Questions and Answers with Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.
Liverpool’s Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino believes his team will go into the new campaign quietly confident of making a bigger impact on the title race after breaking back into the top four last season.
Firmino – who scored 12 goals from 41 appearances last year believes continuity and stability can be the basis for a real go at the title in 2017-18.
Q: What are your ambitions for the season, both for yourself and for the club?
A: “It’s pretty clear, Liverpool must at least repeat our performance of last year by finishing in the top four – and then fight for the title. The team is also very motivated by being back in the Champions League. I am very ambitious and my target is to finish in the best possible position.”
Q: You mentioned the title there. Everyone knows that it has been a long, long time – all the way back to 1990 – since Liverpool were champions.
A: “Look, I would say that Liverpool has a chance of winning the title because this year the Premier League is a very open competition.”
Q: But so many times in the past Liverpool’s challenge has died away after a promising start. What’s the key to staying in the race until the end?
A: “It’s not a complicated formula – the key to success is to be very strong at home and make sure that Anfield is an impossible place to win for any club that visits. That’s the starting point.”
Q: As you say, there’s a lot of clubs in the race this year. But which team do you think will be your biggest rival?
A: “Chelsea is the champion, so you have to start there and say they are the main rival. But you can never forget United, City and Spurs. For me, at the moment there doesn’t exist an out-and-out favourite. That’s what makes the season exciting.”
Q: Is there five or six teams that can realistically challenge?
A: “I am totally convinced that this season will be very hard for every team in the race and closer – and more even – than ever before in the past. All the squads have improved and as I said there isn’t one single ‘super team’. Everybody will believe they have a chance.”
Q: Manchester City have spent a lot of money in the transfer market, will that make them more dangerous this year?
A: “Manchester City have been champions before and it’s logical that they want it back. But I have to say that money doesn’t guarantee victory.”
Q: So what about Manchester United? The arrival of Romelu Lukaku from Everton has created a lot of interest at Old Trafford and everyone knows the impact of Jose Mourinho.
A: “All I can say is that United is a club with so much history and one that you always think has a chance in the title race. And they have a coach who demands absolutely everything from his players. You put those together and you have to say they are one of the favourites.”
Q: That’s not easy for a Liverpool man to say. So, what about your derby rivals Everton. There seems to be a new dawn at Goodison – they are building a new stadium, bringing in new players and have Wayne Rooney on board?
A: “Everton look like they are preparing a good team and certainly Rooney could be a reference point on the pitch for them. The derby against them is special but I still say the match which is most eagerly awaited by supporters and players is Manchester United.”
Q: We haven’t really mentioned Tottenham.
A: “It’s true they haven’t bought yet but they have kept their key players and that’s very important in football. They will still be strong.”
Q: And Arsenal? Alexandre Lacazette has arrived – but is that enough to move them back into the top four?
A: “Arsenal didn’t finish in the top four last year and it’s going to be a great challenge for them. Lacazette is a player with a big future and he scores a lot of goals – but the key will be how quickly he adapts to the style of the Premier League.”
Q: We have to finish by asking about Liverpool. New players have arrived – Mo Salah looks like he has settled in quickly – and your manager is as inspiring as ever. How confident are you that the team will be even better this year than last year?
A: “In football nothing is assured. The good news is that we have the same coach as last year, we are a settled group and we are working hard together to achieve success. That’s very positive in comparison with clubs which have changed their manager or changed a lot of players. We hope to do well.”