It will take some time for the scars to heal after a heartbreaking loss in the Champions League final, and for the players the torment is both physical (Mo Salah’s shoulder injury could keep him out of the start of Egypt’s World Cup campaign) and emotional; you wonder if Loris Karius will ever pull on a Liverpool shirt again.
Once the dust has settled, we can however reflect on a fine 2017/18 campaign in which we made huge strides towards our obvious objective of being a big player on both the domestic and continental front.
There is no rest for the wicked, as the old saying goes, and Jurgen Klopp has already returned to his desk this week to press through the transfer of Fabinho, a £39 million capture from Monaco. The Brazilian will join a new-look midfield for the 2018/19 season that will also include Naby Keita, who agreed a deal to join us last year.
It’s unlikely that Klopp will stop there either, with a new goalkeeper – possibly Roma’s excellent Alisson – expected to join the club in the near future, while newspaper columns continue to link us with Lyon’s exciting Nabil Fekir.
For now though, we can bask in the glory of capturing a former Ligue 1 champion who knows how to marshal an energetic, high pressing midfield.
Fabinho: What They Say
“He has ability and mentality to play at the highest level in a number of positions. He can play ‘six’, ‘eight’ and ‘two’. This is cool.”
That was how Klopp summed up his new signing earlier in the week, and it is refreshing to hear of a big name transfer that will offer versatility in a what is a fairly thin Liverpool squad.
By stating that he can play ‘six’ or ‘eight’, the manager is hinting that Fabinho can slot into a defence-minded role – typically the back of the three-man pivot in the middle of the park, or alternatively he can take on the more adventurous, playmaking position that we struggled to fill following the loss of Philippe Coutinho and the injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.
As for the ‘two’ part….well, that suggests he can fill in at right back where necessary.
Klopp added that “….we have signed a fantastic player, but someone who is an equally fantastic person I think. His reputation as a character in the dressing room and his attitude in training has come through from everyone we speak to.”
And Thiago Silva, Fabinho’s Brazilian countryman and former opponent in Ligue 1, gave the 24-year-old an equally glittering review. “He is really smart, a really technical player and I am sure he will get adapted to the Premier League as soon as he arrives here,” he told Sky Sports.
Man in the Middle
So who is Fabinho anyway, and what can he offer a now stacked midfield department?
The 24-year-old was part of that golden generation at Monaco that included Thomas Lemar, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Kylian Mbappe, and who swept to the Ligue 1 title and the Champions League last eight at the expense of Manchester City, amongst others.
The French outfit underperformed last term – no big surprise given that the heart of their squad was ripped out by cash-rich vultures – and Fabinho was lost in amongst a return to more run-of-the-mill performances.
But even so, he still ranked third for most dispossessions in Ligue 1 last term, which suggests that he will offer a bit more defensive discipline than our current midfield options are able to supply.
And as the video below shows, the Brazilian is adept at turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye:
Here’s an amazing and wholly unexpected stat. Fabinho has scored more penalties since the start of the 2015/16 campaign than any other player in Europe’s big five leagues. When you have the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino jinking their way into the penalty area, that could well become a happy coincidence.
With Emre Can looking increasingly likely to leave the club this summer, Klopp has moved fast to replace the German with a defence-orientated midfielder with ‘young legs’ that can add quality and depth to the squad, ahead of what will hopefully be a silverware-laden campaign in 2018/19.