Roberto Firmino’s goalscoring form dipped noticeably over the last two seasons, and it created some very lively debate about his place in the Liverpool squad. While many have rightly pointed out that Firmino’s importance can’t be seen by just looking at the scoresheet, a striker who is struggling to score will always create doubts in the minds of some.
Now, having scored six times in eight matches so far this season, including a hat trick against Watford last weekend, Firmino is getting some praise once more. Jürgen Klopp made a point to express how important the Brazilian is to his team, with some mocking of Bobby’s critics thrown in for good measure, in his press conference ahead of today's match against Manchester United.
“Oh, we start talking about Roberto Firmino in detail again?” Klopp joked. “He’s a very important player for us. He’s a connector. He’s the best offensive defender I ever saw in my life, definitely.
“He’s a ball-chaser. He’s incredibly smart with all the things he’s doing. He’s technically on the highest level. He’s able to play in the smallest spaces, the tightest spaces. He can make incredible, good decisions in a really short time, and, on top of that, he scores goals as well.
“That’s why we are all so happy when from time to time he rewards himself with a hat-trick last week or whatever. Everybody in the team loves it because sometimes he is a bit short of getting the praise for the effort he puts in.”
The German manager went on to explain that much of the way Liverpool play is owed to Firmino’s skill set and work ethic, which are unique for a striker.
“The way we play, it’s not impossible without him because we have options again, which is good, but how we started playing, years ago, was because Bobby could play the role he played so he was very, very influential in all the things we did.
“He’s just a brilliant boy and a brilliant player and it’s really a joy to work together with him.”
Klopp also made it quite clear that despite any doubts or criticisms from the outside, Firmino is universally loved and appreciated in the dressing room.
“Everybody loves Bobby. There is no doubt about that, the whole team. How can you not? Even if he wasn’t a nice person, the players would love him because he is doing all the work for them! He helps them a lot.
“Obviously Mo and Sadio love him because he puts them up, passes them the ball to set them up or it’s the second to last pass.
“All the midfielders love him because he is chasing all the opponents and the last line loves him as well because of the same reason. Ali and him are best friends. How can you not love Bobby Firmino? There is no reason for it.”
While the manager knows Firmino’s contributions can’t be measured by the number of goals he scores, he is nevertheless thrilled when Firmino does find the back of the net so he gets a bit of the appreciation he deserves from those outside the dressing room.
“A great guy and when he scores, there’s always an extra little bit of joy because of the discussions. It’s not ridiculous but we never had the discussion about Bobby not scoring enough but you face the questions quite frequently.
“But he wouldn’t play if he wasn’t incredibly important anyway in all these different situations.”