Thiago is very nearly back at Liverpool and that means a long-term change for Fabinho. The Brazilian is having a strange season.
Thiago returns soon, it seems. Jurgen Klopp says he is getting back in with full first-team training and that means it’s all imminent.
After joining in September, Thiago should finally move beyond 135 minutes of football soon. And that’s obviously fantastic.
But while he return means big things for Liverpool, it also brings about a sure-thing for Fabinho. The Brazilian knows where he stands, now.
Now, Fabinho has played centre-half for so long that it’s easy to forget that he’s not a natural. He’s a defensive midfielder and a world-class one at that.
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But injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez thrust Fabinho into defence. Now Joel Matip is out, leaving Fabinho as, effectively, Liverpool’s only senior option.
That’s a strange thing to say about an out-of-position player but it is what it is. Fabinho is the best option there and will likely play alongside teenager Rhys Williams.
Thiago’s return completely cements that situation, too. It means Liverpool no longer have any real reason to move Fabinho back into midfield.
Thiago can play that holding role, after all, although in an entirely different way. While nearly every midfield player is back from injury, leaving the only gaps in defence.
So Liverpool now have numbers in midfield, as well a truly world-class option in Thiago. Before that was the case, we could have seen Fabinho move back to his usual role.
There would have been games where Fabinho shielding a Matip/Williams duo appeared to be the best option. Matip’s injury meant we didn’t see it, however, and Thiago’s return means we won’t going forward.
Thiago being back in midfield means there’s never going to be a good reason to move Fabinho from defence. There’s no need in the middle due to numbers and quality, so having him at the back helps the team the most.
Certainly until Van Dijk or Gomez returns, we can fully consider Fabinho to be a centre-half by trade.