Liverpool won their 19th league title after an emotional 30-year wait. However, as remarkable as they were last season, their drop off in the Premier League has been unarguably worrisome. Among the many questions that need to be answered in the summer, Roberto Firmino‘s decline is one that needs to be addressed.
Having created an invaluable role for himself in the false 9, Firmino has contributed to Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah’s gargantuan output of goals. However, his own output in goals and assists in conjunction with a work-rate in the final third seems to have reduced.
In this tactical analysis, we look at 3 players that can thrive in Liverpool’s Firmino role. We provide a statistical analysis of players that are similar to him and outline how they would fit into Liverpool’s tactics.
1. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
Despite being a rather expensive replacement, Antoine Griezmann would be an ideal replacement for Firmino offensively and defensively. Through his 19 goals, 7 assists and 1.1 tackles per 90 in all competitions, Griezmann has been at his best when playing either the CAM or CF role for Barcelona.
Having a higher goal conversion per 90 is essential to support an impressive 1.45 key passes per 90. Furthermore, Griezmann’s impeccable dribbling ability could do wonders for Liverpool’s system at the centre of the park.
Despite being 30-years-old, Griezmann – being the final product that he is -could put in 2-3 strong seasons at Liverpool. The Reds may consider a loan option to realistic facilitate the same.
2. Yussuf Poulsen (RB Leipzig)
Yussuf Poulsen has consistently improved under Julien Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig. Having recorded 11 goals and 5 assists across all competitions this season, the 26-year-old Dane is an accomplished false 9 in his own right. Poulsen is, furthermore, 192 cm tall – a trait that matters in a physically demanding Premier League.
The above image shows the statistical similarity between the 2 players. Though there is an uncanny similarity between the dribbling and passing of both players, Poulsen has a higher output in Assists, Goals and the crucial Goal Conversion Percentage.
Currently valued at £25 million, the Danish number 9’s experience in a system-heavy team like Leipzig could ease his transition to Liverpool. And Liverpool’s dealings with Leipzig in the past could serve as a strong starting point to realistically facilitate the deal.
3. Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund)
Borrusia Dortmund‘s Julian Brandt is his team’s most versatile player, having played 7 different positions this season across midfield and attack. And despite not having the most remarkable output in terms of goals and assists, the 24-year-old is a key player for his teams possession chains.
Brandt scores a remarkable 0.55 in xGChainper90 that calculates the value of a player’s role in key possession chains minus key passes and shots. This indicates that Brandt is metronomic and allows the players around him to perform better.
The above comparison highlights the defensive contributions between the 2 players. despite falling short in his Aerial Duels per 90, Brandt outperforms Firmino in the volume and quality of Duels per 90.
As a result, his higher output in successful defensive actions is truly befitting of a false 9 in Liverpool’s system.