When Liverpool moved quickly to sign Fabinho from Monaco in a £40M deal as soon as the 2017-18 season ended, many thought the club had its new midfield anchor. A series of solid, promising pre-season performances only bolstered such thoughts.
So far, though, the 24-year-old Brazilian has only played 101 minutes for his new club—and 87 of those came in the League Cup. Even for those who expected a slower integration into the first team for Fabinho, that’s been something of a surprise.
“My process to adapt to English football has been very good,” the player told journalists while on duty with the Brazilian national team this week when he was asked about the difficulties he’s had getting regular minutes since joining Liverpool.
“Since pre-season, I believe I have understood the way Jürgen Klopp plays and the way the team plays. My relationship with my teammates has also been very good. I’m playing a little more and it’s important to adapt on the pitch by playing matches.”
It’s a measured response to what one imagines has been a difficult period for a player who would have arrived at the club expecting to play far more regularly than he has, but in retrospect perhaps it shouldn’t be quite as surprising as it feels.
After all, it’s not just Fabinho’s introduction that has been slow and measured—Naby Keïta has played more, but his 548 minutes are still far less than expected and far less than the club’s more established midfielders have played so far this season.
By comparison, Jordan Henderson—who missed most of club’s pre-season following the summer’s World Cup—has played more than 600 minutes while Gini Wijnaldum and James Miner have both played more than 800 to start the 2018-19 season.
Klopp has, at least as much as possible, sought to stick with players he knows and who know the system. And it’s hard to argue with the results, even if the past few games have seemed to argue fresher legs and a little more rotation might be a good idea.
Eventually, though, the new players will know the system as well as the old ones and chances will come. That’s been the line from Klopp so far and, just maybe, following the international break there will be a larger role in the team waiting for Fabinho.
“It’s a new experience for me because Klopp has a different style of work from the way I’m used to, but this is something I will learn,” he added. “I have learned a few things from him but it is just the start. He is a coach who demands a lot from his players.”