Liverpool can sign left-field Firmino replacement rated by Roy Keane
Liverpool will have their work cut out trying to replace Roberto Firmino but there is one left-field option within the Premier League who could represent a risk worth taking. Nottingham Forest starlet Brennan Johnson already has seven Premier League goals to his name this season in his debut top-flight campaign and the signs suggest he is only going to get better following an impressive rise to the fore at the City Ground.
Johnson was a major hit in the Championship last season – netting 18 goals and 10 assists to fire Forest to promotion via the play-offs – but his maturity since then has also left a lasting impression.
The Welshman has been a standout bright spark for Steve Cooper’s side and his hard work is now being translated into goals and assists as he continues to help Forest put points on the board.
Last weekend, Johnson struck twice for Forest in their 2-2 draw with Everton meaning his goals have now been worth a whopping seven points for the Tricky Trees, who would be bottom of the pile without them.
But it’s not just his numbers that make Johnson a suitable candidate to replace Firmino, it’s also the positions he takes up on the field and his clever usage of the ball.
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Johnson is one of few players in the Premier League that can operate as a second striker, a role that is reasonably similar to the false-nine. Additionally, he can also play out wide as his direct running style allows him to penetrate spaces and wreak havoc in the final third.
The Wales international has built his game around intelligence, his movement, close control, touch and ability to score and assist goals. But he is also continuing to build on his qualities and improve his game, meaning the future is undoubtedly bright given he is still only 21.
Johnson caught the eye last season when Liverpool beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the FA Cup courtesy of Diogo Jota’s goal. Both Roy Keane and Robbie Fowler were seriously impressed.
“He looks like a footballer, he looks a natural with the ball at his feet. He does not look like he is fighting with the ball and it would be great to see how does in the next couple of years and whether he can kick on,” Keane said.
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“He has impressed me,” said Fowler. “He is still a young kid and there have been a few Premier League clubs after him. He has stayed at the club, gone on loan [to Lincoln] and what I like about him, as much as he has got pace-wise, he has a directness about him and he is comfortable on the ball and shows composure.
“He gets into the box and has weighed in with a lot of goals, not only scoring them but assisting them too and he ticks a lot of boxes.”
Tottenham are among those to have tracked Johnson closely and it’s clear Nottingham Forest would demand a premium in order to agree to a sale.
Fabio Paratici travelled to the City Ground last season to watch the attacker and Djed Spence in action during Forest’s FA Cup demolition of Leicester.
Johnson scored that day and was largely excellent as he pulled about Leicester’s leaky backline as the holders were dumped out of the competition in a shock upset in the East Midlands.
It was a sign of things to come. Although Johnson has not been largely consistent – something that is expected given his age – he has been one of the highlights of Forest’s top-flight return and is proving the difference in the relegation dogfight.
That’s why it should come as no surprise if the Premier League’s biggest clubs come calling in the summer when he could potentially be up for grabs at the right price.
With Firmino off in the summer there is a small opening for Liverpool to improve their forward options and a signing like Johnson is low risk and high reward. It would be a similar signing to the likes of Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane, who exploded upon arrival at Anfield.
Johnson is young, dangerous and versatile and has high potential. He is the kind of project that Jurgen Klopp would relish with at Anfield. He could be worth a punt if Liverpool do have cash to spend on their attack with central defence and central midfielder understandably of greater priority.
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