There’s almost 6 weeks left for the new Premier League season to begin, but that doesn’t keep the footballing world shushed up. With an array of amazing transfer signings and plenty of rumours flying around, fans are always waiting for a gift wrapped package – a new player. Liverpool have been very active this season, having already signed five players, including James Milner,Adam Bogdan, Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez and Danny Ings. Manchester United, on the other hand grabbed their opportunity very early on in Memphis Depay, who looks to be a very promising player. While some were uncontested, both Depay and Firmino were keenly sought after by both the teams.
Both of these players play in leagues which are conducive for new young players who want to prove themselves. Although more challenging, these clubs are essential in the character building and the style of play they induce in a player. Depay was a Liverpool and a Manchester United interest much before the transfer window opened, but as soon as United heard rumours of PSG wanting Depay, they grabbed the opportunity, snubbing Liverpool. But soon, Liverpool did the same by snatching Roberto Firmino right from under their grasp.
What makes them so valuable, and which team has put better money on the table for their little giftwrapped package?
I would like to analyse this in various stages, and on various criteria as given below.
Roberto Firmino, the 23 year old, is an attacking midfielder , who has the capability of playing on the left wing too, if the situation demands. Playing for Hoffenheim last season, he played in 36 league matches, out of which 27 were as a central attacking midfielder. His flair and his ability to create chances might make him just what Liverpool need at the moment. And if all goes well, he might be a replacement for their ex player, Xabi Alonso, who was known for his impeccable passes. Although Firmino prefers to play an attacking role, he can take a supportive role as per the demands of the team. He also has the quality with the ball at his foot to either play the traditional one-two-ones or cut in on his own, like Robben.
Memphis Depay, who’s 21 years old played for the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven before being signed by the Red Devils. A challenging league for young players who want to make a mark, he has shone well. Playing an overall of 36 matches, he has always been played as a left wing-forward, and that’s where his talents lie. With his critical speed, dribbling and ability to shoot from distance, he makes the most of his position by often coming in from the flanks, like Hazard does.
On comparison of the two, they match in terms of dribbling quality and flair equally, but Firmino stacks ahead because of his superior passing ability and his vision, which is marginally better than that of Depay. Depay prefers the ball played aerially which tends to waiver from its intended position while the Brazilian prefers the grounded, safer route.
2. Goal-Scoring Ability
This is an apt ability to be considered because both of these players are attacking players who prefer to keep themselves on the opponents’ half of the pitch. Comparing right from 2012 to 2015, we compare the stats of both these players in their own leagues .
Roberto Firmino, though preferring the midfield role, has seen himself move left and right and even playing as a False 9 in the Copa America, and doesn’t find himself as in front of the goal as much as he may want for goalscoring opportunities. Even then, he has managed a decent 28 goals, for the 3 seasons in the club.
Depay on the other hand has been consistent on his position, which is the left flank. At PSV, he was given the freedom to come in and charge, which helped him score more goals. Also, the player has had more shots on target than Firmino too. In addition to this, the Dutchman is deadly from set-pieces, with quite a few goals off free-kicks. Depay can be called a ready-made goal scorer, who knows what to do when he is put in front of the goal.
Overall, Depay’s shot conversion rate and goals per game, which is around 0.7 and 16.3% dwarf that of Firmino which stands around 0.21 and 10.94%, but of course it also depends on the quality of opposition.
3. Assists and chances created
If you are a midfielder or a winger, your main purpose is to provide balls to the striker for him to do what he does best, slot the ball home. And Liverpool fans, if you are feeling dejected, here’s where Firmino stands out.
He is essentially a creator of goals. Assisting around 23 goals in the last 3 seasons, they stack hard and well against the 15 of Depay. Firmino clearly stacks higher than Depay in his number of passes too, both forward and backward, with around 1295 passes just last season, in comparison to just 946 of Depay.
Critically speaking, the accuracy of Depay in his passing is a wee bit better at 75% in comparison to the Brazilian’s 72% but it is shadowed, because of the sheer number advantage of Firmino. Their positions though play a very important role here, as the number of crosses completely blows away Firmino over the 3 years, Depay notching 356 crosses versus 159.
But these stats just speak on how good they both are in their respective positions.
The edge for this round goes to the Red team from Merseyside, because of his better ability to search and produce for the team. Brendan Rodgers has chosen his man well, as the situation demands.
4. Defensive Stances
It is not really in the rule book for a midfielder to have defensive techniques, but it just adds to the player’s capabilities and adds further more positions he can play at if and when the team demands. It is important in modern day football, which is very dynamic. You might have seen Rooney play in the midfield, behind the halfway line last season, and hence he is known as an overall player.
In this aspect, Firmino overshadows Depay in every aspect, probably. In the most recent season, he completely overshadows Depay when it comes to aerial battles won at 73 to a meager 8. He also has won many more tackles than Depay, around 3.5 times the Dutch man’s number. Interceptions and clearances wise also does he stand at a better position, but that is because of his position which allows him more chances and space for the same.
His clearly better defensive record though, also means he likes to put his leg in everywhere. He also has a good number of fouls, where he has committed to 73, to 19 of Depay. Although neither of them had a red card last season, Firmino had 5 yellow cards, out of which 4 were due to bad tackles.
Overall, we can only tell, but not predict the outcome for the teams and the players. Both of these clubs have done their business well, and have had picked up what they lacked in the team. Now, the ball is in the club’s side to mould these two, into the player they want. It will not just be a battle of stats, the difference between the buys of these two, both of whom were being sought by the other team, might just end up being the difference for the league title. We can only wait, watch and enjoy these brilliant players show their best.
Red Devil forever. Engineer by nature, Football by the heart. Sugar, Spice and a whole lotta tadka on the side.