Jamie Carragher casts verdict on Roberto Firmino as Diogo Jota pushes for start v Man City

Roberto Firmino or Diogo Jota?

That’s the question Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be asking himself ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Manchester City.

Jota, who joined the Reds from Wolves in September, has been in scintillating form of late.

The 23-year-old has scored seven goals in 10 appearances for the Merseyside outfit, including a superb hat-trick in Liverpool’s impressive 5-0 win away at Atalanta in mid-week.

Firmino, who replaced Jota in the second half, has only managed to find the back of the net once in 11 games so far this season in comparison.

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Klopp has every reason to feel tempted to start Jota over Firmino against Pep Guardiola’s side away at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, although Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher expects the South American to get the nod.

“I will be surprised if Roberto Firmino does not start for Liverpool against Manchester City this weekend,” Carragher wrote in his latest column for The Telegraph. “Jota would not be the first Liverpool striker to score a hat-trick and sit on the bench in the next game (just ask Robbie Fowler), but it would be unusual. It will also be explainable.

“Firmino’s return will be tactical, not controversial. He is always going to be at his most effective against a side like City.”

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However, Carragher firmly believes that Firmino must improve various facets of his game in order to retain his place in Liverpool’s front three alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

“Klopp is right about Firmino’s pivotal contribution. He is a cog in the wheel,” Carragher continued.

“Even so, Firmino needs to step it up. In the seven league games so far, the concern for him and his manager is he is currently well short of his previous possession-winning numbers. He has only won the ball twice in the final third this season. Mane (9) and Salah (7) have eclipsed him in that area as much as their goalscoring.

“That is mainly because of Firmino’s problems against teams who play long from the back. Aston Villa, Sheffield United and West Ham bypassed Liverpool’s high press, thus negating Firmino’s impact. That is when he needs to find alternative ways to greatly influence a game.

“In those circumstances, the onus is on him to be more productive with the ball, assisting or scoring. His statistics currently compare unfavourably, not only to Jota, but his own previous records. Firmino’s chance-creation rate per game this season is the lowest of his Anfield career.”

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The stats Carragher mentions are damning. Firmino has obviously been a fantastic player for Liverpool over the past five years but, right now, he should be doing more.

“Liverpool supporters are well-educated when it comes to identifying Firmino’s assets, and how fundamental he has been and will continue to be to Klopp’s success. They know his primary role is not goalscoring. They also know that his dip in goal form and creativity is not a recent phenomenon,” Carragher added.

“Everyone regularly watching Liverpool last season could already identify his drop-off compared to previous years. We are judging to the highest standards, but it cannot be ignored that Firmino’s first Premier League goal at Anfield last season came in the final game against Chelsea.

“While that did not matter in the grand scheme of the title race, and did not dilute his broader contribution, it demonstrated there is one facet of his game which is not world class. For a No 9, Firmino does not score enough. That is why Jota’s emergence represents a short-term and long-term threat to his position for the biggest fixtures.

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“The early signs are that over the course of the next few years Jota can replicate what Firmino does so well off the ball, working tirelessly on behalf of the team to win it back, while contributing more goals. He has already scored more for Liverpool than Firmino across the whole of 2020.”

If Firmino is selected by Klopp this weekend, the Brazilian knows he’ll be under pressure to produce a big performance.