoffenheim man as a centre-forward, it changed everything.
‘Bobby’, as he is affectionately known to fans, is not your typical centre-forward, his style of play means he often drifts into the spaces between the opposition’s defence and midfield, pulling defenders out of position creating space for the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to use to devastating effect.
Klopp has spoken of his “embarrassment” at the need to defend his first choice striker in recent weeks, as the vultures appeared to be circling around the 29-year-olds impotent strike rate. But what many people seem to have forgotten, is what ‘Bobby’ actually does when he puts on a red shirt.
His ability to find pockets of space is vital to how Liverpool go about creating their attacks.
As he drops off the front essentially playing as a ‘false 9’, he creates opportunities for Salah and Mane to cut in from the wings, which then releases their marauding full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
So while fans and pundits are salivating over Jota’s incredible form, they may be losing sight on how important Firmino is to Liverpool and the way they play. Yes, he isn’t in his best form, but his value to the team is unquestionable in the eyes of his coach who has described the Brazilian as “incredibly influential”.
Klopp has always stood by Firmino, claiming prior to his side’s Champions League tie with Atalanta last week that Liverpool wouldn’t even be in the Champions League without him, and in truth he is probably right.
Liverpool had to wait 30 years for a league title and when it did finally arrive at Anfield, Firmino was at the heart of it all.
— Goal (@goal) November 3, 2020
So what does Klopp do next?
In a season of extraordinary circumstances nothing seems a certainty, the Premier League has been throwing up some sensational results, not least the humiliating 7-2 defeat at the hands of Grealish et al, and I wouldn’t bet on Firmino to continue his baron run of goalscoring form.
Liverpool have more serious problems in defence, and Klopp may be seeing attack as the best form of defence.
In all likelihood Jota’s prolific form will keep him in the side most weeks, but Klopp now sees an opportunity to drop Firmino into a more traditional number 10 role with Salah leading the line.
The hybrid 4-3-3-/4-2-4 on display in Manchester could well be a system that allows ‘Bobby’ to play in the hole behind Salah where he may face less criticism over his goal scoring prowess.
And with Jota and Mane drifting in from wide, Liverpool’s prolific three may just have become a fantastic four.