The year was 1949 when the concept of Ghost In The Machine possessed Oxford University philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, enough for him to write an entire discourse on the mind-body dualism. In his book, Concept of the Mind, he highlighted “the perceived absurdity where mental activity carries on in parallel to physical action, but where their means of interaction are unknown or, at best, speculative.’’
Later, author Arthur Koestler, director Rachel Talalay, and pop musician Sting, were gripped by the notion, in 1967, 1993 and 1981, respectively. While literature, movies, and music were sent to the corner to mull over the possibilities, football allowed itself to be excused from such existential debates. However, in late 2016, the peculiarities of Roberto Firmino's forays in a Liverpool shirt have raised footballing philosophers from their deep sleep, and onto the edges of their seats.
In the recent past, football has had a brain drain, where physical stature was yardstick enough for one to forage for a feasible career in the sport. The quicker and stronger, the better. For every Andres Iniesta there are hundreds of Gareth Bales; for every Andrea Pirlo, a hundred Renato Sancheses; for every Francesco Totti, hundreds of Romelu Lukakus. This is not to say that they aren’t as effective in the end-justifies-the-means world of modern football, but midfield marauder, Firmino seems to be the perfect calibration of German efficiency and Brazilian dare, of precision, physique and panache, and ultimately, of the body and the mind.
Physical off the ball, no other attacking player has made more tackles in the opposition half than the Brazilian with the German football education. (The one player who has won more tackles, in this year’s edition of the Premier League, is Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, a designated defensive midfielder.) Cerebral on the ball, his core strength and poise to slip past defenders adds seconds to his minutes.
Anfield has seen the brute force of German engineering over the past few months; in the driver’s seat of Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool juggernaut, is a ghost, with 22 goals in 34 appearances. A clocksmith on the football pitch, Firmino's frictionless aura of axle-grease oils the cogs and cranks in the grand device of demolition, springing traps all around the fields of Anfield Road. Ghosting through the corridors of opposition defences with untraceable ease, he hangs about in the fringes of the immediate play like the phantom of the grand opera, tugging on invisible strings. A master of puppets, passing 33 times and creating 19 goal-scoring chances in the penalty-box – a feat unmatched this season.
Bayern Munich has Thomas Muller in the similar cut of shroud, but Liverpool’s Firmino comes back for an encore: 34 attempted dribbles near the rival goalmouth, 21 of them being successful, with a jaw-dropping hit rate of 61.77%.
You know how those floor boards always creak in horror movies, as the camera tiptoes its way around a narrow hallway, followed by a faraway cry of impending doom?
The varnish of the hardwood floor sanded off by time, with the mansion riddled by claw marks of old glory and better days. There is, however, something still lingering in the air and churning inside the walls, something picking off a group of none-the-wiser tourists, one by one. Visiting teams coming to Anfield this season may have felt the same uneasy feeling - collective goose-fleshing, as Firmino channels the spirits of the past, and, with the deadpan sense of humour that spirits have, executes defenders one pass at a time.
The stats in this article has been sourced from Squawka