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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Liverpool and Roberto Firmino have two different Brazil dilemmas, and the coming weeks are vital

When Liverpool face Watford at the weekend, the continued fallout around Brazil’s international schedule will see Alisson and Fabinho miss the trip. However, one man who will be available for selection is Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool’s No.9 is fighting for his Anfield future, having endured a slow start to the season. Such are his struggles of late, he has not been named in the latest Brazil squad.

Firmino will unquestionably go down as one of the best Liverpool players of the last two decades. In the Jürgen Klopp era, it’s been Firmino that has knitted Liverpool’s attack together better than anyone else.

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané have scored more goals during their time at Liverpool, but the Brazilian has been the brains behind the success of the iconic triumvirate.

Firmino was one of the most complete strikers in the Premier League for a period of time, equally adept at scoring, assisting and diligently carrying out the intensity of pressing that Klopp demands of his forwards.

Firmino has simply been remarkable for Liverpool during his time at the club.

But all good things must come to an end sometime.

And this is what the last year has felt like with Firmino. He’s struggled to recapture the form of two years ago, and at times has looked off the pace and a shadow of the player that beguiled fans.

Of course, players can go through dips in form, it’s happened even to the best of them, but with Firmino it feels like a prolonged drop-off.

Last season, both he and Mané struggled, and Salah was left to carry the burden, and Liverpool have the Egyptian to thank for the club playing Champions League football this season.

Firmino’s record of seven goals and nine assists was a respectable return, albeit a drop-off from his previous figures in the prior three seasons. But Firmino’s game is not one that can merely reduced to numbers; his overall game is important to how Liverpool play, and those elements aren’t quantifiable.

Even so, this season has been a different matter. Firmino’s hardly played.

He was gradually eased back into Premier League life by Klopp after his late arrival back to the club in the aftermath of Brazil’s run to the final of the Copa América. Firmino didn’t play a key role for the Seleção, but Klopp felt it right to introduce him late on in games.

Diogo Jota started ahead of Firmino in the opening two games of the season. Firmino then started in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea before picking up an injury and missing the next two games.

He then came off the bench late in consecutive games against Brentford and Man City, with Jota being preferred again.

In the Champions League tie with Porto, he, again, only got around 20 minutes near the end of the game, but managed to score twice in the 5-0 demolition.

So far, Firmino has managed 147 minutes of football in all competitions. He won’t be adding to that with Brazil, who have opted against calling him up.

That’s why the next few months are crucial for the 30-year-old. Firmino’s contract is rolling into its last 18 months, and with Salah and Mané’s contracts also expiring in the same summer, Liverpool likely won’t renew all three.

Salah’s extension is a priority for the club, given his outstanding form at the beginning of this season. Moreover, Salah’s form has remained consistent since arriving at Anfield, the same of which can’t be said for Firmino.

The general feeling seems to be that at least one of Mané and Firmino will be sold next summer if they produce another sub-par season. Throw in a World Cup in the winter of next year, and the Brazilian has it all to play for.

The run of games leading up to this Christmas will be pivotal for Firmino, to regain his fitness and demonstrate to Klopp that he still has a future at the club beyond 2023. With Liverpool effectively playing every three days for the majority of the next 10 weeks, there will be plenty of opportunities to start and make an impression.

Jota has supplanted Firmino in the starting XI at this stage, with the Portuguese being preferred in the game against Man City a sign that Klopp now arguably sees Jota as the first choice for the central striking position.

It must also be remembered that Firmino is only 30, and only recently reached that milestone. He still has plenty of football years left in him, and perhaps the last 12 months have just been a blip, in what otherwise has been an exemplary run at the club since signing six years ago.

In two months, this article could prove to be entirely redundant, or very prophetic. Only time will tell.

Source

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