Transfers in sports carry with them so much hype and hullabaloo. Where else do we root for and jeer against someone’s new job? Twelve game into the season, it’s not surprising to see the best and worst signings being rated on various media platforms. I saw Roberto Firmino being listed as one of the five worst signings of the summer over here, and whilst I respect the writer’s opinions, I would like to argue why he absolutely doesn’t deserve to be part of this list.
Yes, the arrival of Firmino was met with massive jubilation by the Kop faithful as Liverpool finally had their marquee signing. Moreover, no one expected the Reds to pull off a deal of this magnitude when Manchester United were also interested in the player.
Considering the sum paid for the Brazilian and the hype he arrived with, Firmino should have better numbers to prove his worth. However, there are many reasons for why that hasn’t happened yet.
Brendan Rodgers decided to ease the player into the new league as he arrived late from Copa America. Firmino played 12 and 20 minutes in the first two games. He started in the third game against Arsenal and featured for just over sixty minutes. Not surprisingly, the Brazilian looked extremely impressive and could have had an assist in the game as it was from his low cross that Petr Cech astonishingly saved Christian Benteke’s close range effort. He successfully completed four out of five attempted dribbles in the game, made three tackles and one interception and made three key passes. If we call this his debut game, this was a fine debut performance. Firmino started the next two games against West Ham and Manchester United where Liverpool were at the wrong end of a thrashing. It’s fair to say that he could have made more of an impact in both of these games and helped his side to a win or a draw, but at the same time, it mustn’t be forgotten that these games were at a time where the entire team was struggling and so was the manager.
Firmino got injured after just 18 minutes in the next game against Norwich and missed a month’s action. He returned under new boss Jürgen Klopp and featured as a substitute against Rubin Kazan and Southampton next, where he played 16 and 23 minutes respectively. He started the Capital One Cup game against Bournemouth next and looked mighty impressive in his link up play with Jordon Ibe and Joao Teixeira. The Brazilian’s performance in the game was absolutely delightful, one which convinced many skeptics that there was a reason he was raved about so much in the Bundesliga. The former Hoffenheim player started the next two games and Chelsea and Rubin Kazan, which were in very quick succession and registered an assist in both these games. He was rested against Crystal Palace and came off the bench in the club’s 1-2 loss.
We see that Firmino has played nine times in the league, and started just four games (none of which he has completed). His five substitute appearances have not been for more than 25 minutes on any occasion. While many brilliant players take lesser time than this to get going, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the Brazilian has had a stop-start introduction to life at the Merseyside club and has only really started playing enough in the last two weeks before the international break. Judging by his performances since then, will it really be fair to call him a flop?
The writer stated in his article that he didn’t add Manchester United’s Memphis Depay to the list because the Bundesliga is similar to the Premier League and Firmino should technically be taking lesser time than the Dutchman to get going. He might be partially right but at the same time, it mustn’t be forgotten that Depay had the full pre-season with the Red Devils, and has started eight league matches for the club.
Moreover, a new country, a new league, a new club, already two different managers and style, Firmino also has a lot that can be used for his defence.
Most importantly, it mustn’t be forgotten that Liverpool were playing like an unenergized unit under Brendan Rodgers. They weren’t able to click as a unit and the club was constantly under a cloud of negativity till Klopp’s arrival. With Rodgers’ job hanging by a thread constantly, the fans not being supportive (not that they can be blamed) and the team as one unit lacking purpose, these weren’t the ideal circumstances for a new player to get going too.
To be fair to the writer, he does say that Firmino will get going under Klopp. In my opinion however, the 23-year-old hasn’t been a “flop” to begin with. Firmino averages 3.7 successful dribbles, 2 key passes, 5.2 successful tackles, 2 attempted shots at goal every 90 minutes in the Premier League. He has featured for 363 minutes of the Premier League. Many can thus argue that these statistics may feel heavily amplified because he hasn’t got enough games. This comes down to just 3 minutes more than 4 full games in total (when only counting 90 minutes). Is this enough time to judge?
I can equally ask – isn’t it equally unfair to label a player as a flop?