By Matt Ramirez- @Matt_J_Ramirez
First things first, six league wins from six, top of the Premier League, brilliant. The 3-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday saw Alisson get another clean sheet, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip make impressive full debuts and Mohamed Salah back in his goalscoring ways. As reds fans, we have absolutely nothing to complain about and we should all be looking forward to the season because, let’s be honest, we’re smashing it so far.
Despite all this positivity, one question seems to be looming over Anfield – when are we going to see Fabinho (and no, his injury time cameo in the PSG game does not count).
Cast your minds back to May 28th, summer had just begun, and we were all twiddling our thumbs waiting for the World Cup to start. Then, all of a sudden (like Klopp would say) “BOOM!”. No rumours, no paper talk, no whisperings anywhere, there was literally nothing to suggest that Fabinho was leaving Monaco, but there he was, pictured in Melwood signing the contract – £43.7million, smashing, I’ll have me a bit of that.
I think it’s safe to say that I, like many other Liverpool fans, may have gone a bit mental over this signing. Apart from the pure shock value of it all, we had just signed one of Europe’s best holding midfielders and, what’s more, he even reportedly turned down Manchester United. At Monaco the man was immense, breaking up play, starting attacks and sometimes nipping in with a goal or two, so the question is, where is he?
Yes, I’m well aware that Klopp has come out and said that Fabinho is not yet up to speed and that is fair enough. In fact, I give Jürgen props for not feeling pressured to throw his near £50million signing straight in if he feels he’s not yet ready. With this being said though, when we are 3-0 up at home to Southampton, instead of bringing on Naby Keïta in the 70th minute, give the Brazilian a chance.
However, it’s also important to note that such desperation to see Fabinho is not in any way faulting the performance of our other midfielders, who are seemingly playing out of their skin. Specifically, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner (who is arguably the most in-form English player right now, sit down Harry Kane). The signings of both Keïta and Fabinho have seemingly bumped both Gini and Milner up a gear and it’s brilliant to watch. Both players are all over the place, breaking down play, starting attacks, and scoring important goals.
The impact that Fabinho’s presence has had on the team without getting on the pitch yet is astounding, and in my opinion it’s all because of one simple reason – when he’s up to speed he’s going to start. In fact, when the whole team is fully fit and firing, then our midfield three will undoubtedly feature Keïta and Fabinho – with the third spot still up for grabs. Right now, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Lallana and Milner are in a fight for that third and final midfield spot, and Milner is winning.
Ultimately, at this moment in time, Klopp’s tactics are working and he hasn’t had a need to bring in Fabinho. Creatively we are doing well, but more importantly in defence (Fabinho’s speciality) we’ve been sound – only conceding two in the league, and four in all competitions. Since losing Coutinho last year, our midfield was labelled ‘ordinary’, but right now this ‘ordinary’ midfield has been the engine driving us up the league.
We’ve got a big test at Stamford Bridge on Saturday against Chelsea, and maybe against the likes of Hazard and Willian, Klopp will opt for a more defence-minded midfield which will include our Brazilian Destroyer.