“Firmino is the most complete striker in the league.”
This is coming from ex-Arsenal legend Thierry Henry, when asked to assessed the league’s strikers. The now Sky Sports pundit went on to further elaborate: “I’m not talking about the best finisher or the best work-rate, I’m talking about all round. The most complete in the league.”
Henry is absolutely spot on with his assessment. While Bobby doesn’t have the goal scoring capabilities of Kane or Salah, he does possess something unique. That would his phenomenal work-rate, where he’ll be leading the press up front. It isn’t common to see a striker work so hard defensively, while contributing significantly in attack. In fact, his goal tally of 26 in all competitions this season is his best ever in a Red shirt. That is why he’s absolutely key to Klopp’s geggenpressing game plan, with the Liverpool boss going as far as to claim that the Brazilian is “world-class everyday”.
This season, we’ve been lucky in the sense that our Bobby Dazzler had been fit for majority of the campaign. However if the unthinkable happens and Firmino is ruled out for an extended period, who could replace him? While Ings and Solanke are okay options, they don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of the opposition.
With this in mind, one would naturally wonder: Is Klopp prepared for the worse? Hence, let us take a look at all the options available.
With Sturridge unlikely to prolong his Anfield stay beyond this summer and question marks over Origi’s future, our only options left in attack are Ings and Solanke. While it’s admirable of Klopp to place much faith in this duo, there is certainly an element of doubt. After all one have just returned after suffering 2 ACL injuries, while the other is a raw youngster.
Delving into the statistics, it doesn’t look promising either. Despite playing a combined 939 minutes, the pair only contributed a paltry 2 goals in all competitions. Comparing the both to Firmino’s defensive contributions makes for even grimmer readings. Ings and Solanke won an average of 0.89 and 0.70 tackles per 90 mins respectively, way short of Firmino’s reading of 1.80. When it comes to creating chances Solanke comes closest to the Brazilian, with 2.11 chances created per 90 mins compared to 1.87.
Overall, the main consensus is that there’s no one good enough at the club to replace Firmino for a sustained period. Ings’ play style may come closest to replicating Firmino’s, but there’s uncertainty over his fitness and availability. With that in mind, Klopp may be forced to consider other options.
With the summer transfer window now open, there is an opportunity for Klopp to add quality to the ranks. Possible recruits include the likes of Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen and Timo Werner of RB Leipzig. Both players are fast, direct and young which fit Klopp’s mould of attackers.
The duo are also having outstanding individual seasons, with the former netting 12 goals in all competitions and the latter 22. Statistically speaking both players are comparable to Firmino, with Brandt creating 2.37 chances per 90 mins and Werner with 0.85. While their work rate needs improvement, with each winning 0.76 and 0.36 tackles per 90 mins, there is still time on their side to work on that aspect of the game.
However, recruiting them isn’t as simple as one might think. For one, Brandt has recently signed a contract extension, ruling out a transfer this summer. Meanwhile, Werner has distanced himself from talks of him leaving Leipzig in the immediate future. And finally there’s the gaffer himself, which sources indicate isn’t likely to buy a striker this summer.
So with Klopp unlikely to spend, the only way left is to look at the Academy. Enter Rhian Brewster.
Fresh off winning the U-17 World Cup and the competition’s Golden Boot, Liverpool’s Academy youngster has been billed as the next big thing. With his obvious talent, there is no reason to believe that he can’t make the step up from U23 to the first team. Already, Klopp has included him for this season’s friendlies, signalling that chances for the youngster will come soon. With a coach willing to give youth a chance, there’s every reason to hope that next season will be Brewster’s breakthrough.
To rely on Firmino for yet another campaign will be a risk too big, especially off the back of a World Cup. Whichever option Klopp employs, fans will be sure that he has thought things through. In Klopp we trust!