Firmino could be improvement on Sterling

Date published: Friday 26th June 2015 12:49

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The deal is done. Roberto Firmino will become a Liverpool player this summer in a deal worth an initial £21million, which could see Raheem Sterling sold to Manchester City if they meet his £50million asking price.

WhoScored.com provide the lowdown on the playmaker, heavily linked with a move to Manchester United earlier in the summer, but now set for a transfer to Anfield.

Excited Liverpool fans will be able to watch the 23-year old this weekend as Brazil look to book a place in the final four of Copa America 2015 when they face Paraguay on Saturday night.

While the Selecao have disappointed so far, their progress to the quarter-finals owes much to Firmino, whose goal against Venezuela in the final match of group C proved decisive in avoiding humiliating exit from yet another major international competition.

In the absence of the suspended Neymar it’s likely to be up to the youngster, who only received a first international call-up after Brazil’s unforgettable World Cup exit, to lead the line.

While he hasn’t truly hit his stride in Chile to date, Bundesliga fans would suggest that Firmino was deserving of a chance at international level long before he made his debut last year.

Indeed, Firmino has been a consistent threat in the Bundesliga for some time now and had another superb season in 2014-15. The Hoffenheim man scored seven goals and racked up 10 assists, with only two players able to better his tally in terms of the latter in Germany’s top flight.

Elsewhere, only Leverkusen’s Karim Bellarabi completed more successful dribbles in the Bundesliga (139), and Firmino’s ability to glide past onrushing defenders, finding pockets of space between an opposition’s midfield and defence, would certainly make up for any potential sale of Sterling.

Ranking among the top 10 players for both shots and key passes in Germany last season, it’s clear that Firmino is the complete package in an attacking sense.

The attraction does not end there – his work ethic also proved crucial to a Hoffenheim side that don’t always see a great deal of the ball. With Liverpool working at their very best in the 2013-14 campaign with a high-pressing approach, Firmino could help to replace the sort of tenacious defensive work from the front that they have lacked since the departure of Luis Suarez.

Having won possession in the attacking third 28 times last season, Firmino ranked second in the Bundesliga – and an average of 2.7 tackles per game would have been enough to place him fourth at Liverpool.

With a modest average of just 1.1 tackles per game in comparison, Sterling doesn’t come close to replicating the Brazilian’s defensive contribution, which – along with dribbling and throughballs – is a statistical strength of Firmino, according to WhoScored.com.

Liverpool return to the Europa League next season and Firmino’s ability to unlock defences is just one of the reasons why the Reds are amongst the favourites to win the competition.

Interestingly if there was one weakness to Firmino’s game it perhaps mirrors that of Sterling: finishing. Both players scored a respectable tally of seven league goals last season but took plenty of shots at goal to reach that figure – Firmino mustering 95 shots to Sterling’s 84 – and composure in front of goal is an area for improvement for both players.

A conversion rate of just 7.4% from Firmino certainly suggests he should not be expected to carry the goal-scoring burden if Daniel Sturridge continues to struggle with injuries. Once the England man returns, though, Firmino and compatriot Coutinho could certainly provide the service to ensure Liverpool better last season’s modest tally of 52 goals.

With a WhoScored.com rating of 7.79 last season – enough to rank third in the Bundesliga behind Arjen Robben and Kevin De Bruyne – there’s little doubt that Firmino would make a more-than-adequate replacement should Sterling make his expected exit from Anfield.

Martin Lawrence

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download iOS and Android app.

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