By Shaun Wylde – @ShaunWylde
The transfers of Naby Keita and Fabinho Tavares could not have been more different for Liverpool fans.
With Naby Keita, Liverpool fans had to endure an agonising wait for an entire year before seeing him in red, while with Fabinho, tentative links only started to emerge a couple of hours before he was officially announced.
The giant Brazilian and Liverpool’s No. 8 make-up our new-look midfield and together they offer a wide range of possibilities in the line-up because of their versatility.
Fabinho can operate as a ‘CDM’, at right back and even as a playmaker – Keita can also play as a defensive midfielder but it could be argued that his attacking input is wasted here – he can additionally play as a box to box and has the 1v1 ability of a winger.
The versatility of both of these players is undoubtedly one of the reasons Klopp was so keen to sign them but we can probably expect them to be starting in midfield alongside each other for most games, with Fabinho operating as the holding midfielder and Keita as a box-to-box with more freedom to roam up the pitch (though not without defensive responsibilities).
It could be argued that we haven’t had a player like Keita ever play for us, the dribbling ability as well as the control and low centre of gravity coupled with his passing ability and tackling makes him look like a hybrid of Kante, Iniesta and Isco.
Moreover, we haven’t possessed a top quality defensive midfielder since Mascherano so Fabinho fills a void that has been empty for some time, Lucas and more recently Henderson have attempted to fill that role in the past but, in my opinion, neither are at the level of the latest boy from Brazil to be on the books at Anfield.
Something that has to be kept in mind, however, is that both these players are coming from different leagues so even though they are exceptional upgrades on Liverpool’s previous midfield options, there is usually a period of settling in for players from abroad.
This is where patience is key – the two new additions to Liverpool’s spine are likely to end up successful signings as most if not all of Klopp’s outfield transfers have been, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see the best of them straight away – Fabinho played in a very different system for Monaco and it could take some time to adapt to the high intensity style of our play.
Keita played in a similar system to Liverpool’s at Red Bull Leipzig but it seems like Klopp will be looking to utilise him in a different role than he played there – it could take some time before we see them at their very best.
We all know the premier league is a physically demanding league and these players are definitely suited to the challenges they will face while in England but that doesn’t change the fact that this could be a small period of transition for Klopp’s Reds.
Now, “transition period” is probably the last thing any Kopite wants to hear after what felt like a decade of transitional years before Klopp joined but I only mean this in the sense that it appears that there is going to be a complete midfield overhaul.
Keita and Fabinho are already Liverpool players and if the Nabil Fékir deal is revived before the window shuts, this would likely bench last season’s midfield options and while our starting eleven would be much stronger, and this sort of overhaul could take a bit of time to gel.
Furthermore, it’s no secret that we likely won’t see the best of them straight away.
Even though Salah was scoring early on in the season, his game evolved dramatically as the games rolled on. Chances that he was missing at the beginning of the season he was burying at the end.
The more they work with Klopp and the backroom staff on the training ground and behind the scenes, the more they’ll improve and the more likely it is that we’ll get to see them hit their full potential.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean we will definitely have to wait to see them play well. While we might not see their best straight away, there’s a very real possibility both of them could hit the ground running.
While Salah became better as the season progressed he didn’t take any time to start scoring, Keita and Fabinho will most likely be far more impressive at the end of the season than the start but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re elite talents who could make an impact straight away.
We’ll only now for certain when competitive football starts in August. In addition, one of the big bonuses of this pre-season, for me, has been the fact that Keita and Fabinho have been involved from the start.
A full pre-season under Klopp is an excellent way to prepare for the league campaign as they have time to learn the details of the manager’s style in pre-season games where the result doesn’t matter.
Keita notched eight goals and seven assists in his impressive debut season in Germany and a further six goals and five assists the season after, while playing in a slightly less attacking role.
The thought of someone with his ability now having the talent around him that he will have in Mané, Firmino and Salah makes every Liverpool fan rightly excited for the coming season and we can expect him to increase those numbers quite a bit with the gifted players he’ll be with.
I just think its important to keep in mind that the Premier League is an extremely challenging and intense league and we would be doing Klopp a disservice if we judge these players too quickly or harshly if they have a shaky start.
I don’t think they’ll do anything less than impress from the off but it doesn’t change the fact that we have to be prepared to be patient if they struggle at first or don’t show their best form immediately.
In my view, Liverpool’s new midfield will definitely go down as a success by the time their careers with us are over but its vital we give them the time and support to grow as players, we need to allow them the time to show us how amazing they are.
Imagine the support and perseverance that Klopp will be giving them – we need to replicate that as a fanbase.
Hopefully they’ll both blow us away in the first couple weeks and make this article completely redundant but if they don’t, remember to give them a little time and patience reds.