Focus On Fabinho: Liverpool And Brazil's Midfield Star
Liverpool may have lost one key midfield cog in the form of Georginio Wijnaldum – but another remains absolutely vital to everything Jurgen Klopp’s side do: Fabinho. In three full seasons at Anfield, the gangly Brazilian has proved pivotal – rather aptly, considering his role – to the Reds’ domestic and European success. He’s already picked up Premier League and Champions League winners’ medals – and no doubt he’ll be hungry to add to his haul this season, as well as trying to hold down a regular spot for Brazil in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup. Football expert Tom Hancock casts his eye over the talented Brazilian and his form for both club and country.
A World-Class Operator
The man himself certainly has full faith in his abilities. Speaking ahead of the current season, Fabinho said:
“I feel important. I feel I am one of the best players in my position.
“I think if I have good conditions for the rest of my career, I believe I can be the best player in my position.
“That’s what I will try, to do my best for Liverpool. Hopefully it will be my best season for the club.”
His manager went slightly further in his assessment of just how good Fabinho is. Earlier this year, Klopp labelled the man who, peculiarly, wears the number 3 shirt as “the best in the world in the number six position”.
Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis meant Fabinho had to fill in at centre-back for much of last term – and although he can play at the back, there’s no denying that he belongs at the base of a midfield three, typically as a single pivot.
The 27-year-old has started seven of the Reds’ nine games in all competitions so far in 2021-22, helping them to remain unbeaten in the Premier League and win both their Champions League fixtures.
It came as little surprise given the remarkable number of injuries to defenders, but Liverpool conceded 42 Premier League goals last season.
While only champions Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal finished the campaign with better defensive records, that was still nine more than in 2019-20.
But with the crisis over and Fabinho back in his favoured position, Liverpool are currently on course to let in just 33 goals this term and look very much like title contenders.
The return of the imperious Virgil van Dijk to the back four has, naturally, restored the Reds’ robust foundations – but it would be remiss to overlook Fabinho’s influence in protecting those behind him and providing that all-important link between the defensive and middle thirds.
His cucumber-coolness spreads to those around him. Equal parts ball-winner – an area in which he proves how positioning and timing can trump physical presence – and tempo-setter, there’s a case for him being considered Liverpool’s single most important player.
When he signed for Liverpool from Monaco in July 2018, Fabinho had only made four appearances for Brazil.
He’s gone on to win another 15 caps since then and could be about to establish himself as a regular for the Selecao – for whom club teammate Alisson is first-choice goalkeeper.
With Real Madrid’s Casemiro unavailable for the latest round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers, head coach Tite has handed Fabinho consecutive starts, as the five-time world champions beat Venezuela 3-1 and drew 0-0 with Colombia.
Casemiro’s issue is a dental infection, so it seems likely that he’ll be back in contention for next month’s games against Colombia and Argentina. But with Brazil set to host Uruguay in their third qualifier in quick succession Friday morning (1:30am GMT), Fabinho may be about to give his boss a real selection headache – if he hasn’t already.