A former Red says the Brazilian’s ability was unfairly questioned after Diogo Jota’s arrival at Anfield
Steve McManaman expressed his delight after seeing Roberto Firmino silence his critics with goals against Tottenham and Crystal Palace, while claiming people had wrongly been putting the Liverpool star “out to pasture”.
Firmino’s place in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI has come under threat since Diogo Jota’s arrival at Anfield from Wolves in September.
The £41 million ($54m) signing hit nine goals in his first 17 appearances for the Reds in all competitions before being cruelly sidelined with a serious knee injury last week.
Klopp had been rotating Jota, Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to great effect, with Liverpool’s fearsome forward lined enhanced even further by a man who had only shown glimpses of his talent in the final third at Wolves.
Jota’s prolific form led some fans and experts to suggest that he deserves to start in a central role ahead of Firmino, who was enduring a slow start to the season in front of goal.
However, Firmino sparked back into life when Liverpool played host to Tottenham in a top-of-the-table clash last week, heading home in stoppage time to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory for the reigning Premier League champions.
The 29-year-old built on that display by scoring twice in a 7-0 romp away at Crystal Palace on Saturday, and McManaman has been glad to see him prove his doubters wrong and reaffirm his position in Klopp’s line-up.
“It’s incredible, the fact he was, not criticised, but certainly questioned in his ability and whether he should be in the Liverpool XI,” the former Reds midfielder told BT Sport after his old club’s win at Selhurst Park.
“Yes, Diogo Jota came in and had a blistering start to his career at Liverpool, but people were almost putting this man out to pasture.
“And he’s bounced back by scoring a lovely goal against Tottenham. He was exceptional [against Palace]. It wasn’t just his goals, it was his all-round play, link-up play, his assists.
“The fact that he finished them off with a couple himself was brilliant.”
Firmino and Co. will be back in action when Liverpool play host to West Brom on December 27, with Klopp’s side currently sitting four points clear of Leicester City at the top of the Premier League table.