In its own way, it was a particularly fitting tribute. Invited to praise Roberto Firmino after scoring two goals and three assists in what was statistically the most productive game of his Liverpool career, Jurgen Klopp instead began speaking about a game in which he had neither scored nor assisted.
And if citing his beloved Brazilian’s performance in last week’s defeat by Manchester United suggested Klopp showed his opposite streak, Firmino has long made contributions his manager appreciates, even if many others fail to notice or appreciate.
Perhaps it was fitting that a single milestone was camouflaged. Firmino scored a century of goals for Liverpool but the most notable stats concerned the team: the 9-0 win over Bournemouth was their joint-biggest win in Premier League history.
Firmino has spent much of his Anfield career in the shadows, willingly sacrificing himself so Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane could be more productive. When Liverpool swept past 800 goals under Jurgen Klopp, they have almost half. Of Firmino’s 100, none came for Brendan Rodgers, 100 for Klopp.
The Senegalese is now gone, but it is noteworthy that three contemporaries are all centurions. As a trio, they stand out in Liverpool’s history: while Steven Gerrard played with Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler, for example, he had scored just 14 goals before his move to Leeds. There was no trio of players with a lot of goals for Bob Paisley or Bill Shankly.
Liverpool have never had an era like the past few years and as Firmino, who will turn 31 in a matter of weeks in the last year of his contract and have lost his status as an automatic choice, draws to a close, he has a special place in Klopp’s heart and his tactics alike.
“We never doubt him,” said Virgil van Dijk. “He showed once again why he is a world-class player.”
But a completely different one. At times he was the accurate non-striker. Liverpool’s biggest false nine was a statistical oddity. They scored 99 points in a season in which he didn’t score a league goal at Anfield until the last home game. His brace against Bournemouth was his first top goal at home since 2020. It underscores his small role last season amid injuries but also his ability to score important goals: he had scored at Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal and Inter Milan.
Scroll back seven years and his breakthrough was at Stamford Bridge, his first goal at the Etihad Stadium and his Anfield account opened against Arsenal. Klopp took charge of a 10th-placed team in the league and with Firmino looking like an underdog and he scored the goal that won the Club World Cup.
In fact, Firmino ousted Daniel Sturridge, but he was the anti-Sturridge. Considering what else he does, it remains remarkable that he scored 27 times in his stunning 2017/18 campaign; he, Salah and Mane finished the season in double digits in the Champions League. And yet there have been droughts: 12 games to start, 15 in early 2021, long Anfield league games.
Although he became the 19th member of the Liverpool Hundred Club, in one respect he only ranks 15th among them. His average of a goal every 3.31 appearances is only better than that of Ian St. John, John Barnes and Gerrard. The Scot was a striker who ended up in midfield; Neither of the Englishmen has ever been a striker. Firmino probably isn’t either, but there’s a comparison to a man he’s twins with: Kevin Keegan, another talisman, also has exactly 100 Liverpool goals and from just eight games fewer, with 323. But 62 from Firminos Inserts were there as a substitute and none by Keegan.
Firmino rarely gives the impression that he cares about his goalscoring record and Klopp can’t be aware of it.
But there are times when Firmino is more drawn to the center circle than the six-yard box. The inverted forward line came courtesy of the man who had inherited the No.9 shirt from Fowler, Fernando Torres and Ian Rush but apparently wanted to be a defensive midfielder, such was his enthusiasm for regaining possession.
He didn’t always behave like a typical striker. In fact, only two of his goals were penalties. That 98 in open play was complemented by 70 assists, 21 for Salah and 17 for Mane, from a player who rarely hit set pieces. Take them into account and it becomes 170 direct goals in 331 games.
And if Firmino’s uniqueness was shown when Liverpool signed a very different long-term successor in Darwin Nunez, his stats illustrate the challenge. In his idiosyncratic way, while happily outplayed by Salah and Mane, Roberto Firmino also won the numbers game.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/roberto-firmino-liverpool-goals-jurgen-klopp-b2154436.html Roberto Firmino is adding to his Liverpool folklore after joining Century Club at Anfield