Fabinho: The Wise and Battling Red We’ve Needed for So Long
In this modern era of the beautiful game, it would fair to say that certain positions are more rock and roll than others. In Liverpool’s current set up, for example, we are often left roaring on as our full backs bomb forward and overlap with glee, causing untold chaos to. However, spare a thought for a moment, for the unsung number six role.
Not just at our beloved club, but across the board, it’s a position that often gets overlooked by some when it comes to assessing a team’s competency. It is a role though, that has become vital to any club that wishes to push for the game’s big honours. At Liverpool this season, we have been privileged to watch a summer recruit blossom in this role.
Fabio Henrique Tavares, or Fabinho to his mates, has embodied the new found maturity of Klopp’s midfield, adding real class and perhaps more importantly, poise and physicality to his role at the base of the second three.
As Liverpool continues to strive towards the summit of the game, it is heartily reassuring to see a player of Fabinho’s class find his feet and reset the standard back to where it should always be for Liverpool in this crucial position.
In the post 2009 malaise that struck down the club for so long, one of the most disheartening common characteristics on the field was a lack of composure and inability to see games out. Mentality was part of it, but if we are being brutally honest a decline in playing personnel simply left us depleted and the number six role was just another casualty of this dark chapter in the club’s recent history.
Lucas Levia was a noble and faithful servant. He deserves credit for the quality and commitment he brought to the club as well the immense character he showed to ignore some of the vitriol flung at him from a vocal minority of idiot fans.
As a defensive midfielder he read the game well and distributed to a decent enough level. However a lack of pace and a rashness to his challenges would have you wincing, as the loveable Brazilian got caught out and gave away set pieces in damn dangerous positions all over the park. Much like Gerrard’s ill fated spell as a number six in 13/14, Lucas simply didn’t have the legs to be a top class defensive midfielder and it showed.
Sometimes we were punished, sometimes we weren’t, but the lack of composure a weakness to be exploited. How often was an already shaky back four, over worked and exposed by the lack of an authoritative presence to shield them?
To compound the problem, Lucas was by far and away our best player in this position in that six year slump. Shockingly the likes of Jay Spearing, Christian Poulsen and Kevin Stewart played almost a combined 100 times for the club in this era. Shudder.
Bringing back the snide
One of my favourite all time Reds is Didi Hamann. Long before Istanbul, the former Bayern Munich man had done more than enough to forge a legendary status at Anfield. He knew his brief as well as anyone at the club at the time. Even if he wasn’t the most naturally gifted footballer, he read the game to a world class standard.
Again, a lack of pace could sometimes be an issue, but one thing Didi did that Lucas didn’t, was know when to take one for the team. Whereas the Brazilian would have you grimacing at a needless foul or daft booking, Hamann had you nodding in admiration at his shrewdness and brazen snide.
A sixth sense for danger, would often see players scythed down by the German on the halfway line, just as an attack was in the making. A smart yellow or a clever stoppage, not to mention a hefty kick here and there, meant Liverpool played with a match winning nous that paid dividends as trophies flowed. It’s that touch of nous and a bit of snide we simply haven’t had for some time. That was until a £39 million swoop last summer, brought Fabinho from Monaco to Anfield.
As with Andy Robertson last season, it took a while for us to see the best of one of our new recruits as Klopp chose to ease him in. However as the season has worn on, Fabinho has been steadily gelling in and improving. At Monaco there will have been nothing like the intensity he’s experienced so far in the Premier League and it has been a wise call by our gaffer to take his time with his new number six.
Fabinho has gone from strength to strength though and seems to relish the new home he’s found for himself. Like Didi before him, he knows when to crunch and when to hold and read the game. His work ethic, distribution and pace are all pleasant bonuses too. He has grown into one of the most important players in the squad and is playing with real authority at the moment, even if he is still slightly erratic at times.
Against Burnley last week, he took a smart yellow card on the halfway line as the opponents tried a late counter against tired legs. It was a smart bit of nous and snide, straight out of the Didi handbook, that had this author roaring from the terraces in approval.
We’ve needed a tough tackling general for years. Henderson has performed well as a stopgap in recent years, but he lacks the physical presence and authority that Fabinho offers. The likes of Van Dijk, Salah, Robertson and Alison have brought title winning quality to our beloved Reds, you can chalk on Fabinho that list now as well.
As we enter the biggest few weeks in the club’s recent history, it’s reassuring to know that we have a holding midfielder of the calibre of Fabinho in the middle of the park. Bring on the snide!