Liverpool appear to have a real problem with Fabinho in midfield after their 3-2 win over West Ham United. The Reds came from behind to beat the Hammers at Anfield.
Liverpool got the necessary win on Monday to keep their incredible streak going. But they really had to fight for it – far more than anyone would have predicted.
West Ham equalised from a corner almost immediately after Liverpool’s opener. Then against all predictions, the Hammers took the lead just after half-time.
Liverpool found a way to score twice and win but the problems are clear. And unfortunately, those problems weren’t there until recently.
Fact is, Liverpool don’t look defensively sound right now – not since Fabinho came back in, as we saw against West Ham. It’s clear from the stats, in fact.
Liverpool kept an outstanding run of clean-sheets over December and January, while Fabinho was out of the side. They’d kept two up until late November when he picked up his injury. They kept eight in eleven games in his absence.
He returned to the starting lineup against Shrewsbury Town – Liverpool conceded twice. They did keep a clean sheet against Southampton but that was their worst defensive performance for some time.
The Saints had 17 shots at Anfield. The previous home game, against Manchester United, saw Liverpool concede just nine shots. Sheffield United, before that, had just three. Before that, Wolves had ten.
Even more alarmingly, the quality of Southampton’s shots were good. They had 11 from inside the box (stats per LFC live blog), whereas Man United and Wolves managed eight combined (four for United, four for Wolves).
Then came the home game against West Ham, where Liverpool conceded twice. The Hammers had just seven shots but six of those came from inside the box.
Simply put, teams are suddenly finding it far easier to get into Liverpool’s box.
The only change is Fabinho, whose job as a holding midfielder is to prevent teams from reaching it. The £39m signing had been undoubtedly brilliant since his arrival – on an individual level. But it certainly seems that the team as a whole isn’t as solid when he’s in there.
Now, the Brazilian is still working his way back from injury, hopefully. He deserves time to get back to his best because we know he can be brilliant.
But right now, his return has created a defensive problem at Liverpool.