It was roughly halfway through the first half of Liverpool’s loss to Leeds United at Anfield last Saturday that Fabinho shared his sentiments with the crowd. Once again the hosts failed to line up some passes and when the ball went wide Kop groaned. Hearing this, Fabinho turned to the rostrum and began to wave his arms for support, aggressively and with a scowl on his face. He clearly wasn’t happy, and neither were the viewers, although some made it clear to him.
It was an ugly moment during another unpleasant event for Liverpool this season and, in its own way, a snapshot of Fabinho’s campaign in particular. To put it bluntly, he was truly poor and was always unable to provide the deep-seated security in midfield that has been a hallmark of the now 29-year-old’s performances for Jurgen Klopp’s side since arriving from Monaco four years ago. . It is on a faulty page that he arguably has the most faults and will no doubt be just as angry and frustrated as anyone else. What happened against Leeds felt like those emotions came out.
Fabinho hasn’t been injured once this season, starting 15 of Liverpool’s 19 games in all competitions and appearing as a substitute in the other four, but he hasn’t looked particularly fit either. As with many of his teammates, his intensity and drive have waned dramatically, perhaps best summed up by the fact that he’s only won one inning in his last eight appearances. That stat alone doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, and it’s worth noting that he has 12 interceptions in the same period, four more than in his previous 11 games. But it still reflects a player who is only a shadow of the best he has been at this point.
“The decline in form for Fabinho appears to be due to his hamstring injury prior to last season’s Champions League final. Was he returned too soon? says Matt Ladson, editor of This Is Anfield. “Because the problem with him this season seems to be mobility. He faces no challenges and cannot gain ground if he is flipped over. Watch him in person and you’ll see balls where he doesn’t close the room as fast as he used to. Of course, he doesn’t help when others around him are out of shape.”
That is undeniably true, as the grueling and ultimately devastating pursuit of last season’s unprecedented quadruple win takes its toll on Klopp’s team as a whole. His players are clearly exhausted, both mentally and physically. But while some were able to catch a break, Fabinho had no choice but to continue, largely due to the number of injuries Liverpool’s other midfielders had sustained, which Klopp admitted ahead of Sunday’s visit to Tottenham and proved detrimental. The Brazilian had had an impact.
“In a long career, players have crashes and you usually solve them by playing less often, but in our situation, Fab had to go through it all,” he said. “If we had more options, we would use them to give him a chance to recover from the last game. That’s the way he is.”
Fabinho looked more comfortable against Napoli in what Jurgen Klopp described as a ‘good start’ for the player returning to ‘Fabinho as we know him’. Photo: DeFodi Images/Getty Images
Fabinho certainly looks like a player who could use a break – something he won’t have at the moment as he is part of Brazil’s World Cup squad – but it can’t be ruled out that his problems run deeper either. After all, this is a player approaching his 30th birthday and he has been a constant figure for one of the greatest teams in modern times. Few have run, pressed and asserted more for Liverpool during the Klopp era than the man with the number 3 on his back and he may simply have run out of gas.
That’s certainly what it looked like this season, and in that sense, Fabinho has become a symbol among Liverpool supporters of a wider decline at the club that can only be resolved with significant reinvestment. Out with the old, in with the new and nothing more than midfield given the general wear and tear of age and effort on that section of the team. The man most fans want is Jude Bellingham Reports in Germany this week suggesting that Liverpool are determined to sign the 19-year-old next summer. Whether they’ll be able to do so, given their ever-increasing profile and price tag, coupled with the team’s struggles, is another question.
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For now, Liverpool will have to make do with what they have when they travel to north London to keep their hopes of a top-four place alive with their first away win of the season. It won’t be easy against a Spurs side buoyed by their Champions League victory in Marseille on Tuesday, but the visitors can certainly look forward to their win against Napoli in the same competition on the same night. It may have been something of a stalemate, but Klopp’s men fared well against the Serie A leaders, in part because the manager switched back to 4-3-3 after playing various versions of 4-4. -2 used to improve the luck of your team.
And while he barely stood out, Fabinho certainly looked more comfortable and confident in a proven system. “The match was a clear signal for Fabinho as we know him,” Klopp said. “It was important for him to realize that this is also possible, and that was a good start in the right direction.”