Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp appears to have had a change of heart on the make-up of his side’s attack and the significance of Roberto Firmino within his side.
After the Reds confirmed the signing of striker Darwin Nunez - one of Europe's most sought-after strikers – this summer in a deal that could reach £85.5million, it had appeared that the Brazilian’s game-time at Anfield could be limited this campaign.
While Sadio Mane departed Anfield for Bayern Munich and Divock Origi also exited the club, joining Milan, the signing Luis Diaz from Porto in January and Mohamed Salah penning a new deal at Liverpool had appeared to keep Firmino down the pecking order within Klopp’s squad.
There is little doubt that Salah remains the attacking star at the club while the transfer outlay on Nunez demands that he is frequently played and enjoys prominent status within the squad. The big outlay on Diaz, coupled with the Colombian’s stunning form since the switch, has also justified his position in the side.
Diogo Jota is another forward option for Klopp and while the exits of Mane, Origi and Takumi Minamino from Liverpool this summer means that the attacking options at Anfield have been refined, Firmino was thought to be primarily a rotation player this campaign. After all, Firmino featured 20 times in the Premier League last term for the Reds.
However, Firmino started in Liverpool’s opening day draw at Fulham and his absence was felt against Crystal Palace on Monday when Nunez was dismissed and Liverpool’s attack – whilst far from toothless – appeared to lack the smoothness and effectiveness of recent seasons. Klopp gave a positive update on Firmino’s fitness, ahead of facing Manchester United on Monday: “Bobby was not enough in the end but will be fine probably from Wednesday on.”
When speaking about Firmino’s role in the team on Liverpool’s website last week, the German boss analysed as cited by Sports Central: “(It is) Very important. If you take now our last game against Fulham, we didn’t find Bobby properly. There were different reasons, we saw in the analysis a lot; we can speak about it but it was something that had nothing to do with us, to be honest, because the centre was very often blocked. “If you want to watch it back you see it as well, and they were not bad players. That’s why it was a bit difficult for him to get into the game. And we didn’t play well, and that’s always for an offensive player not easy to show up really.
He added: “But apart from that, I don’t obviously judge Bobby because of one game or two games or whatever. Bobby is a fantastic player and had a good pre-season, not a perfect pre-season but a good pre-season and that’s all he needed, that he could have the number of sessions he had and could train as often as he did. He will benefit from that definitely during the season and from there we go.
It appears that the Brazilian is likely to play a key role at Anfield this season, particularly if the club goes deep into cup competitions as it did last campaign. While there had been doubts about Firmino’s future, Klopp appears to have had a change of heart in regards to his role..