With Liverpool down a goal in the second half against Wolverhampton, the decision to remove top scorer Roberto Firmino while leaving on the struggling Daniel Sturridge had some fans scratching their heads. For manager Jürgen Klopp, though, there were bigger considerations than just Saturday’s match at play.
“Even if the game is not going in the direction I want, I cannot ignore how often Roberto played this season,” Klopp noted. “He plays nearly every time and he’s a very, very important player for us. So for me there was no chance to put him through—maybe then we make a draw but have a problem with Roberto.
“We don’t have the number of players in this moment currently of this quality so that was the reason and that’s why we said, ‘okay he starts and then another player can come on.’ It’s been too intense in the last few weeks for him. He’s the one who plays all the time, so that was the reason for the change.”
Firmino is one of three players who has over 1800 league minutes so far this season, along with Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Clyne. Including cup minutes, though, Firmino has played 2,261 minutes so far this season—a game more than any other player at the club has managed.
His importance to Klopp is clear. That he’s starting to show signs of being overworked seems just as clear. Firmino has nine goals and six assists in all competitions, but only three of those goals have come in the last two months. Now he seems almost certain to start again on Tuesday against Chelsea.
And in retrospect, perhaps, it would have been better all around to have not played him at all against Wolves over the weekend, even if at the time few would have expected Liverpool to throw away their chances of FA Cup advancement quite as easily as they did.