Can someone tell me how bad Firmino was yesterday? I unfortunately could not watch the first half and he was pretty much subbed in the first 5 minutes of the second half so I couldn't really watch him.
The reason I ask this is because I think a lot of us are making an incorrect diagnosis when it comes to some of the problems we encounter during a game, namely, the lack of creativity through the middle and our wingers being pinned to the sideline and feeling ineffective. Let me explain myself. Our 4-3-3 system heavily relies on the role of the false 9. He has to drop deep, execute smart movements with and without the ball and basically pull players from the oppositions midfield and defensive line towards him. The net result of all that is that you bend out of shape the midfield and more importantly the back line of the opposition making it harder, for example, for the left-back to stay put on Salah's shoulder when his CB was pulled out of position (even slightly) and now there's a gaping hole somebody has to account for in their defence. The same can be said about the oppositions midfielders because, naturally, one of the 3 or 4 players in that line has to take care of that number 9 dropping deeper.
With that said, what happens when this is not done properly? The opposition's back-line can stay very rigid with both full-backs marking our wingers with the help of one of their midfielders and their wingers obviously coming back to help with that task. On top of that, the central players in their midfield stay relatively unbothered and that's when you start feeling like a Thiago is not giving you enough creativity because not only are his main targets (the wingers) pinned to the touchline with not a lot of space to run into those central areas and receive a pass, but he's also pressed much more efficiently. Our full-backs usually do a good job of unlocking those types of situation by giving us creativity from the flanks, but sometimes its just not enough. People put a lot of the blame on someone like Hendo, but the truth is that Hendo was never a creative player. His main creative weapon is to run into the half-space that our false nine helped empty and deliver crosses. When you take that away from Hendo he'll still deliver on the press, winning back the ball and safely recycling it. If you put him at CDM he'll also give you a decent performance, but put him at LCM or RCM and create 0 space for him to run into and you'll be disappointed (the same can be said about OX and other midfielders who get their creativity from their speed with the ball at feet and running in very straight lines in the half spaces).
The solution to that, in my opinion, lies in Fabio and Elliott. I don't meant that we are going to throw a couple of 18yo on the pitch and they will take care of our creativity problems through the middle. That would be naive. I think Elliott or Fabio have to start alongside Fabinho and Thiago in midfield. There would be a slight change in the shape of our 4-3-3 into something of a 4-2-3-1 when the ball is at our feet. If it's Elliott then he would slightly drift centrally into a CAM or RAM and start giving us what Firmino has been struggling to give us recently which is to attract some bodies from the opposition's backline and midfield. I don't expect Harvey or Fabio to suddenly become Ronaldinho and create a ton of things from that hole, the goal would be for them to keep the ball, make simple passes and more importantly attract people to them. Fabinho and Thiago would naturally sit a bit deeper and space would be created for our wingers to run into. Obviously this means that our starting number nine would be Nunez rather than Firmino.
Anyway, that was my take on the problems we face whenever Firmino is not having a good game. Disappointed to start the season with a draw against a newly promoted side, but all we can do is look forward to the next game and try to fix our problems by then.
P.S. I loved Milner yesterday. Came on and just took matters into his own hands. He was everywhere.