Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will have to consider something new – to leave out Fabinho for the betterment of the team. It would be a difficult admission.
Fabinho was in brilliant form at the start of the season. He was arguably the finest holding midfield player around, in fact – especially with Manchester City’s Fernandinho playing in defence.
But there was a problem as Liverpool didn’t actually look great defensively. By late November, in fact, Liverpool had kept just three clean sheets all season. And one of those was the second-string in the League Cup.
Fabinho had played in just two, then, when he picked up an injury against Napoli on November 27th. The Reds moved Jordan Henderson into the holding role in the Brazilian’s absence and things picked up.
Liverpool did concede three in their following two games but then went on an incredible run of defensive form. Discounting the games in which the kids played (the 5-0 against Aston Villa, and the three FA Cup games), Liverpool kept 12 clean sheets in 14 games before Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
Fabinho did start one of those – the 4-0 home win against Southampton – but didn’t play particularly well. He then started against Atletico but didn’t thrive there, either. The £39m man clearly needs more time to get back into the flow of things, especially when the team moved up a couple of gears once he was out.
So despite all his talent, Klopp may have to consider something he wouldn’t have dreamt of back in October. That’s to leave Fabinho on the bench when the best XI start. It wouldn’t be easy as the Brazilian is a fantastic player and deliberately leaving him out is a risk.
That can certainly change by the end of the season, of course. But for now, while Fabinho at his best makes the team, Fabinho finding his feet isn’t quite at the right level.
The team was flying without him and that momentum is just too important to lose.