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Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke

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On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Liverpool

Liverpool missing out on Yerry Mina looks a mistake after World Cup showing

Liverpool had been linked with a loan move for Mina but he looks set for Real Betis.

Mathew Nash

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Earlier this summer Liverpool were linked with the loan move of Barcelona defender Yerry Mina. Back in May, it seemed as though he was definitely Anfield bound. As reported by talkSPORT, a TV presenter in Spain had suggested his loan move to Liverpool for the season was done.

That, of course, did not prove to be the case. Now, it is suggested the Liverpool target is going elsewhere. The Colombian is, according to reports, off to Real Betis. As reported by El Desmarque, the La Liga side are on the cusp of completing a loan deal for the player which will include an option to buy at the end of the season.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Based on the evidence of last night at the World Cup, Liverpool are definitely missing out.

Mina, who cost Barca £10.5 million in January, put in a fantastic display for Colombia against Poland in Russia yesterday. Brought in to replace Valencia’s Jeison Murillo the youngster formed a fantastic partnership with Tottenham Hotspur youngster Davinson Sanchez at the heart of defence for Colombia.

Fast, strong and imposing in the air the 23-year-old looked every inch the Premier League defender.

He even found his way onto the scoresheet. He excellently nodded home James Rodriguez’s beautiful lofted cross to give Colombia the lead.

What Liverpool fans saw was the perfect option to provide a challenge to Dejan Lovren for the partnership with Virgil van Dijk. Unfortunately, it seems he will be heading elsewhere.

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Fans still divided on Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson despite excellent England showing

Jordan Henderson was excellent for England again but the Liverpool man struggles to win over fans.

Mathew Nash

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There are always players among the England national team that seem to divide opinion. Right now, Jordan Henderson appears to be that player. The Liverpool captain is continuously criticised for his performances by fans of both England and Liverpool.

The main criticism is that Henderson is too negative. He is always looking to play the ball backwards or sideways and never forward. Henderson is limited in ability, negative in style and a waste of a shirt number. That is often the criticism.

Others completely disagree. Henderson is the pendulum of the Liverpool and England team. He sets a tempo from midfield and is always available as an out ball. He does play forward passes, often in behind defences to test them and move territory into the opposition third.

These are the fans who believe Henderson has come on leaps and bounds under Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage at Liverpool.

(Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Based on his form so far at the World Cup, those people are right. Henderson was brilliant against Tunisia in the opening game. He was even better today, as England swept aside Panama 6-1.

Henderson put in a fantastic display for 90 minutes, covering more ground than any other player in sizzling heat. He was often positive in his passing and showed his natural leadership qualities, even if Harry Kane wears the armband.

But once again, fans are divided. It seems Henderson may always be ‘that’ player for England. The easy one to blame, the scapegoat.

Unless he can carry on his excellent form and bring ‘it’ home. Then fans will have to love the Liverpool star…

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Liverpool should be glad to have missed out on goalkeeper Andriy Lunin

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Photo: Getty Images.

After Champions League final calamity, the general consensus seemed to be that Liverpool would target a goalkeeper as one of their top priorities this summer. To date, that has not proven to be the case.

The Mirror say that the Reds made a last ditch attempt to sign 19-year-old Andriy Lunin from Zorya Luhansk, only for the Ukrainian international to instead go ahead and join, of all people, the side who so cruelly highlighted Lorius Karius’ weaknesses in the Champions League final in Kiev – Real Madrid.

Liverpool fans may be left cursing their luck at missing out on a target, but they should be seeing the missed opportunity as a blessing in disguise.

There can be no doubt that Lunin is a talented player. After all, an international with two years of first team experience yet to celebrate his 20th birthday is a rare find.

A dominant presence in the box and accomplished with the ball at his feet, Lunin has many attributes to become one of the best around in only a short while.

(Photo credit should read ROBERT HENRIKSSON/AFP/Getty Images)

But the truth is that Liverpool need an improvement in goal immediately. Lunin lacks the experience or the quality to do that, so it is hard to see what role he would have if he had moved to Anfield this summer.

One option is that he would have served as back-up, potentially replacing Simon Mignolet, and playing cup competitions whilst Loris Karius remains number one until Lunin is ready. Whilst a nice idea, it does not resolve a problem position for at least another two to three seasons and Karius’ Liverpool career could be in a vastly different position in that time.

Equally, with Karius, Mignolet, Danny Ward and even Adam Bogdan all under contract, it is hard to imagine that the Reds would bring Lunin in alongside another goalkeeper to act as a new number one. If so, it would be some substantial turnaround, the kind that Jurgen Klopp has been keen to avoid.

Now, Liverpool fans may feel disappointed to have missed out, but if it brings a stark improvement in goal come the end of the transfer window in August, it could well be worth the wait.

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