The talk has intensified recently about Roberto Firmino's form, here we look at his future role in the Liverpool team, and ask does he still get in Liverpool's strongest XI?
It’s a reality that Liverpool fans often prefer to ignore – the idea that before too long their prized front three will no longer be the supreme goalscoring machine it once was.
With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané still at the very top of their game, it has made Roberto Firmino’s gradual loss of form seem all the more significant.
Over the last 18 months or so, Firmino has lost many of the goals from his game. And it’s fair to say that the dazzling tricks and deft feints no longer come as readily to the Brazilian.
This season, the arrival of Diogo Jota to Anfield, who has scored eight goals in seven starts for the club so far, has put Firmino’s inconsistency in even sharper focus.
The defence of Firmino is usually that he is not primarily a goalscorer. Therefore he can’t be compared with Mané and Salah. This is true, of course.
His role in the Liverpool team in previous seasons was always to be the link between those two supreme scorers. But aside from his own levels of scoring, which have dropped from his best years in a Liverpool shirt, Firmino also seems to lack sharpness in his decision making.
What is Roberto Firmino's role in the Liverpool team?
Firmino now looks a player seemingly lost as to what his true purpose is in this current Liverpool team.
The Reds’ recent Premier League match against Leicester was a glimpse into Firmino’s current status as a gradually fading force. But one who still has the ability to deliver moments of quality.
With Salah out of the side due to returning a positive coronavirus test on international duty, there was pressure on Firmino to step up. In the end he got his goal. A fine header into the bottom corner to make it 3-0 and wrap up victory for Liverpool.
But apart from that goal, Firmino largely struggled during the match. Twice he hit the post when in previous campaigns, you might have expected him to score. And he gave the ball away on a number of occasions.
Firmino has always been a high tariff player. One who risks losing possession in the name of creating moments of magic or providing unlikely assists. But in recent times, the instances where he loses out in a challenge or gives away the ball with a lacklustre pass have increased.
Does Firmino get into Liverpool's strongest XI?
So, where does Firmino go from here? Does he still have a role to play in this Liverpool team?
While he may not be the shining light which helped make Liverpool such heavy favourites in the weekly English Premier League odds, there’s no doubt that he still has plenty to give.
He is one of the most intelligent attackers the Premier League has seen in recent years. And while he lacks the pace of Salah and Mané, he more than makes up for it with his creativity. When he is on top form, that is.
And that’s been the issue for Liverpool. Firmino’s performances have become inconsistent. Lacking the very strong, reliable qualities this Liverpool team embodied in their last two Premier League campaigns.
It may prove that Firmino finds himself adapting to play in different positions, perhaps in the midfield. Allowing Liverpool’s sharper forwards the opportunity to benefit from his creativity in the most effective way.
His dip in form has been overblown, but it’s been a process that has been going on long enough for Liverpool supporters to become concerned.
It could be that all Firmino needs is a run of good performances to rediscover his consistency.
Everyone associated with Liverpool will be hoping that his goal against Leicester can be the catalyst for improvement.