It is a frustrating experience to defend against Roberto Firmino.
Joe Gomez should know, given he has faced that challenge himself in training ever since the pair each made their moves to Liverpool in the summer of 2015.
Here, in the fourth part of a Liverpoolfc.com series in which the No.12 shares his insight on the Reds’ relentless attacking force, we learn just what makes the Brazilian such an annoyance to the opposition…
“He never has a bad touch, the ball always sticks to him however you ping it at him,” explains Gomez. “It’s nice when you’re playing the pass but when you’re defending against him and he doesn’t give you even half a yard to get there, it makes it hard.”
Firmino’s industrious style of play, finesse in possession and seemingly endless supply of energy have been evident from the earliest appearances in the Maceio native’s Liverpool career.
Nobody has clocked up more games (125) or goals (46) for the club during Jürgen Klopp’s tenure.
And, fittingly for a season that began with the 26-year-old taking the famous No.9 shirt, he has now added volume to his scoring, setting a new personal best of 23 strikes for the campaign when he flicked in at the Kop end as Watford were downed 5-0 last Saturday.
Gomez continues: “He is a very good striker all-round.
“He works so hard for the team as well, everyone knows that and it’s why he’s liked by so many people – because of the effort he puts in. Regardless of the game, he always gives 100 per cent.
“Even if he didn’t score as many, his contribution to the team brings the rest of our attacking players into positions where they can score.
“Everyone is happy for him because he’s showing he can do it all, and he’s not losing the other parts of what he does. It’s nice to be on a team with someone with so much quality.”
Firmino's 2017-18 Premier League stats
The England international would not spill the details even if almost three years of trying had helped him find a way to stop Firmino – the player described as Liverpool’s ‘engine’ by Klopp.
But, the truth is, Gomez isn’t sure there is a solution.
“The only thing you can do is hope you get a foul,” he notes of the forward’s incessant pressing throughout 90 minutes. “He’s going to make an attempt to get the ball back. It’s annoying because he won’t let it go. It’s nice to be on the same side as him!
“Bobby keeps going and keeps going throughout the game. He loses it and will track back deep into our half to get it back. It shows his desire to try and win the ball back and defend for the team.”
There is flamboyance in Firmino’s repertoire, too.
Take his ‘no-look’ finishes, for example, the most recent exhibition coming when he rounded the goalkeeper to rush towards an empty net against West Ham United last month.
“It’s the Brazilian flair!” smiles Gomez. “I trust him – I don’t think he’ll miss. It’s just what he does, his freedom and creativity is what makes him so good. You’ve got to embrace his creativity.”