It’s been some time since Liverpool had a holding midfielder as dominant as Fabinho. The better part of a decade, in fact, as one has to go back to 2011 before Lucas Leiva picked up an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Chelsea to find a similarly dominant player.
And with Lucas’ run as a world class holding player cut short by that injury, one might even have to go back to the days of Javier Mashcerano and Xabi Alonso to find a Liverpool side where such dominance at the base of midfield was the sustained, consistent norm.
“He is connected to the game, always,” was former world class Liverpool midfielder Alonso’s take on current world class Liverpool midfielder Fabinho. “His anticipation is his greatest asset. Sometimes you only have to take one or two steps to change the movements.
“That can determine the whole outcome of the game without anyone really realising because spectators tend to follow the ball rather than the player. He’s not reacting one second later, he’s anticipating what is going to happen one second before.”
Movement, positioning off the ball, changing the angles of potential future passing lanes to teammates before you even receive the ball so that when you do get it you can instantly make an incisive, game-changing pass. It’s something Fabinho does very well.
And there are few players in the history of Liverpool who were as good at it in midfield as Alsono, making the former Red something of an authority on the subject. As great as Alonso was, though, off the ball he lacked the defensive steel of the 26-year-old Fabinho.
For that side of the game, Alonso relied on his midfield partner, Mascherano. Fabinho, on the other hand, is comfortable sitting alone in the six, not just a single-pivot anchor but also at times the most creative and incisive player in the middle of the park for Liverpool.
Right now, there’s not doubt Fabinho is one this side’s key players—Liverpool’s player of the season so far. By the end of it, he could take the mantle from the likes of Alonso and Mascherano and Lucas as the best holding player Liverpool have had this millennium.