Fabinho‘s form as a centre-back for Liverpool is made more impressive not only due to it not being his natural position, but also his career-long inexperience in the role.
Watching the Reds’ No. 3 performing at the heart of defence throughout the campaign so far, those unaware would be forgiven for believing he was a lifelong centre-back.
That day at the Amex saw him partner Virgil van Dijk, while a month later he was alongside Joel Matip for a 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich that saw him successfully shackle one of the world’s best strikers in Robert Lewandowski.
Now, Fabinho is filling in for Van Dijk, Matip and Joe Gomez as Liverpool’s leading centre-back, and this is all the more remarkable given he has started just 16 of his 100 appearances for the Reds in that role.
Speaking to the club’s official website to reflect on his century, the 27-year-old revealed that while a transition was long in the works since joining from Monaco, he had never previously played a professional game at centre-back.
“Liverpool was the first time in my professional career.”
Klopp began working on the centre-back role with Fabinho after he had settled from his move from France, with bespoke sessions at Melwood seeing him deployed at the heart of defence in training.
This ensured it was “not a surprise” to the natural midfielder when he was drafted in to first partner the likes of Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip, and now take responsibility as leader at the back next to Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips.
The manager’s influence on his excellent form at centre-back has remained with Fabinho explaining that he has “just tried to give him the confidence” to make the position his own.
“The manager has tried to help with small things, positional things or sometimes when to play a long ball or step forward with it,” he added.
“Things like this – the small details – so I can get better.
“He doesn’t talk too much about it, he has just tried to give me the confidence to play the position.”
Fabinho still believes he can improve in his new role, and this is hugely encouraging given the consistent level of performance he has managed in his first season as a regular starting centre-back.
“Of course, defence is a new position for me so I can improve a lot there,” he conceded.
“I can learn with my team-mates, so I am always trying to learn, improve and to be a better player so I can help the team.
“I have always said I wanted to be important for the team and so I am happy to hear this, but I know I can improve more in the position – and I will do my best to be better.”
While the move from the base of the midfield to 10 yards back in defence may seem a small one to onlookers, it is clearly a new challenge for Fabinho.
And it is one he has wholly embraced, allowing him to thrive as a result.