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Liverpool’s Increasing Troubles: Are The Reds In Need Of More Productivity From Their No. 9?

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Roberto Firmino

Liverpool’s Increasing Troubles: Are The Reds In Need Of More Productivity From Their No. 9?

When the 2017/18 Premier League season started, Liverpool’s attack was touted as one of the best in the competition. They were quite menacing up front as the likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino established a strong partnership which was quite tough for even the best of defences to contain. As the season progressed, however, things seem to have taken a different turn for the club as far as their heroics in the attack are concerned.

The most recent league match, where they were held to a 0-0 draw at Anfield by Manchester United was exactly how the same fixture played out last season as well. Although they had more than double the amount of shots on target, the Reds failed to convert any of them to goals. It is very easy to blame Jose Mourinho for his defensive tactics but did Liverpool make the most of it and secure a victory? The answer is a big no.

One can blame Manchester United all they want but the truth is that the Red Devils are way ahead in the points table when compared to Liverpool. Mourinho’s men won all the relatively easier matches – and because of that, they could take a risk at Anfield by relying solely on defending. For Liverpool, the situation isn’t that pleasant.

The draw can be considered as a point gained for United but for Liverpool – after losing and drawing against smaller clubs – it is two points lost. The closest they came to a breakthrough was Joel Matip’s close-range effort that was saved by David De Gea. Apart from that, it wasn’t really a difficult afternoon for De Gea.

While the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum did play well, they lacked the cutting edge which sets big teams apart in terms of goal-scoring. It’s just not clicking up front for the Reds, and much of their problems up could be attributed to the significant lack of a quality No. 9.

Mohamed Salah

Arguably, they have Firmino but the Brazilian’s role in the club is not simply limited to scoring. Firmino’s performance in the 4-0 win over Arsenal earlier in the season was the perfect illustration of how he makes Liverpool’s front three look so effectively fluid.

More often than not, players like Salah, Coutinho and Mane are helped by the unselfish play of Firmino, which also allows them to go forward and score goals. The issue at the end of the season is unlikely to be the number of goals scored by Liverpool. They’ll score plenty, but it’s the shambolic nature of their goal-scoring that threatens to undo all their hard work – even more so since their defence isn’t exactly in the best of shape.

Not having a recognised hitman like perhaps a Lukaku or a Kane does seem to be contributing to their struggles. Interestingly, Manchester United were in that position last year and so were Tottenham Hotspur before the rise of Harry Kane. They kept missing chances and were drawing far too many games despite dominating the proceedings, and now it looks like the Merseyside club will have to continue doing the same until they include a new No. 9 in the club.

Moreover, the finishing continues to be a problem for Liverpool. Salah has been criticised time and again for his shoddy finishing skills but the club on the whole have failed to convert most of their chances to goals.

Unfortunately for Liverpool, Klopp showed no interest in signing a star striker last summer. He seems to be quite happy with Firmino as his main man. Ordinarily, this probably would not have been an issue but in the present scenario, the lack of a goal-scorer is certainly costing them matches. The Reds are not getting enough productivity from the No. 9 position, and that has become glaringly obvious especially when you see how Kane, Lukaku and Gabriel Jesus are raking in the goals for their respective clubs.