Fabinho: How Liverpool's Lighthouse Steadied The Ship | The Anfield Wrap

Fabinho was back in midfield for Liverpool’s win over RB Leipzig, and Leanne Prescott writes that The Reds should consider it permanently…

 

LAST night in the Puskas Arena, Liverpool finally looked like their old selves.

While the league form continues to stir up more problems, The Reds again found their safe haven in Europe.

Some abysmal first-half finishing that was scarily reminiscent of my days in the university football team aside, there was balance and control. Creativity and guile.

It was a night that stemmed from Fabinho. For the first time since October, he was back where he belongs. How good it felt, too.

A home win away from home, two goals from open play and another Champions League quarter final to look forward to, this was 90 minutes that underlined why the Brazilian has been such a big miss in midfield.

Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embraces Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' after the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and RB Leipzig at the Puskás Aréna

He hasn’t done badly in defence, on the contrary he has filled in admirably when called upon in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, but slotting into the backline has had an adverse effect on the team’s overall cohesion. There was little surprise it returned in abundance here.

“I told him on the way downstairs ‘so, you like the No.6 position more, eh?’” was Jürgen Klopp’s comment on Fabinho in his post-match presser.

He couldn’t have shown it more.

Fabinho was immense, asserting himself on the game, constantly aware and on to break up attacks. Shielding an inexperienced centre-back duo in Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips, he brought a sense of security to the side, alive to the danger and intercepting the passing lines while simultaneously enabling the side’s creative forces.

He brings balance, but he also brings a snide that has been sorely missed. He’s a player who loves the ugly side of the game. The grit. The niggly fouls. The cynical side. One who jumps at the chance to put his foot in and come out with the ball. No player won possession more times or made more interceptions than he did on Wednesday.

There is a comfort to watching Fabinho. A sense of calm. It’s what we want, it’s what Liverpool need.

Liverpool's Sadio Mané (R) celebrates with team-mate Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg game between Liverpool FC and RB Leipzig at the Puskás Aréna

He’s the best player on the pitch, the man who makes it all tick, changing the entire dynamic of the team and making everyone else in a red shirt better.

It is no coincidence that his return coincided with Thiago Alcantara’s best performance in a Liverpool shirt, expressive in possession and aggressive without it. He looked an entirely different player with Fabinho alongside him.

He looked free, able to influence the game in the final third while safe in the belief that the world’s best holding midfielder would mop up where necessary. So too Gini Wijnaldum, who produced a big game performance; powerful and protective in midfield, shielding the ball to keep the side on the front foot.

All three midfielders were composed and commanding in a performance far more reminiscent of the Liverpool of old, one of energy and purpose. While there remain issues to solve in the league, keeping Fabinho there for the rest of the season feels like a major part of the solution, particularly with a bandaged-up Phillips turning into the Bolton Baresi.

An anchor to the back four and facilitator for those ahead of him, Fabinho’s performance on his return to the six proved what Liverpool have been missing this season.

This is a different team, a much better team, with him there.


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