FIFA World Cup 2018: Roberto Firmino – The Underrated Genius

Roberto Firmino didn’t start a single game at the World cup for Brazil but certainly deserved to start a game for the Brazilians. He is one of the most underrated players in the World and Brazilian coach Tite not giving him a single game even though he has scored a couple of goals, coming on off the bench deep into the game, spoke a lot of what the Liverpool striker is capable of. He brings something completely different to the team and last season at Liverpool he showed us all that he brings to the team.

It is safe to say that he was under the shadow of the incredible achievement of Salah but what people fail to see is that Salah would not have been able to perform that way if he did not have a Firmino alongside him. He provides the likes of Salah and Mane the liberty to express themselves in full flow up front. His contribution to the build-up play is second to none, his unending pressing of the ball, and his brilliant positioning not only in and around the box but also in important midfield positions when needed to that has been pivotal in Liverpool’s attacking prowess last season, something that is expected to improve after the arrival of Keita and Fabinho. His contribution has resulted in Liverpool becoming the second highest scoring English team only behind Manchester City.

Just looking at pure statistics, Roberto Firmino averages 1.8 key passes per game – an outstanding amount considering the fact that Manchester United’s midfield marshal, Paul Pogba averages only 1.5 key passes a game. In fact, Tottenham’s young sensation, Dele Alli averages 2.0 key passes a game despite having more of a role as a playmaker.

In terms of his positioning, it’s clearly evident that he doesn’t position himself as a traditional striker would position themselves. It is almost like he has a free role and most often is seen playing a false nine role like Lionel Messi does for Argentina.

Another fascinating statistic that popped up: Firmino averages 0.2 offsides a game. This is 2.5 times less than Mohamed Salah’s 0.5 offside(s) a game, while Tottenham’s Harry Kane averages 1.1 offsides a game; Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero clocks in 0.7 offsides per game and Manchester United’s Romelo Lukaku averages 0.6 offsides per game.

Another important facet of his game is his incredible defensive capabilities. Liverpool’s high press game starts right from the front with Firmino and Liverpool manager Klopp saying he wished he signs a lifetime contract speaks a lot in itself.

Another one of his multiple outstanding stats is that he averages 1.7 tackles a game.

To give some context, Pogba averages 1.3 tackles a game, and Liverpool’s two centre-backs, Lovren and Van Dijk, average 1.0 and 1.1 tackles a game respectively. That’s right. Firmino makes more tackles than his own club’s central defenders. All of this combined with smart, usually late, but well-timed runs into the box make him a lethal weapon of mass goal scoring for the Reds.

“Bobby” as the Kop call him lovingly, is clearly not the traditional number 9 like that of a Harry Kane and brings something completely different to his team and the combination of his smart runs, superb positioning and relentless pressing makes him one of the best in the World and why Tite hasn’t provided him with the chance of playing a full game is beyond me. He is still clearly highly underrated by the Brazilian manager but is certainly a genius in his own right.

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