Who knew you could infuse Brazilian samba with German heavy metal? It’s a combination that would make almost anyone with a set of eardrums cringe, but the steady rise of Roberto Firmino for Liverpool and Brazil is testimony to a working hybrid.
Jurgen Klopp’s ‘geggenpressing’ provides the manic tempo and deafening distortion while it’s his rhythmic style of play that stays true to the 26-year-old’s native Maceió, a coastal city famed for its infatuation with the Latin music. Speed, endless energy and creativity are all part of Firmino’s makeup, but it’s what he does off the ball that has turned him into the false nine key to Liverpool’s 4-3-3 formation and a strong candidate for Tite’s final 23 heading to Russia.
Strikers are ultimately judged on the amount of goals they score, and while the star recorded 11 goals and seven assists in 35 Premier League appearances last term, he can be considered an exception. You may want to avoid some of the haircuts he’s sported in the past, but using PlayerTek to emulate Firmino’s traits and tricks isn’t a bad idea.
Klopp’s insistence on ‘geggenpressing’ – hastily winning the ball back high up the pitch and hitting the opponent with a devastatingly swift counter attack – is fast, frenetic and requires a whole lot of fitness. It will come as no surprise to learn that Liverpool topped the tables when it came to distance covered last season.
With defence starting in attack, the Brazilian has to lead the charge as the focal point of offence. You’ll often spot him harassing defenders in possession and chasing loose balls, while also dropping into midfield if the opposition manage to play it out from the back and get further forward.
If you can give the opposition as little time as possible on the ball you’ll reap the rewards, and constant movement will increase the likelihood of a touch-tight defender having a lapse in concentration. Aim to get your distance covered close to the nine-11km Firmino produces, although you may need to work your way up slowly to that target. Improve your threshold each week in training, and you should see the results come the weekend.
Number of sprints
While the traditional false nine may have come back into fashion during Pep Guardiola’s trophy-laden Barcelona of 2010, that hasn’t stopped Klopp creating his very own version. As the central forward, its vital Firmino is constantly darting about. By dropping deep and combining with on-rushing midfielders with the aim of releasing runners out wide, he creates a catch 22 for defenders – do they go with their man and leave a gaping hole at the back open to exploitation or run the risk of giving him time and space to create?
The Brazilian’s movement will mean the wingers will get the opportunity to isolate their marker into a one-v-one situation. Despite previously dropping deep, he then has to make space for other attackers to cut inside with a diverting run or burst into the box as the target for a cross. So what does this require from Firmino? Sprints, and lots of them – he’s often top of Liverpool’s class when it comes to the numbers completed in a game. There wasn’t a fitter team than Liverpool in the Premier League, as in addition to distance covered they also got through the most sprints.
Compare yourself to team-mates in the league section to see if you’re getting the job done, while maintaining high scores is a sign of peak fitness – but remember, the forward doesn’t apply pace for the sake of it, he stays one step ahead of play and chooses the right moment to make his move. You’ll need to be clever with your runs otherwise fatigue will set in, so compare your power outputs to see if you’re putting an even effort into both halves or tailing off as the game progresses.
The underlying theme of both Brazil and Liverpool’s attacking triumvirate is a fleet of foot. To play like Firmino, you’re going to not only cover a lot of ground and go about your business in a hasty fashion, but you’ll also have to do it at high speed.
If you’ve done the hard part and created space in behind as the former Hoffenheim man so often does, you’re going to need to get into the box sharpish to meet the cross or drag markers away – the play won’t wait for you. The star also comes equipped with a box of tricks, but it’s his burst of pace that then leaves defenders eating his dust.
Speed can be a forward’s greatest asset, so record your personal best in training then get into a habit of getting close to it during a full 90 minutes. It won’t be long before you’re robbing the opposition of their dignity.
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