Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders believes the return to midfield of Fabinho can ensure the Reds enjoy a positive end to the season.
The Brazilian has been forced to cover in central defence for large periods this season. A season-ending ACL injury suffered by Virgil van Dijk meant Jurgen Klopp quickly turned to Fabinho as cover. Further injuries to first Joe Gomez and then Joel Matip further increased their reliance upon him.
However, the blossoming partnership of Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips in defence has allowed Fabinho to return to his natural role.
His presence back in midfield has sparked an improvement from Liverpool. Their season reached a nadir when they suffered five home defeats in a row. Unthinkable, given they went close to four years without defeat at Anfield prior to Burnley’s win.
However, Lijnders thinks Fabinho has quickly served a reminder why he was the real victim of Liverpool’s defensive crisis. And the Dutchman has explained why he rates the Brazilian as one of the world’s best No 6’s.
“That’s why when we speak about team development we are speaking indirectly about individual development. Our idea forces this individual development.
“About Fabinho, I only want to say he has the capacity to make the players around him better. It’s really difficult to find players who have the talent to make the other ones flourish.
“There are just a few players in world football who have this natural capacity to stop counters, for example; most of them just tactically foul.
“He just always puts the team above himself. By the way, all our Brazilians have this characteristic. Nobody likes them, everybody loves them.”
Lijnders happy to see Fabinho in midfield
The Reds assistant boss also points to the successful midfield link-up between Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum.
But he says it’s clear to see what Fabinho brings to the side when playing at the base of midfield.
“You get someone who is only concerned about making the team better, there is no space for ego. He is a real team player,” he said of Fabinho.
“Luckily we have three of them, Gini and Hendo have this characteristic as well.
“Having two midfielders like that is like the queen in the chess game. You lose the queen, who defends in offence.
“There is a reason why the better chess players just give up when they lose the queen.
“You need two who can control a game by being dominant without the ball. That’s what we are searching for.”
Quite what Lijnders’ comments mean for the likes of Thiago remain to be seen. However, it does prove that Liverpool will unlikely ever turn to Fabinho as defensive cover again, given his midfield importance.