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Roberto Firmino: Liverpool’s irreplaceable forward

Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino is irreplaceable within the club’s front three.

Home and away, Liverpool fans can be heard showing appreciation towards Roberto Firmino each and every week.

“Give the ball to Bobby and he will score” rings out around Anfield and wherever the travelling Kop find themselves, as the number nine is held in high regard by the club’s supporters.

Despite the lyrics, it is easy to downplay the striker’s importance to one of the world’s deadliest attacking trios, with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane stealing the headlines.

Last season, Firmino watched his teammates share the golden boot as the Reds came agonisingly close to lifting the Premier League title.

Taking into account goals scored, the Brazilian’s tally of 12 last season would place him as the least integral of the Liverpool front three.

Firmino transcends that kind of narrow-minded approach though, and those who are unable to see his importance beyond scoring goals need to look a little harder.

There isn’t another number nine in world football that could fulfil his role within the Liverpool attack, and Jurgen Klopp surely wouldn’t consider anyone to replace his talisman.

He presses from the front, hurrying defenders into mistakes ready for his team-mates to pounce whenever an opportunity arises.

Firmino’s work off the ball can often go unnoticed, dropping deep to allow for space in behind and creating chances without even touching the ball.

When the number nine is on the ball though he is still laying on assists, already matching his total of seven from last season after just 25 appearances.

An ever-present in their unbeaten Premier League campaign, his ability to turn defenders inside out is to be marvelled as he possesses all of the tricks in the book, plus more.

It isn’t all about flicks, tricks and no-look finishes though, as his work-rate is rarely rivalled considering his position as a striker.

Given that Firmino has featured in every single league fixture this season, it is hard to comprehend how effective Liverpool would be as an attacking force without him.

While Klopp has battled against a host of injuries, every single replacement that has stepped in has made the transition seamless.

So much so that Joe Gomez is yet to relinquish his place at the heart to the Liverpool defence, while the loss of the influential Fabinho has hardly been felt.

Take Firmino out of the front three though, and the fluidity of their attack is hugely compromised and it is hard to see a replacement filling the void left.

Divock Origi continues to rise to the occasion when called upon, most famously during the incredible Champions League semi-final comeback over Barcelona.

The Belgium international is a huge asset for Klopp, but if Firmino faced a prolonged spell on the sidelines it would be difficult for anyone to argue that the Reds have a ready-made replacement.

The role of a striker is widely considered as the main goal scorer within a team, with forwards such as Sergio Aguero, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane fitting that profile.

Firmino has changed the perception of the number nine shirt though, something that isn’t uncommon within this current Liverpool side.

Take for example Trent Alexander-Arnold, a full-back by trade yet he is the most creative force within a side that are 22 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

For years, full-backs were supposed to shield against marauding wingers while overlapping if and when the opportunity arose in attacking situations.

This Liverpool team have changed that perception though, and Alexander-Arnold has now gained comparisons to one of the best creative midfielders in the world, Kevin De Bruyne.

With that in mind, why should Firmino need to top the goal-scoring charts for the Reds each and every season to be considered integral as a striker?

Why should the Brazilian need to be hitting the back of the net 20 times or more on a regular basis to be thought of as one of the best forwards in the world?

There isn’t another striker out there that would perform the role that Firmino does, and if you offered Klopp his pick of a replacement from any team in the world, he would pass up the opportunity.

In a season where Liverpool have been an unstoppable force, destined to go down as one of the greatest sides in the club’s history, the quality of everyone within the squad has been underlined.

Whether it is Jordan Henderson commanding the respect he finally deserves, Georginio Wijnaldum becoming one of the first names on the team sheet or Gomez forcing Joel Matip to wait in the wings – there is something incredibly special happening at Anfield.

When the plaudits are being handed out once the Premier League trophy is held aloft by this Liverpool team, there ought to be huge consideration for Firmino no matter how many goals he finishes the season with.

Next time you watch the Brazilian in action, look past the number on the back of his shirt and you may finally see how this unorthodox striker is irreplaceable.

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