Fabinho could play a new role for Liverpool on his return from injury. The Brazilian hasn’t played since November.
Things have changed since Fabinho left the field against Napoli in late November. Well, sort of – Liverpool are still dominating the Premier League, winning literally every game since. Not change there, at least.
But there has been one very important and unexpected change. Jordan Henderson is now an absolutely brilliant holding midfielder. In fact, he’s the best in the league at it right now – there’s no doubt about that.
Few saw that coming. We certainly didn’t and thought Gini Wijnaldum might make more sense as Fabinho’s replacement. There was a lot of worry, after all, as Liverpool didn’t look good defensively and would now be without their best defensive midfielder.
And yet, against all of the supposed odds, the Reds have dramatically improved defensively. It’s at the point where Fabinho doesn’t necessarily get right back in over Henderson.
In all likelihood, Fabinho eventually will return to that role but it’s important Jurgen Klopp gets it right. He should even thrive in the tactical tweak made in his absence.
That tweak, namely that the holding player cover the right-back far more, is an interesting one in a wider sense, too. Because with Henderson proving he’s adept at playing the holding role, Fabinho could offer cover elsewhere.
Fabinho as cover
Specifically, at right-back. Liverpool only have one senior player – other than the injured Nathaniel Clyne – who can play right-back. That’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, of course. Beyond him, there’s only really Joe Gomez as cover before you’re into the kids.
Fabinho, though, does have a history of playing there long before his £39m move to Liverpool. He was once known as a right-back, in fact, before his conversion into midfield.
So perhaps that’s now an option for Klopp. Should Alexander-Arnold need a rest then Fabinho could resurrect his full-back role as cover. That never used to be an option, such was his importance, but Henderson can then cover for him.
It’s a little strange, but Fabinho’s injury made have actually increased Liverpool’s squad depth.