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Can Liverpool take the adaptability of Fabinho a step further?

Fabinho once again saw his role changed for Liverpool against Ajax as he featured in central defence alongside Joe Gomez.

The Brazil international has played this position many times before and has excelled on each given occasion. However, this was his most significant defensive performance to date.

Fabinho, 26, was undisputedly the man-of-the-match in Amsterdam as Liverpool fought their way towards a vital 1-0 victory to kick off their Champions League campaign with a win.

His contribution to getting three points on the board from the off was immense. Tough and resilient off the ball and ice-cool on it, Fabinho has slowly established himself as one of Liverpool’s most valuable players.

It was the second occasion this season Fabinho was forced to cover in defence following a similarly excellent performance during a 2-0 victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last month where Klopp lauded him as ‘outstanding’.

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With Joel Matip and Joe Gomez currently Klopp’s only available senior centre-backs and the pairs’ worrying track record with injury, Fabinho’s versatility in defence is likely going to be required until January at the very earliest.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – OCTOBER 21: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Fabinho of FC Liverpool and Quincy Promes of Ajax Amsterdam battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group D stage match between Ajax Amsterdam and Liverpool FC at Johan Cruijff Arena on October 21, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

 

How can Klopp take it further?

The pairing of Fabinho and Gomez in midweek was the 35th different centre-back pairing Klopp has picked in five years at Anfield. This is made even more remarkable when you consider the fact that Matip and Gomez have never started in central defence together.

This could change at the weekend against Sheffield United although the number of midfield options at Klopp’s disposal could suggest that Fabinho is too valuable in defence to risk reverting him back to midfield.

The absence of Virgil van Dijk is more than just another injury setback for Klopp as Liverpool have effectively lost a player who prior to his injury at Goodison Park, had remained durable throughout 92 consecutive Premier League matches.

Asking either Gomez or Matip to fill such a void just isn’t sustainable when you consider the number of fitness setbacks they have collectively clocked up in recent years.

Klopp requires a defensive lynchpin who he can entrust to be available at any given moment to fill the gargantuan void left by Van Dijk and Fabinho is currently his best option.

This means Gomez and Matip would effectively rotate between matches to partner the Brazilian in defence in order for Liverpool to make it to the January transfer window without another major defensive injury.

The risk of consistently starting both Gomez and Matip regularly is just too great at this present moment meaning they have to be managed as carefully as possible.

This means Klopp may want to make Fabinho his ever-present figure in Liverpool’s back-four given he hasn’t put a foot wrong in defence as of yet.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – OCTOBER 21: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) Fabinho of FC Liverpool controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group D stage match between Ajax Amsterdam and Liverpool FC at Johan Cruijff Arena on October 21, 2020 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Liverpool need not worry of losing his influence in midfield as players such as Thiago Alcantara were brought in to provide added depth in situations such as this.

There is competition in that particular area of the squad, with Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner and Curtis Jones all fighting for places.

So Fabinho may find it more beneficial to fight with just Gomez and Matip for a spot in central defence for Liverpool.

Yet considering the impact Fabinho has made in defence on multiple occasions, this is a switch that the club could look to persist with for some time.

The next step is to pair Matip alongside him and see how the defensive duo fair together. They featured together most recently during a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich at Anfield back in February 2019.

 

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