Liverpool fans were thrilled this summer when the club signed Brazilian Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim. Seen as a strong and much-needed addition to the team's attack, Firmino has shown his brilliance in some games while going missing in others. As the season has worn on and injuries have decimated Liverpool's squad, and in particular their options up front, Firmino has become an integral part of the team's set up.
Against Arsenal on Wednesday, playing in the 'false nine' position, he added two goals to his tally, the second of which was a stunning effort that got Liverpool hearts racing. Though Liverpool only went on to draw the game, supporters will have been excited by Firmino's excellent performance, while hoping that this isn't another false dawn in the player's development with the team.
Speaking of the crafty Brazilian, Klopp, who has not been shy about praising the player in the past, discussed his recent performances:
"Everybody needs time, Roberto needs time, of course. He’s settling in better and better.
"Then he had to play very often but too intensive, that’s the problem because sometimes we couldn’t change when we wanted but now he is in a good moment.
"He was at Stoke [in the Capital One Cup] in a really good moment, so it’s not [that he only performs] against big teams, for sure not.
"I like these matches when a player shows ‘I don’t care who the opponent is’. When a player shows what he is capable of and able to do in these games.
"He’s young enough to do much better and to do it much more often. That’s the job we have to do, all of us."
He'll be hoping that Firmino's "good moment" continues when the Reds take on rivals Manchester United at Anfield. A victory on Sunday would go a long way towards bringing the team back on track. They currently sit only five points off of fourth place, and if the stars align, a win could propel them as high up as sixth place.
The reintroduction of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, and Jordon Ibe into the side should also help take some of the pressure off of Firmino as he learns how to operate as the attacking focus of the team. With strikers Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings, and Divock Origi still out injured, Klopp has chosen to start Firmino as a striker over the struggling Christian Benteke. Though he does have experience in this role, it's not his natural position, and an adjustment period is understandable.
Klopp seems aware of this, and in speaking about Firmino's improvement, he said:
"Now he has a lot of information for himself. How he should react in this position, what he has to do when he has to be in the box, when he has to not be in the box, when he has to come and play with us and when he has to push the last line back, things like this.
"It’s not a position he has played 500 times, so it's all about learning. The problem is that we have very important tests and if we did not make enough improvements then everybody says ‘you didn’t work’ but that’s not true.
"We are always working on it but it’s not enough time between games to see the big steps."
In a perfect world, Daniel Sturridge would string together an uninterrupted run of games, or Divock Origi would come back and continue on in the good form he had going before his injury, or Philippe Coutinho would return to the side firing on all cylinders, or Klopp would find a way to integrate Christian Benteke's style of play into the side, or hey - dream big - maybe all four of these things at once. This season has shown that Liverpool do not live in a perfect world, though, but a good manager and an adaptable set of players find ways to be flexible and make the best out of a difficult situation.
With any luck, this new formation will continue to yield positive results for the team. The real test will be the match this weekend, because emotions always run high when Manchester United come calling. Having a striker who just scored a brace against the league leaders should be a confidence boost that will hopefully help them see out the game and get some real momentum going.