As Liverpool brought a level of intensity never before seen in the Premier League over the past few years, Premier League football has somewhat passed Roberto Firmino by.
Even his most fervent followers, who insist the Brazilian links up the game like no other, struggled to justify Firmino being selected above the breathless Luis Diaz, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Replacing Mane with Darwin Nunez, one of Europe’s leading marksmen, was another blow to Firmino’s hopes of being seen as the focal point of the Liverpool attack again, but in a near-perfect display against Bournemouth in his side’s record-equalling 9-0 win, he proved there’s still life in those samba feet yet.
Firmino became the first ever Liverpool player to be involved in four goals – three assists and a goal – in the first half of a Premier League match, before adding a poacher’s second in the second half. No box, throughout the 90 minutes, had been left unchecked.
But it was perhaps one flick, in one of the rare Liverpool forays forward that did not lead to a goal, that typified what Firmino is all about, and sent a reminder to those who doubt he can still impact games that the Brazilian has his very unique uses.
With players fizzing past him, left and right, Firmino somehow snook a back-heel flick into Harvey Elliot that not only picked out his man in the tightest of half spaces, but fell right into the stride of his young team-mate. The flick alone had fans gasping for air, before a glaring miss from Salah brought them back down to earth.
Jurgen Klopp issued an especially long rallying cry in his pre-match programme notes, calling Liverpool’s three-match winless opening to the new Premier League season a “false start”.
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He called on his side to take matters into their own hands and not feel sorry for themselves. Normally, as has been the case on plentiful occasions before, that means coming out of the traps like a greyhound and blowing teams away with an intensity few can handle.
Instead, Firmino’s finesse was at the heart of their instant renaissance. The cross for Diaz’s opener was sublime from the Brazilian, while the cushion for Elliot’s second, which he will claim was deliberate, certainly landed where it needed to. Two goals inside six minutes – game over.
The standing ovation from his adoring supporters, and the embrace from a jubilant Klopp, as Firmino, having contributed to five goals, was substituted said it all.
He could then sit back in the Merseyside sunshine and watch on as his team-mates tried to create history and become the first Premier League team to hit double figures.
The fact that the goals kept coming, with Liverpool equalling the record for the biggest win in Premier League history, will take some of the attention away from what was an impressive afternoon’s work from a player who keeps finding himself on the periphery, only to prove to the naysayers that he can still cut it.
There will be many a sterner test for Firmino and Liverpool, but after making such an inauspicious start to the season, both player and club needed to make a real statement of intent on Saturday. It could not have gone any better.
With Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino sold in the summer, Liverpool are left with five frontline forwards as they look to amass another assault on four trophies.
Firmino will find his moments few and far between, but not many top clubs can boast a forward of his ilk waiting in the wings.
He won’t be found atop any goalscoring charts, or be the sort of player to take games by the scruff of the neck, but with an effervescence that is so pleasing on the eye, Firmino can still have a part to play, a big one at that.