Yesterday I spotted an interesting tweet analysing the “insane” impact that Roberto Firmino’s new-found ‘defensive forward’ role has had on the Liverpool side that takes on Real Madrid in tomorrow’s Champions League final.
The tweet, below, praises Firmino’s efforts in leading Liverpool’s defence from the front and applying pressure on opposition defences. True enough, Firmino has been brilliant for Liverpool this season - and deserves to start for Brazil ahead of Gabriel Jesus at the World Cup - but this got me thinking that the comparisons with a certain former Bolton Wanderers striker are undeniable.
However, I don’t remember too many football analysts and football purists lavishing praise on Super Kevin Davies for leading Bolton’s defensive efforts from the front under Sam Allardyce.
A comparison of HOW INSANE Firmino has been defending from the front, and how much more info you get from pressure than traditional defensive metrics.— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) May 24, 2018
Total tackles and interceptions through 28 90s: 64
Total pressures: 656! pic.twitter.com/ZmTsOyvaB3
This ‘statsbomb’ analysis shows Firmino has put in 64 tackles and interceptions through 28 full 90 minutes (which games these are, it’s not clear), along with pressuring opponents 656 times. So for every 90 minutes he gets through, Firmino puts in 2.29 tackles. However, analysing Premier League statistics shows he’s only made 190 tackles in 103 Premier League appearances - a similarly impressive 1.84 tackles per match.
According to Premier League statistics - which only began being tracked in the 2006/7 campaign - in 171 appearances Kevin Davies put in 377 tackles, made 128 interceptions and 295 clearances. That’s an impressive 2.2 tackles per match, along with 0.75 interceptions and an amazing 1.73 clearances per game.
Furthermore, Davies also managed 84 headed clearances and blocked 69 shots in that time - about one every two games. However, the one stat people always focused on most was his erm, impressive?, record of 605 fouls - that’s an astounding 3.54 fouls every match across more than a decade.
The comparisons between Davies and Firmino are, realistically, probably fairly minuscule, but that record of 2.2 tackles per game is undeniably similar. And the effect that both men had/have on their team by leading the defensive efforts from the front was/is massive. Although admittedly Firmino needs to step up the foul count from his current lowly rate of 1.28 fouls per game (137 fouls in 103 appearances).
So one can only assume that Firmino and Jurgen Klopp have examined the devastating effect that Davies wreaked on opposing defences, in so doing freeing up the creative potential of the likes of Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Stelios Giannakopoulus, El-Hadji Diouf and more, and looked to replicate it.
So when you’re watching Roberto Firmino bullying the shaky Real Madrid defence to free the shackles of creative players like Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and... James Milner... you know where he got it from. You’re welcome Roberto.