Having been shunted about at various points of the season as a result of Liverpool’s defensive injury crisis and having missed a few games through injury himself, Fabinho was back in his ‘rightful place’ in defensive midfield as Liverpool saw off the German side to progress to the quarter-finals.
And speaking on ESPN FC about his performance, Nicol claimed it was his display that provided the platform for Liverpool to make it through the second leg of the tie safely.
He said: “Let’s be honest, there’s one main reason why this was supposedly so easy, and his name’s Fabinho – what a performance. I mean, you talk about somebody showing you what you’ve been missing in the middle of the park.
“Recently, everybody that Liverpool have played have streamed through the middle for fun whenever they fancied it.
“Well, this guy today, he stopped everything that came at him, he stood off when he had to, he passed it forward when he had to, he stepped off – I mean, you talk about the perfect performance from a defensive central-midfielder.”
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TIF Thoughts on Steve Nicol’s comments about Fabinho’s performance…
Nicol’s comments are backed up by the numbers, as the Brazilian midfielder, valued at £54m on Transfermarkt, made three tackles on the night, made three interceptions and made two clearances (as per WhoScored) as he acted as a shield in front of the backline, giving Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak – who were starting only their second game together as a defensive pair after the Sheffield United match – a calmer night’s work.
And whilst Jürgen Klopp has been forced to tweak his centre-back options throughout the season, what they have missed is the protection that someone like Fabinho offers, which might have helped things go a lot smoother if the backline wasn’t under so much pressure all the time.
Food for thought for Klopp, then, and although there may need to be some more tweaks to the backline, he’s probably better off keeping Fabinho out of the reckoning, keeping him as the ‘safety blanket’ instead.