As speculation regarding the future of Raheem Sterling rumbles on, Liverpool fans welcomed Roberto Firmino to Anfield this week.
Firmino, who has been with Dunga’s Brazil side competing in the Copa America, joined Liverpool in a £29 million deal. Aged just 23, Firmino has already picked up nine caps for the Brazilian national team, but is he the answer to Liverpool’s attacking woes?
Firmino joins the club from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, where he has been a consistent threat to opposition defenders for some time. Playing as an attacking midfielder for the German club, Firmino has been a main stay in the team since 2012/13, scoring an impressive 35 league goals. His flamboyant style and hard-working attitude are likely to have caught the eye of Brendan Rodgers, who was on the look-out for a replacement for Manchester City bound Sterling.
He was one of the standout performers in the Bundesliga last season, scoring seven goals and assisting a further 10. When compared to Sterling, Firmino comes out on top, having scored three more assists that the England winger.
However, his tenacity and work-rate are that which really makes him stand out. Last season Firmino averaged a tackle every 33 minutes, and 2.7 tackles a game. Sterling didn’t even come close to matching Firmino’s defensive contributions, with an average of just 1.1 tackles a game. This doggedness is sure to win over much of the Anfield crowd.
However, whilst the stats suggest Firmino could be an upgrade on Sterling, Firmino alone won’t be enough for Liverpool to launch a serious title challenge next season. Since the sale of Suarez, Liverpool have struggled in front of goal. The 101 league goals scored by Liverpool in the 2013/14 Premier League season tells a completely different story to the 52 league goals scored last season. The clubs strikers collected just eight goals in the league last time out, in what was an injury hit, miserable season for the Reds.
Liverpool will be hoping that talisman Daniel Sturridge will be fully fit for the start of the season to fire them into the Champions League places. However, with his injury record last year, there is no guarantee that Sturridge will be able to remain fit throughout the entire season.
A repeat of last season’s poor scoring record will be far from enough to ensure that Liverpool clinch Champions League football, and new signing Firmino is not the natural goalscorer that Liverpool need. A poor conversion rate in front of goal proves this, with the Brazilian mustering just seven goals from 95 shots last season. If Liverpool are to reach the promised land of the Champions League, they need to add to their extremely limited attacking options.
Firmino may be a brilliant attacking midfielder, with a good goal record from midfield and a tenacious attitude which makes him suited to the Premier League, but he is not a finisher.
An out-and-out goalscorer that matches the stature of the club is desperately needed at Anfield, and Firmino is not the answer.