Alexander-Arnold, van Dijk, Salah, Alisson And Fabinho
There aren’t many full-backs in the world who can do what Alexander-Arnold does, while Van Dijk is considered by the masses to be the best centre-back around at the minute. Salah is, well, Salah, and Alisson – though he has some questionable moments – helped transform Liverpool’s high defensive line.
Then there’s Fabinho.
The former Monaco man arrived in the wake of the loss to Real Madrid in the 2018 Champions League final. It went under the radar until it was announced by the club, with rumours of interest only appearing online hours before the deal was made official.
He had a slow start to life on Merseyside, with Jurgen Klopp wanting him to learn how to play in his midfield three away from the cameras.
Once he was up to speed, though, it was hard to imagine life pre-Fabinho as Liverpool’s deepest midfielder. With him anchoring the central trio, the Reds won the Champions League, the Super Cup, the Club World Cup and the Premier League.
Pepijn Lijnders, Klopp’s assistant, gave some insight into Fabinho’s role in an interview earlier this year.
“Fabinho, I only want to say he has the capacity to make the players around him better,” he said.
“It’s really difficult to find players who have the talent to make the other ones flourish.
“There are just a few players in world football who have this natural capacity to stop counters, for example; most of them just tactically foul.
“He just always puts the team above himself. By the way, all our Brazilians have this characteristic. Nobody likes them, everybody loves them.”
In an episode of YouTube show ‘Wingmen’, Andrew Robertson jokingly said that Fabinho is always clearing up Alexander-Arnold’s messes. There is an element of truth to it though. The Brazilian sweeps up to allow both full-backs to do what they’re best at. This is what Liverpool miss whenever he isn’t available.
Granted, it would be almost impossible to find someone of his quality to come in as an understudy. But one of the biggest issues that needs addressing at Anfield is the fact that the Reds don’t have another player with Fabinho’s playing profile within their squad.
Jordan Henderson often fills in for him as the number six, but he’s much more ball-oriented, whereas the Brazil international is focused on controlling the space. Liverpool’s skipper wants to impact the situation, whereas Fabinho prefers to prevent it from happening in the first place. That is the difference and it is quite a significant one.
Getting in someone who can do what the former Monaco man does could well be the difference between a title challenge and a title triumph.