Roberto Firmino, a utility attacking player. Osvaldo Ardiles remembered.

Roberto Firmino has caught the eye of many football fans in England as of late. Last season Firmino was good, this season he is great. I would not be surprised if he is regarded as a world class attacking player by the end of this season. I use the term “attacking player” rather than “attacking midfielder” because he can also be seen as a secondary striker in the good and well-known Kenny Dalglish role.

On Monday Night Football on the 26th September  2016 with Jürgen Klopp and Jamie Carragher, that would be the best place to start. Klopp explains one good playmaker in the world can be as good as a counter-pressing situation.” When asked about Firmino’s role, Klopp says: Roberto is in the centre. He has the physical ability to do it, because it is the most intense job, actually, because he is at both sides involved. When we are a little bit deeper, he is involved. There is always … he has always got a job to do, if you want. But the target is to have the ball as much as possible and that we don’t think too much about what we have to do when we lose the ball.” 

And this is why Roberto Firmino must be seen as a utility attacking player. He works hard at all times and he positions himself everywhere and he does what he can in all attacking positions on the pitch. Winning the ball, dribbling, passing, shooting. Firmino is always on the move.He gets the ball, flicks it on and keeps running in to space while the rest of the team are on the attack. Firmino is amongst those whose responsibility is to be inside the box when players are needed in there alongside Sadio Mané, Adam Lallana, Phillipe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi.

 At twenty four Firmino has played 56 games for Liverpool, scoring 14 goals. Since his Brazil debut in 2014, he has earned 14 games for his home country’s national team and scored 4 goals.

Let me now take a look at a player who Roberto Firmino can easily be compared to. Tottenham’s Argentinian legend Osvaldo Ardiles would be a perfect pick for me.

After winning the World Cup in Argentina in 1978, Ossie Ardiles was signed by Spurs and moved to England. At the time he was regarded one of the very best attacking midfielders in England, if not the best. His all time high as a player would have to be his World Cup winners medal from 1978. In England he won the F.A. Cup final against Manchester City in 1981 with fellow Argentinian Ricardo Villa scoring two goals in the F.A. Cup final replay.

In an interview as a Tottenham player, Ardiles said: The difficult thing about English football is to get the space. As soon as you get the space, you can do a lot of things with the ball and so on. But to get the space you have to work very, very hard.”

And yes, when Ardiles got that space, he could do all possible things. He would do exactly what we see Firmino doing for Liverpool these days. Dribling, passing, running, shooting, scoring goals and creating chances for others. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s many English teams were more defence minded than they are today, man-marking key attacking midfielders and strikers like Ossie Ardiles. 

One would have to know how to play in a long ball league full of strong and good centre backs and hard men in the defensive midfield role. Ossie Ardiles could do that even though he was a small player. 

That might be the biggest difference between Firmino and Ardiles. The size, the height and weight. Roberto is taller than Ardiles. He is also stronger. What would go in Ardiles’s favour could probably be his ball skills. But then also remember Roberto Firmino is only 24 years old. Osvaldo Ardiles was in England playing for Tottenham at his best. He was 26 – 36 at the time. Firmino now has a new advantage on his Argentinian counterpart from days long gone: he still have time in him to develop further as a player.

The future looks bright. I am not going to make any judgment or predictions on Roberto Firmino’s  career with Brazil. Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho, Lucas Leiva and all know too well that Brazil is a country in which attacking players of all sorts are being produced at a very high speed. One young starlet – Gabriel Jesus – was just signed by Manchester City. Gremio has another attacking midfielder or winger named Lincoln, who is a young lad worth a watch in the coming years. Two young attacking players named, certainly more to come as time goes by. There is, always will be, a lot of competition for places in the Brazilian attack.

Written by @MagneLeoKarlsen

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