Philippe Coutinho’s move to Barcelona wasn’t met with the same levels of panic it would’ve been, had the Brazilian left in the summer of 2017.
The 25-year-old’s former teammate, Roberto Firmino’s, form and importance to Liverpool has been up there with the Premier League’s shining lights, that the simple maths of four going into three (Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho) meant one had to leave Anfield.
But with the former Hoffenheim forward’s style of play more based around work rate, is the Brazilian international leading the way for a new type of striker, one that is so far and removed from the perceived archetypal target man that was the success of any good Premier League strike force during its debut season of 1992/93?
Standing at 5 ft 9, is Roberto Firmino the new ideal target in the final third for teams?
Comparing average heights of all strikers from the inaugural Premier League season to now, actually raises the first initial flaw in the theory: strikers in the early 90s weren’t notoriously big, brutal target men.
At 5 ft 9, Firmino is actually the average height for a striker during the era of the Niall Quinn, with the current season seeing the forward lines of Premier League teams’ averaging at 5 ft 10.
Just six of the Premier League’s top 14 goalscorers of the 92/93 season were taller than 6 ft, however, the top goalscorer for that season was Teddy Sheringham, who stands at 6 ft 1, so there’s merit to suggesting that taller strikers thrived during the debut season of England’s new top flight.
Furthermore, the current top scorer in the Premier League, Harry Kane, stands at just over 6 ft 1, however, only three of the top 14 scorers measure at 6 ft or taller – Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku join the club alongside the Tottenham striker.
It is interesting that every single position has seen a growth for the average size of the footballer, with the greatest growth in defenders, with the average rising by 0.3m to 1.84m.
Is that because, as a generation, we are just on average taller? In July 2016, Dutch men were revealed to be the tallest on average in the world, standing at 6 ft. And this season’s Premier League has seen a 425% increase in the number of Dutch footballers playing, compared to its first ever campaign.
The rise in the numbers of Dutch footballers in the Premier League isn’t the main reason for the shift in average heights, as footballers from the Netherlands make up just 2.87% of all players who have made a minimum of one appearance in the league, this campaign.
So are football clubs just making it a point of scouting policy to target taller players the whole starting XI?
“The system has to challenge the big lads with the same sort of learning the small ones get every week.”
Talent ID Manager, Nick Levett
But the very fact someone like Jamie Vardy was released by then-Championship club Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 16 for being too small, it shows that clubs throughout the English football pyramid are more enamoured by the taller players.
But height certainly doesn’t bring style, with Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola’s revolution leading the way – Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola both have 143 points from their first 62 PL matches. However, Guardiola’s City have made 6,645 more passes in that period and scored 20 more goals, and that’s with the shortest team in England’s top flight.