By James Miller – @JimmyMiller2608
As a tantalising encounter looms closer, we look back at the first time Roberto Firmino played against Arsenal at Anfield in the Premier League.
On Saturday Liverpool will host Unai Emery’s improving side with the hope of making it three wins from three in the new campaign.
The Gunners will travel to Merseyside knowing that Anfield has been stabilised as a fortress for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds. In the whole of the 2018/19 league campaign, no opposing side was able to take all the spoils when they played at Anfield.
Under guidance of Spaniard Emery, Arsenal have looked revitalised in areas of the park, offering a freshness which may have been lacking towards the end of Arsené Wenger era. However, one thing is still clear – there are still defensive frailties that need addressing.
Heading into the first game of the season between the two sides, one player who will be hoping to capitalise on any defensive issues will be Roberto Firmino.
Moving into the season there were questions regarding whether the Brazilian may suffer from fatigue, following a busy summer period representing his nation at the Copa America. Those doubts appear to have been nullified after a dazzling start the season from ‘the Bobby Dazzler’.
Firmino appeared in fine form to get the season underway, producing an eye-catching display while helping the Reds brush aside the challenge of newly-promoted Norwich City.
Despite his best efforts, the 27-year-old was unable to get off the mark against the Canaries but it didn’t take him long. He helped earn a well-deserved victory at St Mary’s last week, scoring the eventual winner as the Reds survived a late onslaught from Southampton.
An added incentive for Firmino in the build up to another top six clash is of course the history he has in the fixture. Since putting pen to paper on a deal at Anfield back in 2015, he has faced Arsenal on numerous occasions – eight, to be precise.
It would be fair to say it has been a fixture that has treat the striker well, with him yielding a healthy return of eight goals in the same number of games. It’s a return that sees him ranked second in regard to goal scorers in the same fixture during the Premier League, only to be better by Robbie Fowler.
Firmino started his love affair against the Gunners during his first season at the club, showing his intent early on his career at Anfield.
When Arsenal travelled to Merseyside then under Wenger on January 13th, 2016, Firmino was at his devastating best. It was an occasion which marked the first time he had participated in the fixture in the league, something which proved of little relevance.
Ruthless finishing and rowdy affair saw a half-time scoreline of 2-2, with both of Liverpool’s goals coming from the former Hoffenheim man. A superb driven strike from 20 yards was the highlight of a performance that earned him a man-of-the-match award.
The final score line proved a blow for Arsenal as Joe Allen secured a dramatic point for the home side, finalising an enthralling 3-3 draw.
This weekend will see the two go head-to-head for a place outright at the top of the Premier League. Should Firmino be somewhere near his best, the Reds will have a major chance of securing all three points. If he is able to score twice, he would become the top-scoring player in the fixture during the Premier League era.