Ask Liverpool fans who the most important player in the team is, and there’ll be several contenders.

Mohamed Salah, having notched a stunning 44 goals last season, will have his followers, even if he has struggled to hit the same heights so far this term.

Virgil van Dijk’s impact on the defence since his arrival in January means he is definitely up there.

And new goalkeeper Alisson Becker has represented a clear upgrade in a position that had long been regarded a shortcoming by many observers.

But in terms of style of play under Jurgen Klopp , there’s one player whose form often makes the difference between success and failure for Liverpool.

Roberto Firmino .

Switching the Brazilian from a wide man to the central focus of the attack was one of Klopp’s first and most canny moves since taking over as boss three years ago report the Liverpool Echo .

Firmino has revelled in the role. In the Premier League , no Liverpool player has subsequently played more games, scored more goals, had more assists and created more chances.

He’s even made the third-highest number of tackles.

Last season saw the 27-year-old in stellar form, scoring a career-best 27 goals while being Liverpool’s leading creator with 17 assists.

It meant he went into the World Cup with Brazil on a high. But his frustrating experience in Russia – failing to start a game despite contributing more than the favoured Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus – has prompted a difficult period for the player.

Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal
(Image: Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Without a full pre-season, Firmino started the new Premier League season undercooked, overworked and underperforming.

And just when goals in successive games against Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur hinted a corner had been turned, along came the eye injury after a poke from Jan Vertonghen.

Firmino’s recovery was swift – he stepped off the bench to score the winner a few days later against Paris Saint-Germain – but, no doubt understandably still mindful of the injury, since then he has been significantly off the pace.

Of course, he’s not the only one. Salah’s travails have been well documented while, after a strong start to the campaign, Sadio Mane has struggled somewhat of late.

Across the Premier League, leading players are suffering from a World Cup hangover. This isn’t unusual. It happened in the past and it will happen again.

But Firmino is so key, so integral to how Liverpool’s forward line functions – particularly with the midfield lacking a creative edge at present – that if he suffers a dip, the impact is noticeable.

Witness what happened in the Champions League final. With Salah off injured and the midfield struggling to link up with the attack, Real Madrid smothered Firmino and hugely blunted Liverpool’s threat.

Against Manchester City on Sunday, even some of the basics were beyond the Brazilian, although his work ethic was undisputed. Indeed, Firmino was substituted with 18 minutes left, a rarity in such a big game.

Like with many of this team-mates, the intensity of those seven gruelling games in 23 days has also taken a toll.

The statistics, though, suggest there’s no real reason to worry.

Firmino has three goals and two assists thus far, whereas at this stage last season he had four goals and three assists, a total which takes in two extra Champions League play-off ties.

Firmino’s form will return. Put simply, patience is required.

At least in the meantime, Liverpool’s improved strength elsewhere means the Brazilian, along with his fellow forwards, will be given the opportunity to both rest and play himself back into form.

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