Liverpool's Roberto Firmino is the champion striker who doesn't score goals

Anfield star is the team's leader in so many ways other than putting the ball in the net

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For Roberto Firmino, it was shaping up to be a season like no other long before football was halted.

He delivered the winner in the Club World Cup final but is on the brink of becoming a Premier League champion without scoring against an English club at Anfield.

His lone home strike, against Atletico Madrid, counted for nothing. Liverpool still went out of the Champions League.

Firmino is a player like no other, and not merely because of the extraordinary anomaly whereby possibly England’s most dominant champions will post a 100 per cent home record without a goal from their No 9. The numbers illustrate how idiosyncratic Firmino is.

He can feel both the best defensive striker in the league and the most unselfish. No striker has more assists this season and only one, Sheffield United’s Lys Mousset, averages more per 90 minutes on the pitch.

But creativity comes in part from hassling and harrying. Firmino is Liverpool’s leader of the press, the man who can regain possession.

The Brazilian excels at getting the ball back – something, on average, only five centre-forwards do more often per 90 minutes – but the key element is what he does when he retrieves it. He switches defence to attack.

Much of Jurgen Klopp’s strategy is based around using transitions to break quickly, before the opposition get back into shape, when Liverpool get the ball.

In statistics produced by the Comparisonator website, Firmino tops the charts among centre-forwards for most ball recoveries that lead to a shot within 20 seconds – or quick, deadly counter-attacks, in short – by averaging 0.79 per 90 minutes.

Only one striker gets remotely close; tellingly, it is his former understudy, Southampton’s Danny Ings, at 0.75. Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus, whose high pressing is, Pep Guardiola claims, the best he has seen, is a distant third.

If Firmino initially stands out off the ball, with his incessant effort, he then excels on it.

The figures suggest he is both the busiest and the best striker in possession. He averages 26.1 passes per 90 minutes. That would not be a remarkable tally for a midfielder. It is for a striker.

It puts him in a different league to any of his counterparts, with 20 per cent more than anyone else. The closest are two wingers, assessed purely in their outings in central positions: Southampton Nathan Redmond (21.0) and Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son (20.6). The conventional forwards all have fewer.

It is not merely a question of how often Firmino passes, but where. This can illustrate how unique he is.

Perhaps Liverpool, as the division’s best team this season, should be in the opposition’s half more than most, but Firmino averages 2.99 successful passes in the final third every 90 minutes.

It means he is 45 per cent better than anyone else, with Harry Kane next on 2.1. David McGoldrick ranks third and the Ireland international has one unfortunate common denominator with Firmino – a lack of home goals, compounded by his inability to score away – the Sheffield United man figures highly on some of the same lists.

Firmino does not just stand out in the context of the Premier League.

Transplant his statistics to another league and it shows how hard he would be to replace if he left Liverpool.

No Bundesliga forward averages as many passes into the final third or as many ball recoveries that lead to a shot. No La Liga or Serie A striker wins the ball back to set up a chance as often. Only one La Liga striker completes more passes in the final third of the pitch. And he is Lionel Messi.

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