Fabinho has very much made the ‘No.6’ role within Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side his own, covering the ground, marking the spaces and making the tackles required to a superb level.
Once described as the team’s “lighthouse” by Pep Lijnders and more recently dubbed “Dyson” by Klopp himself, there’s no shortage of evidence of his attributes and subsequent impact. Needless to say, his are big shoes to fill. It could justifiably be said that they simply won’t be filled fully, such is the specificity of his role within the team.
Yet it doesn’t have to be a one-man job, in a number of senses. As such, Liverpool find themselves with a potential chance to increase their depth of quality in that area of the pitch.
There’s every chance that Georginio Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana and perhaps others will take on the role at different stages prior to the 26-year-old’s return. Increased game time in that position now may well mean that — if the ex-Monaco man is again unavailable at any stage later in the season — Klopp could have three or more relatively well-practiced No.6 options to fall back on. A good position for a manager to be in.
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Ripples of such adjustments will, of course, be felt throughout the midfield. With an additional gap, more starts are likely to be offered to the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta, potentially aiding their respective attempts to re-establish their fitness levels, place in the squad — and perhaps even the first XI. There’s every chance a more consistent run of starts for them than may have occurred otherwise will prove just what both need.
Then, there is the possibility of a change of shape. Just as the 4-2-3-1 helped bring Fabinho into the side a year ago, it could help cater for his absence now. Two midfielders sharing the often arduous task of shielding the back-four and many of the spaces in-behind the advanced full-backs may be seen as preferable.
That’s on three fronts. It’s one fewer conventional midfielder going through 90 minutes. It potentially gives both of the pair a little more room for error than that of a single ‘No.6’. It could also — inevitably — mean getting one more genuine attacker into the side.
Xherdan Shaqiri would perhaps be the most obvious choice to slip into the right-side of the attack given some of his contributions in that role last term. In turn, that can mean additional creativity and a different — perhaps more unpredictable — shape to the Reds’ attacking patterns, something that can be especially handy against deep-lying defences.
Fabinho’s injury will likely force Klopp’s hand on these choices a little more than he would have wanted in an ideal world. But — such is the German’s optimistic demeanour — he, as clearly as anyone, will likely see the possibilities.