Fabinho has revealed how Liverpool have missed the influence of Jordan Henderson as they hunt down an unlikely place in the top four this season.
Henderson has successfully undergone surgery on the groin injury he sustained in the Merseyside derby in February. The 30-year-old was substituted after half an hour of the 2-0 defeat at Anfield and has not played since. Jurgen Klopp admitted at the time the injury “doesn’t look good” and he refused again to put a timescale on his recovery on Friday.
It’s been a tough season for the champions with their title defence hampered by a number of long-term injuries. A top-four finish is still in sight for the Reds and Klopp called for them to go all out in their remaining games.
Fabinho could slot in at centre-back again against Arsenal on Saturday night. And the Brazilian has revealed he has learnt a lot in the role after making 15 starts from 19 in the Premier League in defence.
“Playing as a centre-half, I learnt a lot,” he told Sky Sports.
“I learnt to enjoy playing this position because at first I didn’t really enjoy it! But then thanks to my team-mates I improved a lot and learnt some things about the position, about leadership as well because in this position you can see almost everything, so we had to try to organise the team as well.”
He has also revealed the huge hole that skipper Henderson has left in the side.
“Hendo is the most communicative player in the team – he’s always talking,” Fabinho said. “And something that impressed me, he talks with everyone every time he stops running as well!
“It’s something we really miss. Some of the players have to step up and try to be a leader as well when we don’t have this kind of player on the pitch. I try to do this. I think I improved a lot in this role as well.
“I’m not like Hendo but I think I can help in that aspect as well.”
The 27-year-old returned to his more familiar defensive midfield position for wins over RB Leipzig and Wolves. His prowess at winning the ball back has been missed by the champions. But Liverpool have kept just two clean sheets in the 14 Premier League games they’ve played without him at centre-back.
He’s a player who has proved his value in both positions and Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders called him “a real team player” last week.
“In midfield, you touch the ball more and, in the offensive part, have a bigger importance than you can have at centre-half. But my focus first of all is always to try to protect the defence without the ball, to try to close the gaps,” said Fabinho.
“Then, when we have the ball and lose it, to try to recover it as quickly as possible.”
Fabinho: We have to press Arsenal
Asked about the test Arsenal will bring Liverpool at Anfield, he added: “They have a really good team, very good players in the centre of the pitch. We have to press these players, not give them the pass they want. Because with a little space these players can be really dangerous.”
“Now the last part of the season starts, the most decisive part. So we have to give everything and play each game like a final.
“It will be hard to be in the top four and to go as far as possible in the Champions League but we have to be ready for this, we have to give everything and to play our best football if we want to celebrate something at the end of the season.
“Yes of course we believe [we can make top four]. We have to be the first to believe it if we want to be there. And I think we can win this tie against Real Madrid – but we have to bring our best shape and best mood. We are Liverpool so we always try to win every competition.
“It will be really important if we start with a win against Arsenal. It will be hard because Arsenal are a good team and we play an away game. But if we want to be in the top four we need to win these types of games.”