Liverpool have built a triangle of Fabinho, Thiago and Jordan Henderson. It’s one with great potential, despite failing against Southampton.
Jordan Henderson and Fabinho played as a centre-half pairing against Southampton. That’s unusual, isn’t it?
It didn’t work, either, as Liverpool sunk to a 1-0 defeat against the Saints. The duo, two natural midfielders, particularly struggled under pressure in the first half.
But it might be harsh to call them a duo or a pairing. In truth, Liverpool set up with a triangle that included Thiago.
The Spaniard sat deepest in a midfield three, just ahead of Fabinho and Henderson. He was there as a passing outlet, as well as a holding shield.
This little trio has enormous potential. On paper, they’re almost impossible to press poperly.
All three are comfortable passers, with one of them being top three in the world. They’re also all highly experienced winners and willing to sacrifice for the team.
So as long as they get going, they’ll find a way to keep the ball from you. And they’ll do it while searching for a killer pass – something all three can do to varying levels.
That means you have to mark them three v three. They’ll certainly pass around one and comfortably pass around two. If you don’t match them, one will get their head up with a foot on the ball.
But matching them three v three creates space further up the pitch. And that’s the magic here.
Much like how you can’t give up Liverpool’s wings because of the full-backs, you can’t give up the midfield because of their passers. It’s a nightmare for defensive teams as they’ll just naturally stretch themselves and create space somewhere.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t see all of this against Southampton for two reasons. Firstly, Henderson and Fabinho were in defence. They were never going to be at their best.
We are more likely to see it flipped, really. This triangle had Henderson and Fabinho as points behind Thiago. In the future, it will surely be Fabinho as a holding midfield with Thiago and Henderson in front of him.
But Liverpool also didn’t push up high enough to make it work. Only in the second half were the trio consistently in Southampton’s half.
And they need to be there to make it work. If they’re always on the edge of the Liverpool box, opponents won’t worry so much about them getting their heads up and looking for a pass.
It should form the best of their midfield going forward. Liverpool simply have to play to its strengths.