Firmino leads Liverpool’s high-tempo title charge

Roberto Firmino during the English Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield stadium. (AP)
Updated 01 November 2019

Firmino leads Liverpool’s high-tempo title charge

  • The 28-year-old has scored just 3 league goals in 10 appearances this season

BIRMINGHAM: Liverpool resume their Premier League title charge at Aston Villa on Saturday with Jurgen Klopp hoping to avoid a repeat of the defensive mayhem that nearly wrecked their dramatic League Cup win against Arsenal.

Klopp played a reserve side for the 4th round tie on Wednesday, featuring a number of emerging stars, and saw them advance via a penalty shoot-out having twice overcome two-goal deficits to draw 5-5 in 90 minutes.

Liverpool conceded as many goals in one cup game as they have all season at Anfield in the Premier League so, while it was a memorable evening, Klopp will be banking on his regular defense returning to their miserly ways at Villa Park.

Klopp’s system is based on defending from the front and launching a devastating press whenever the opposition are in possession.

It is an approach that carried Liverpool to Champions League glory last season and has put them in pole position to win the title this term.

Klopp’s high-tempo game plan also makes the most of the abilities of Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino.

BACKGROUND

Experts describe Firmino as the best player in the world at what he does: Implementing Klopp’s complicated, but hugely successful, tactical, pressing system.

The 28-year-old has scored just 3 league goals in 10 appearances this season, below his normal productivity rate.

While Firmino’s goal record may have come under scrutiny outside Anfield, within the club his status and reputation appears to be rising with every passing month.

Experts have described Firmino as the best player in the world at what he does: Implementing Klopp’s complicated, but hugely successful, tactical, pressing system.

By comparison, Xherdan Shaqiri has been with Liverpool for nearly 18 months and is still not trusted by Klopp, in big games at least, because of his inability to carry out precise and demanding instructions.

The Liverpool manager requires his forward, when out of possession, to constantly close down angles to prevent opposition defenses passing the ball forward.

Many strikers may not have the discipline or worth ethic to carry out those demands, but Firmino and team mates Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane fit Klopp’s identikit striker.

The pressure on Firmino to score goals is far less given the outrageous productivity of his two colleagues.

Salah and Mane both scored 22 goals in the Premier League last season and have five apiece in the league to date — figures that reduce the need on Firmino to score.

Speaking earlier this season about the durability of his three front-line strikers, Klopp did not hold back in talking about Firmino’s worth and durability.

“Hopefully it stays like this, him hardly missing a game,” Klopp said. “He missed a few and that was not too cool, but Bobby — what can I say about him that not everybody knows already?

“He’s an incredibly important player. He enjoys it so much to play in this team, to be really there with all these super guys around him.

“That’s what helps him then, of course: If you have the speed around you, you can be this little cheeky guy in between the lines, being there and scoring the goals. Yeah, he’s a very valuable player for us.”


LIVE: Clash on the Dunes - Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia

Updated 37 min 59 sec ago

LIVE: Clash on the Dunes - Andy Ruiz Jr. vs Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia

  • Full coverage of huge night of boxing - including undercard
  • World heavyweight championship being held in Diriyah, Riyadh

RIYADH: The day has finally arrived - the eyes of the sporting world turn toward Saudi Arabia this evening for the highly anticipated rematch between world heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. and challenger Anthony Joshua who face each other in Diriyah in the ‘Clash on the Dunes’ – the biggest sporting event ever held in the Kingdom, and a night that could rival the historic ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ and ‘Thrilla in Manila’ fights.

Stay tuned throughout the day for Arab News coverage below. (All times KSA)

19:45 - FIGHT ACTION: He's done it! Saudi Arabia's Zuhayr Al-Qahtani dominates in his WBC Middle East title bout with Omar Dusary of Kuwait, who stood his ground through the eight rounds, but was visibly a beaten man by the end. The man from Jeddah takes the plaudits and is being interviewed by Sky Sports in the middle of the ring following his win...

19:00 - Check out this fantastic illustration for Arab News created by the Sporting Press especially for the Clash on the Dunes event...

18:30 - FIGHT ACTION: And the first action of the night is complete! Boxing out of the UAE, Majid Al-Naqbi gets a stoppage in the third round as he overpowers his Georgian rival Ilia Beruashvili in his lightweight contest to move 4-0 in his career. We are officially under way...

17:50 - In case you missed it earlier, Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone is in the Kingdom and he was loving the weigh-in on Friday - he was particularly delighted with Ruiz Jr.'s choice of song for his entrance...

17:20 - There is plenty of boxing action for tonight's card - here is a run down of all the bouts we have to look forward to tonight before the main event...

16:45 - Fans attending the fight might be in for a chilly evening, as the heavens opened briefly earlier and the wind has been picking up...

16:00 - The very impressive Diriyah Arena was put together in less than a month, you can read about it here...

15:15 - There is also a considerable undercard for the Clash on the Dunes event - including Saudi Arabia's own Zuhayr Al-Qahtani who is facing Omar Dusary from Kuwait for the WBC Middle East title, and Arab News caught up with him ahead of his big night...

14:30 - The fans of Joshua were in good voice at the weigh-in, with thousands of British fans in the Kingdom to support their hero, while a vocal crowd of Mexicans and Americans were cheering for Ruiz. The atmosphere in the Diriyah Arena should be electric tonight...

14:15 - It’s not just the boxing world taking an interest in this fight in Saudi Arabia - Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho (known to be a big fan of Anthony Joshua) was asked who he thought would win tonight’s bout ...

13:45 - The boxing world held its breath on Friday night as the two heavyweight rivals faced off at Friday's weigh-in at Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh. See a full gallery from the showdown here...

13: 30 - The excitement is starting to build as we inch closer to the bell going in the Clash on the Dunes later tonight. You can read all this week's build-up to the huge fight in our dedicated Spotlight, highlights of which are below:

Anthony Joshua, Andy Ruiz Jr. weigh in for Clash on the Dunes bout in Diriyah

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua focused on world heavyweight glory as they showcase skills at Riyadh public workout

Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua tour Diriyah stadium ahead of Saudi clash