Us football fans we love a good number nine don’t we. Us Liverpool fans we adore our number nines. From Robbie Fowler to Fernando Torres to Luis Suarez (yes I know he wore the number seven shirt, but he played the number nine role). We’ve been blessed with fantastic strikers down through the years. Currently Liverpool have a decent set of strikers at the club in, Christen Benteke (our current number nine), Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings and Divok Origi. Three out of the four of those will guarantee you double figures when they play continuously in whatever competition we’re in.
But there’s a new boy at the club, a player who’s making a name for him as a FALSE number nine, a position that has been utilised this season against the Premier League big boys and a position that has taken them down. When he first came to the club he came with rave reviews. When Liverpool were linked with him, I was skeptical. Why? Well because Manchester United were also rumoured to be chasing his signature. And after all they could offer him Champions League football this season. The pinnacle of football for every player playing the professional game.
But Liverpool did sign him. And I raised my preverial hat to the transfer committee for sealing his signature. Now, I wasn’t expecting too much from him to be honest in the first half of the season. We all know young players who have come into the Premier League from abroad, will need time to settle. Get used to the league. It’s pace. It’s physicality. It’s ten games in two weeks that occur from time to time. But to see him getting grief from some Liverpool fans, not all over his performances in the first few games of the season was beyond belief. This was a player who likes to play off the striker or play as the FALSE number nine, not a left or right winger as he was being used by the previous manager.
But once he was allowed to play in his natural position, and that only happened for me when the mighty German Jürgen Klopp took over the club, his worth to the team started to come to the fore. All you have to do is look at his performances so far under Klopp. He has came into his own and has settled much quicker than I imagined he would. He has set up chances for those around him. He has shown that he has silky feet and if you get to close to him, you’re liable to be left standing wondering where both he and the ball went. He’s not afraid to get stuck in and defend. He’ll help those around him retain possession. But for me most importantly he has given a boost of confidence to his Brazilian compatriot Phillipe Coutinho. The two of them playing together are a joy to watch. This showed against Manchester City. This player set up two goals and grabbed one himself, his first for Liverpool if I’m not mistaken.
Who am I on about, I’m sure you’ve guessed at this stage. But it’s Roberto Firmino. He came to Liverpool as a bright young Brazilian hope for the future, he’s been put on the same peddistole as Neymar. He’s the future of the Brazilian national team and when he was playing in Germany, he tore the Bundesliga apart on a weekly basis. So you now know why I was skeptical that Liverpool wpupd sign him. And you now know why I was as surprised as I was when he signed for the club.
But he is by no means the finished article. He still has a lot to learn about in football in my opinion. At times, he can frustrate the hell out of me. Being so young he has a bit of maturing to do. At times on the pitch, he goes for the glory goal. The one that will land him all the plaudits, when at times there’s an easier pass on. He runs down the channels blindly and gets himself in to all sorts of bother, when again there’s no need to be doing that. Once his maturity and decision making improves, I know his game will improve and he’s at the right place to do that.
Why? Well look at Jürgen Klopps record at improving young players while he was in Germany. Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan to name but a few Klopp has helped turn into world class players. And at Liverpool I expect him to improve Firmino ten fold. But not just Firmino, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Jordan Ibe, Phillipe Coutinho will all improve under Klopp and will hopefully all go on to become world beaters. The pressure will be on Klopp to keep these players away from the clutches of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or PSG. But if any man can, Jürgen Klopp can and if he does Liverpool and it’s fans is in for an unprecedented period of success. And I for one can’t wait for that to happen.