Jamie Carragher admits he is concerned for Roberto Firmino and believes the forward could be the one to lose his place as he tips Liverpool’s front three to be soon ‘broken up’.
Liverpool have dropped to fourth in the Premier League after failing to win in their past four league fixtures, whilst the Reds are without a goal in their past three games after last weekend’s goalless stalemate with Manchester United.
The dip in performances has raised questions over whether club’s front three is in need of change, with the trio of Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane having failed to find the form of previous seasons in recent weeks.
That front three have starred during Liverpool’s successes in the Champions League and Premier League over the past three campaigns, but Carragher believes that change may soon be needed following a drop in output.
“When we talk about this Liverpool team, we talk about the front three,” Carragher said on Sky Sports‘ Monday Night Football. “It’s almost like they come as a package.
“The reason I say that Liverpool’s front three is unique is not that they are better than other front threes, it’s how long they’ve stayed together.
“They are now in their fourth season and the great front threes in the Premier League have normally only been together for two or three years.
“We’re now in year four for Liverpool and we’re maybe going to go into year five because they’ve all got two or three years left on their contracts.
🗣"I am not going to sit here and defend them when I don't need to defend them"@Carra23 & @GNev2 is getting heated about Manchester United's performance against Liverpool at Anfield pic.twitter.com/7q68m7mWW7
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 18, 2021
“They are all getting to their late 20s and sooner or later that front three will have to be broken up. You can’t, in two years’ time, say ‘we’re going to buy a new front three’ and replace them all. It will change over time.
“At this moment, I think Mane and Salah are going through poor form. It happens. I’m still confident that Mane and Salah will start scoring goals again, but I must say I am worried for Firmino.”
Firmino’s goal return has dropped in each season since netting a career-best 27 times in all competitions in 2017/18, with the Brazilian having netted just five goals in 25 appearances this season and the star spurned a number of good opportunities in the draw with United.
Whilst Carragher accepts that the 29-year-old’s primary role in the side is not goalscoring, he says there must be a greater contribution from the Reds’ number nine given the stuttering form of both Mane and Salah.
“He’s never been seen as the goal scorer, that’s the responsibility of the other two, but he’s there to chip in and when they’re not scoring, and I just feel he needs to be a bigger goal threat.
“Yesterday [against Manchester United], he had a couple of chances but he’s not quite striking the ball right. His bringing players into the game has dropped off too.
“And also the counter-pressing and winning the ball back has dropped off with Firmino – and not just this season.
“I’m actually going back to last season, when Liverpool won the league. I was a little bit worried then and I was thinking, ‘Can he turn it around this season?'”
Liverpool's front three Premier League record vs. Man Utd:
Salah: 6 games, 1 goals, 0 assists
Mané: 7 games, 1 goal, 0 assists
Firmino: 11 games, 0 goals, 1 assist
Ouch. 😬 pic.twitter.com/SL4pIwRXoX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 17, 2021
Firmino has often been credited with setting the tempo for Liverpool’s counter-pressing play in recent seasons, however, his numbers for possession won in the final third have dropped markedly this season, from 1.11 per 90 minutes in 2019/20 to just 0.42 per 90 minutes this time out.
The former Liverpool defender believes those concerning statistics could see Firmino become the first of the Reds’ front three to be replaced, with summer signing Diogo Jota having already made an instant impact after arriving from Wolves.
“He was the best in the league at it, but it’s a massive drop off, over 50 per cent from last season,” said Carragher.
“Last season, when he wasn’t getting the goals and assists, you’d say, ‘well, look at what else he’s doing from the front’. I’m sure everyone’s numbers for pressing have gone down this season, but that for me is a big drop.
“He’s the one I’m worried about, whether it be a lack of form or maybe just that slow decline as you get a little bit older, which is natural for any attacker when they get to their late 20s because they don’t play as long as players in other areas of the pitch.
“It’s almost unprecedented, what Liverpool have done with their front three, how long they have been together and how often they play, and sooner or later that front three will have to be broken up.”