[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing a roller-coaster campaign that really should have heralded the Premier League title in 2013-14, Liverpool’s promised much last term but ultimately disappointed as Brendan Rodgers’ men finished sixth.
With the Reds’ top-four rivals looking to strengthen this summer, the Merseysiders have moved quickly to add a number of new faces to their squad in a bid to close the gap in 2015-16.
The most exciting and impressive acquisition was announced yesterday, as the Anfield powerhouses revealed that a deal for Brazilian attacker Roberto Firmino had been agreed subject to the player passing a medical after the Copa America.
The Hoffenheim forward was plucked from relative obscurity in 2011 and brought to Germany as something of an unknown entity; over the last couple of seasons however the versatile attacker has proven himself as one of the most dangerous offensive players in the Bundesliga.
Without returning a lethal goal record, Firmino has consistently scored and provided assists over the last 24 months and is certainly ready for a step up.
With Rodgers playing a fluid attacking system, the 23-year-old’s ability to fit into a number of different roles will have been a major drawcard for the Northern Irishman.
As he has displayed for his country in recent weeks, Firmino has the ability to play as a lone forward but in truth his best role is as a number ten behind a central striker.
The Brazilian has formed an enviable attacking pairing with Germany international Kevin Volland at Hoffenheim over recent years, which has been a key reason for the modest outfit’s constant overachievement.
Although Firmino is a goal threat, it has been his ability to take up clever positions and create chances for others that has propelled him into the limelight.
The former Figueirense man has been recognised by Brazilian national coach Dunga as one of a number of exciting young players to take the South American country forward and is fully worthy of his place in the Seleção’s senior squad.
Alongside new club team-mate Philippe Coutinho, Firmino will be charged with making up for the absence of Neymar at the Copa America and it will be this link-up with his compatriot at Anfield that gets the Kop excited.
However, any hopes that Firmino can replicate the stellar showings of ex-Red Luis Suárez on Merseyside should be curtailed before the playmaker arrives in England.
There is no doubting that Firmino can add both goals and guile to the Reds attack, but making a similar immediate impact like the Uruguayan did is a big ask.
The Brazilian has tactical awareness and an excellent work-rate – traits that made Suárez a firm favourite with the Liverpool fans.
However, to ask Firmino to replicate the goalscoring prowess that the now Barcelona man exhibited is unrealistic.
Arguably the best formula for Rodgers’ attack would be with Daniel Sturridge or an out-and-out number nine leading the line, rather than the new man.
This will give the Reds boss superb options in attacking midfield, with Firmino, Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana all in consideration.
Liverpool have missed the superb Suárez since he departed for Camp Nou and the signing of Firmino will go some way to filling the considerable void that he has left at his former employers.
It also shows real ambition by Liverpool, but placing unrealistic expectations on Firmino would be an early mistake in the Brazilian’s tenure at Anfield.
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