Jamie Carragher has warned Roberto Firmino he needs to up his game if he is to keep his place ahead of new signing Diogo Jota, but is confident Jurgen Kloppp will start the Brazil international against Manchester City on Sunday.
Firmino played a pivotal role in Liverpool’s Champions League winning campaign two season ago and, despite his lack of goals, was a vital cog in the relentless winning machine which dominated the Premier League last term.
Klopp reinvigorated his forward line in January with the addition of Takumi Minamino, but while the former RB Salzburg star has made a slow start to his Anfield career, Liverpool’s most expensive summer recruit, Jota, has hit the ground running.
The Portugal international, a £45million purchase from Wolves, has scored seven times already for his new club, including decisive goals in the recent Premier League wins over West Ham and Sheffield United.
Jota further enhanced his claims for a regular starting place with a hat-trick in the crushing 5-0 victory over Atalanta in midweek, but while his form in front of goal contrasts markedly to that of Firmino’s, Carragher believes Klopp will stick by his trusted No.9 for the time being.
In his column with the Daily Telegraph, Carragher wrote: ‘I will be surprised if Roberto Firmino does not start for Liverpool against Manchester City this weekend. Firmino’s return will be tactical, not controversial. He is always going to be at his most effective against a side like City.
‘Liverpool and Firmino’s most impressive Premier League performances this season were against Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. Why? Because Liverpool excel playing teams that attempt to play from the back and Firmino is Klopp’s main disruptor – the first point of the high press. No Premier League player won possession more than him last season, Firmino doing so on 37 occasions
‘Changing that formula against a team of City’s style would go against what has worked brilliantly throughout Klopp’s tenure, Firmino tasked with denying space for centre-backs or deep midfielders trying to play from back to front.
The former Liverpool centre-half, however, concedes that Firmino cannot rely on his defensive attributes if he is to maintain his place in Klopp’s starting XI on a regular basis.
He added: ‘Firmino needs to step it up. In the seven league games so far, the concern for him and his manager is he is currently well short of his previous possession-winning numbers. He has only won the ball twice in the final third this season. Mane (9) and Salah (7) have eclipsed him in that area as much as their goalscoring.
‘The early signs are that over the course of the next few years Jota can replicate what Firmino does so well off the ball, working tirelessly on behalf of the team to win it back, while contributing more goals. He has already scored more for Liverpool than Firmino across the whole of 2020.’