Last night’s 2-0 loss to Atalanta in the Champions League saw Liverpool start a front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Divock Origi – but a lacklustre performance all around nulled their effectiveness as a trio.
It was a frustrating evening at Anfield for the Reds, and with Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota sat on the bench for an hour, it’s left some wondering if one of them should have played the full 90 minutes.
There is then the new headache for Jurgen Klopp: which one should start over the other? Well, depending on how you look at it, it could be a ‘headache’ and a luxury.
Speaking to BT Sport last night, Rio Ferdinand talked up the vital role Firmino plays for Liverpool and insists the forward is not ‘under threat’ from team-mate Jota.
“You can’t talk about Firmino with any negativity I think, even if he hasn’t scored the goals that Mane and Salah have scored,” the former Manchester United defender is quoted as saying by the Echo.
“His importance to this team cannot be undervalued, the way he holds the ball up and brings others into play. He gets back into positions where defenders start creeping out and wondering if they should go with him, and he asks you that question.
“What does that do? It opens up space in behind for the other two to fly in to. Jota can do a bit of both as well. All four of them, they’re all comfortable across the front three.”
Michael Owen was also on punditry duty for BT Sport, but suggested Firmino’s position in Klopp’s typical starting XI isn’t nailed-on because of the impressive start Jota has made at Anfield.
“I think he’s under threat because no-one could’ve foreseen how good this lad is. He surprised me, I liked him at Wolves, but all of a sudden, you watch him now and you think that he’s born to play in this Liverpool team,” he said.
“He’s quicker than I thought he was. I knew he was technically good, the timing of his runs, the way he’s linking, he has shown me that he can slot into those positions.
“The great thing about those strikers, they can all play with their backs to goal. They’re stronger than you think. Salah and Mane, in particular, they’re strong as an ox. They can run at you, they can all be all-round centre-forwards, but Jota has slipped in there seamlessly. You have to start him, if they had the Champions League final tomorrow, you can’t leave him out.”
It’s an interesting argument from two sides of the fence by Ferdinand and Owen, and there is no clear answer – but there doesn’t really need to be a solution to the problem.
Firmino and Jota co-exist in this Liverpool team and there is no reason to think they won’t be happy sharing the workload, given there will be plenty of chances for all our top forwards to get game-time and the rotation will keep them fresh.