Buidling Dreams Together


Fabinho: Have Liverpool Made A Mistake In Letting The Brazillian Go?

The 29-year-old has joined in a plethora of players in making the switch to the Saudi Pro League as he joins Al-Ittihad from Liverpool.

In May 2018, Liverpool completed one of the most surprising transfers of the Jurgen Klopp era.

Without so much as a whisper from any transfer guru, Fabinho was signed from Monaco, easing the pain of a gutting Champions League final defeat a few nights before.

Since then, he has been Liverpool’s best midfielder for four years, winning the lot, before suffering a massive slump, in tandem with his team, last season.

Once, the importance of Fabinho’s presence as ‘the lighthouse’ in a team that won every honour and came painfully close several times more, could not be understated. Now, he appears close to completing another shock move, this time to Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad

Last season’s decline has prompted Liverpool to accept a £40 million offer for the Brazilian. Perhaps recouping their outlay at this stage in his career is financially prudent but without a clear immediate replacement, the Reds should be thinking twice.

Surely it’s worth delving deeper into the reasons for his lack of form last season, rather than simply ridding themselves of one of the stalwarts of their success?

Firstly, according to Infogoal.com, his statistics last season were almost identical to 2021/22, Liverpool’s best season under Klopp.

In the Premier League, playing roughly the same amount of time, he attempted more tackles and passes with his success rate improving in both though he received a few more yellow cards, it’s hard to spot his flailing form in the statistics.

This is probably due to the fact he had more defending to do as he was playing in a worse side. However, that begs the question, why were Liverpool bad last season? It certainly wasn’t because of Fabinho.

Liverpool were bad last season as they restructured their attacking line up to accommodate Darwin Nunez. As an out-and-out number nine, Nunez was unable to offer the defensive solidity a false nine provides.

Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané, when played through the middle, were famed for their ability to effectively add another body into midfield and the Reds lost that and their press became ineffective, thrusting the issue of midfield personnel further into the spotlight.

To accompany this issue, Thiago Alcantara, Liverpool’s best number eight, was perpetually injured. In 2021/22, Liverpool’s win rate with the Spaniard dropped from 80.8% to 67.6% without him.

When he picked up an injury in the first game of last season, Liverpool were immediately in trouble.

They were left relying on teenagers and veterans to fulfil a midfield role even more demanding than usual for a Klopp side, and with this in mind, how could Fabinho have been expected to succeed?

Of course, he did look leggy last season, alarmingly so for a 29-year-old, however, going into this summer, replacing Fabinho was not on the Liverpool agenda.

If Aurlien Tchouameni was on the market or Moises Caicedo wasn’t destined for Chelsea, the equation would change but with a lack of clear alternatives in the market, Liverpool should stick with their European Cup and Premier League title-winning defensive midfielder, looking to acquire someone to support him, rather than replace.

Frankly, not one player should be required to manage an entire season holding down a position. Gini Wijnaldum previously offered a solid alternative in the defensive midfield position and Jordan Henderson, who has already departed, had good spells in the role, at times.

The pending arrival of Romeo Lavia would have been perfect as a rotational option, someone for him to share the burden with and eventually pass the torch on to, but not an immediate replacement. As good as Lavia is, a team with Liverpool’s ambitions shouldn’t be relying on a 19-year-old to knit a title-challenging midfield together.

By allowing Fabinho to leave, Liverpool will leave themselves just as vulnerable as last season. While the release of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Naby Keita, who only managed around 2300 minutes between them, seems fair, Fabinho was Liverpool’s most-used midfielder last season with 3500 minutes played.

It’s worth noting that Liverpool were able to string together seven wins and two draws out of their last nine in 2022/23 and they were back to their best for the final quarter of the season with Fabinho in the side.

His departure, without an adequate replacement, in tandem with Henderson’s, sets the Reds up for another disastrous season. This is not to disparage the talents of Lavia, Stefan Bajcetic and the other youngsters Liverpool have at their disposal, they are excellent players.

While Alan Hansen was proved wrong for saying “You can’t win anything with kids”, that United team wasn’t competing with this City team. Fabinho looks set to go and this could be a huge mistake.

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