Liverpool assistant manager, Pep Lijnders has hailed the influence of Fabinho, name-checking him alongside two teammates Jurgen Klopp is “lucky” to have at his disposal.
Fabinho, who recently returned from a muscle problem, has been an integral cog in Liverpool’s recent success and has covered extremely well in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
And Lijnders believes the team are going to reap extreme benefits following the Brazilian’s long-awaited return to midfield.
Fabinho, 27, is arguably amongst the best in his position in Europe, and his influence in Liverpool’s Premier League and Champions League success has been gargantuan.
This season, due to an unprecedented injury crisis, Fabinho has been forced to deputise at centre-back following the season-ending setbacks to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
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However, he was restored back in Klopp’s midfield triumvirate in the 2-0 victory against RB Leipzig earlier this month, as well as the 1-0 win at Wolves. It’s no surprise, then, that Fabinho has forced the manager to re-think his tactics in recent weeks.
Lijnders on Fabinho
“We didn’t lose only our last line [due to injuries] – by losing our last line we lost our midfield as well,” Lijnders told the club’s official website.
“And that’s where we lost our engine, and that’s a big problem. It’s something that created doubt in many different tactical aspects.
“Many times small problems come from one big issue. If you try to solve the small problems you get nowhere, you have to solve the big issue. We always tried to find the solution, but the solution needs consistency, and that was the problem because there were always different and new problems coming and took the consistency away.
“We don’t measure ourselves with the past, but we have to understand what made us the team who nobody wants to play against. This is the main reason why we won.
“Coming back to Fabinho as the lighthouse, a proper ‘six’ just sees more, top teams and top players like Fabinho have in common that they have a huge spirit of initiative. That’s why when we speak about team development we are speaking indirectly about individual development – our idea forces this individual development.
“About Fabinho, I only want to say he has the capacity to make the players around him better. It’s really difficult to find players who have the talent to make the other ones flourish.
“There are just a few players in world football who have this natural capacity to stop counters, for example; most of them just tactically foul.
“He just always puts the team above himself. By the way, all our Brazilians have this characteristic. Nobody likes them, everybody loves them.
“In the same package you get someone who is only concerned about making the team better, there is no space for ego. He is a real team player. Luckily we have three of them, Gini and Hendo have this characteristic as well.
“Having two midfielders like that is like the queen in the chess game. You lose the queen, who defends in offense. There is a reason why the better chess players just give up when they lose the queen.
“You need two who can control a game by being dominant without the ball. That’s what we are searching for.”
What RTK has to say
Lijnders is spot on. Fabinho was utterly imperious upon his return to the midfield in Budapest. Remarkably, it was the first time since October that he was able to be utilised in his natural position.
It didn’t require much time for Fabinho to make an impact, either. In the Champions League, especially, there was a resounding difference from both a defensive and attacking perspective.
The back-four were better protected while the midfield were granted greater freedom to get forward. It was clear to see that other than Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson, Fabinho is arguably Liverpool’s next most influential player in terms of what he brings to the team.
After all, the best players in world football are the ones who are able to elevate the performances of those around them.
And that is Fabinho in a nutshell. His sustained brilliance only highlights how detrimental his absence in midfield has been tin recent months.
The last two matches epitomise such a notion. With Fabinho back doing what he does best, Liverpool have won two matches while recording back-to-back clean sheets.
It’s no wonder, then, that Jamie Carragher recently lauded Liverpool’s ‘lighthouse’ as one of the best midfielders in world football.