Could Bernard be Firminio for Everton

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Bernard of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United at Goodison Park on September 21, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Bernard of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Sheffield United at Goodison Park on September 21, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images) /

Although it’s been uncertain whether Bernard would be fit to play for Everton to play in today’s game against Norwich City, I think going forward he has a key role to play in the Blues team and it’s possible evolution.

In particular, I think he can play a similar role for Everton that Roberto Firminio does for Liverpool. Because apart from the obvious parallels as both are diminutive, skillful and creative Brazilian forwards, there are other similarities in the playing personnel at Goodison Park that could make such a move beneficial for the Toffees.

Firminio is perhaps the most important player in Liverpool’s system, even more so than star forwards Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.  I would argue that only midfielder Fabinio, (who does a similar role to yet another Brazilian Fernandhino at Manchester City), is as crucial to how Jurgen Klopp’s team perform.

Although it’s hard for me to admit as a staunch Evertonian, there is much that the Blues can and should learn from the recent turnaround in fortunes and success of their neighbours and how they have achieved that transformation.

Of course, first of all the Reds under Klopp play in a 4-3-3, with a high-energy and pressing game and rarely change that formation or tactical approach. But there are more fundamental reasons why that system works so well.

Most importantly obviously good quality players! No formation, system or tactics will succeed consistently without players that can perform at the level required.

But you need more than just 11 individually talented footballers. You also need players that have the complimentary skills and intelligence to put your plans into practice. After all the best functioning sides aren’t necessarily the most individually talented ones.

And so we come to Firminio. His role is pivotal to Liverpool’s approach. His technical skill, creativity and movement is crucial to the functioning of the Reds attack. You only have to see how much Liverpool are adversely affected by his absence to appreciate this.

Firminio is very adept at moving and switching his position, so constantly creating headaches for defenders as he doesn’t play like an orthodox centre-forward. While his ability to feed the overlapping full-backs and find the kind of slide-rule passes that open up opposing teams makes him very dangerous.

Finally he is also important defensively as he will work hard to support that aspect of the Reds play, which is again fundamental to their success.

This in turn allows Salah and Mane the freedom to concentrate on attacking the channels, stretching the opposition centre-backs and finding space in and around the box to finish, which they do extremely well.

In the modern Premier League this sort of gameplan is very effective. It maximises the value of quality attacking full-backs who provide the width in the game today and enables a team to play with three central midfielders who are essentially quite similar in their strengths.

So Liverpool usually play a three of Fabinio, Jordan Henderson and one of Georginio Wynaldum or James Milner. None of these players are frankly top draw midfielders, although as I say I think Fabinio is a very effective player and increasingly fundamental to their success.

What they can do, is operate as a unit and create a very good screen protecting the defence and filling in for the full-backs. This allows Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold to sit so far up field they are almost operating as an extra pair of forwards most of the time.

That also means Liverpool can press very high up the pitch and right across the opposition backline when they don’t have the ball so wining it back again right in the most dangerous areas.

In a strange sort of way its a system that harks back to how football was first played way back in the late nineteenth century, when most teams had just two defenders in front of the keeper and played five forwards.

It’s a very effective way to play in the modern football of today as well. And personally I think that Bernard could do something similar to Firminio for Everton.

I’ve long argued that apart from playing in a 4-3-3, Everton should consider moving towards a more fluid and flexible attack, similar to Liverpool’s.

This is especially important now as the Toffees have struggled so much to replace Romelu Lukaku since he left in 2017.

The Blues have tried a succession of orthodox centre-forwards since with little or no success and Marco Silva has persisted for far too long with a system of playing that simply hasn’t worked.

The current strikers that have repeatedly been played up front, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Cenk Tosun have not solved the problem either, yet.

For me therefore perhaps the best way forward is to adopt that three-man frontline like Liverpool. Bernard has the technical skill, creativity and flexibility to operate in that central role flanked by two other more direct goal-scoring forwards, probably for me Richarlison and Moise Kean. The Brazilian player is also very hard-working too.

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These two other forwards have the qualities to play through the channels and with the pace, power and finishing that both can deliver, they might to some extent, replicate the impact of Salah and Mane.

Alongside that Everton can then put together a three-man midfield to protect and enhance the defensive solidity of the team. This is especially important because of the absence of a player like Andre Gomes who is one of the most naturally creative midfielders in the Premier League.

So Tom Davies, Morgan Schniederlin and Fabian Delph could operate in the middle giving additional control and protection to the Blues backline.

Finally that would allow Blues full-backs, Lucas Digne and Djibril Sidibe to have the freedom to bomb forward and provide much greater attacking support to the forwards. I believe this might well deliver a more dynamic and potent attack as well as strengthening the overall defensive solidity of the team.