Watch Jurgen Klopp drops an interesting hint on Roberto Firmino playing a new role for Liverpool next season
The FA Cup game between Liverpool and Cardiff City, which ended with a score of 3-1 for Liverpool, is not one that most people would recall in great detail from last season, but it was one in which Jürgen Klopp tried out a novel strategy.
Roberto Firmino played in a different position for a brief period of time in the previous season because he was frequently injured and playing a limited role even when healthy. However, the position wasn’t entirely foreign to him.
For his former club, Hoffenheim, Firmino was always a number 10, so it would not have been difficult for the astute 30-year-old to adapt when Klopp ordered him to drop a bit deeper once more and play the left-sided number eight position in midfield.
It makes sense to have another creative player in the lineup anyway while playing a weaker opponent, which is why the experiment was conducted against Cardiff rather than, say, Manchester City.
With Luis Dáz looking active in front of him and Diogo Jota and Curtis Jones all excelling on the day, Firmino was able to float around and spray passes, moving the ball into dangerous situations.
Liverpool breezed to a victory at Anfield and advancement into the fifth round of the competition they would go on to win. Cardiff did not pose much of a defensive challenge for him.
However, there are reasons to think that Firmino may perform under slightly more trying conditions, such as against a lower-placed Premier League team. He is, after all, perhaps the Reds’ smartest presser.
Furthermore, having Firmino in midfield is not all that different from converting to a 4-2-3-1 formation and using the Brazilian as the number 10 – a strategy that many people want Liverpool to pursue.
The slight distinction, though, is that you can gain that advantage (of having Firmno deeper, as well as more creativity and not utilizing another midfielder in the role if they need a rest or are ill) without actually changing the formation and running the danger of off-balancing the squad.
Liverpool won’t often do it in a given week. Only 11 minutes into the game against Cardiff did Klopp move Firmino further forward once more, switching Takumi Minamino for James Milner in the process. However, he had also taken on a deeper role in Premier League games with Tottenham and Leicester.
Firmino might play a different role next season, perhaps more regularly than he did this season, even though he might not do it frequently. With four attacking players ahead of him in the pecking order and should he stay healthy for longer, it might just make sense.
Liverpool probably already has a stop-gap midfielder on their books for when they really need one, even though they won’t be adding one this summer.
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