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Fabinho adds new string to his bow as elite Liverpool duo forms

Fabinho was once again a tower of strength for Liverpool throughout 2021/22, as the Brazilian finished the campaign among the standout performers.

If there were any doubts as to the importance of the No. 3’s role at the base of the midfield, they had surely been put to bed a season earlier, when injuries meant Fabinho doubled up as a makeshift centre-back in the dark days of a cruel injury crisis.

Thankfully, this latest chapter in the Reds’ history was a more fruitful one and, as such, the former AS Monaco man was able to spend the entire campaign playing in his favoured position.

All told, Fabinho ended the season having made 48 appearances across all competitions for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, scoring an impressive eight goals in the process – cruising past a previous two-goal season-high since arriving on Merseyside.

Only five players – all forwards – found the back of the net more often.

Fabinho, 2021/22

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 2, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Watford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Started: 41 (All competitions)
On as a substitute: 7
Unused sub: 1
Goals: 8
Assists: 1

Overall Season Rating: 8.87

 

Goals & Grins

LEEDS, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 12, 2021: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Leeds United FC and Liverpool FC at Elland Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Despite his obvious importance to Klopp’s plans, Fabinho made a slow start to the campaign having returned back from international duty late due to the Copa America.

The gangly Brazilian only played 29 minutes of the opening-day victory against Norwich and then missed the home win over Burnley, before normal service was resumed thereafter.

Ill-placed internationals continued to truncate his run in August, September and October, but Fabinho opened his goalscoring account and was named Man of the Match in the resounding 3-0 success at Leeds before truly coming into his own after Christmas.

With Liverpool shorn of Africa Cup of Nations stars Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, the smiling midfield assassin, never one to shirk a challenge, played every minute in the Premier League throughout January as Klopp’s side began to move into fifth gear.

Between January 16 and April 4, Liverpool won 10 consecutive league games, during which time Fabinho scored on four occasions – including the only goal of the game against Burnley, on perhaps the most ‘Burnley away’ day in the history of the fixture.

It wasn’t all goals and glory, however.

So often the man who interrupts a potentially threatening counter-attack, should the monster tackler ever fall foul of the referee – nine yellow cards would suggest that happens frequently – the ensuing grin of disbelief at the decision is almost as honourable as the act itself.

Albeit another superb season in the main, it would be remiss to not disclose the entire picture and admit that his half-hour cameo display against Aston Villa in May was reminiscent of Space Jam, when the NBA stars have been stripped of their ability.

That momentarily apparent lapse of talent aside, this was yet another sensational season for Fabinho that included goalscoring, tough-tackling and rekindling a perfect record as a penalty-taking extraordinaire that followed him from Monaco.

 

A match made in heaven

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, February 10, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara kisses the head of Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At times in 2020/21, the prospect of watching Fabinho and Thiago play football together seemed a pipedream.

Thankfully, this season the duo were paired together on more than enough occasions to see Liverpool dominate a vast majority of matches.

So much so that their record when starting together in the Premier League reads as 21 games, 18 wins and three draws – a tally that would see Liverpool end the season unbeaten and with a surely unassailable 104 points were it extrapolated over an entire 38-game campaign.

Seemingly blending the perfect mix of rugged defence with culture, plus the leadership, energy and dynamism of a third midfield cog in Keita or Jordan Henderson, Thiago and Fabinho will almost certainly remain a key duo going into next season.

 

What’s to come

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 29, 2022: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino, Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' and Luis Díaz celebrate during an open top bus parade around the city after the club won the Cup Double, the FA Cup and the Football League Cup. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Although it’s perhaps too simplistic to say ‘more silverware’, such is the level of what Fabinho offers to this Liverpool side, it’s almost impossible to see anything but more tilts at titles with the Brazilian – and others – still in situ.

Having said that, Klopp would be well served to unearth an understudy in order to rest and rotate in the No. 6 role more frequently.

The one criticism that perhaps can justifiably be laid at Fabinho‘s door is that too much football can bring about wholly forgettable performances when off the pace, not to mention the threat of an occasional injury.

Tyler Morton may prove to be that stand-in, with the 19-year-old highly regarded within the first-team setup.

2022 vs Brentford Fabinho of Liverpool (C) celebrates scoring (Image: Darren Staples/Sportimage)

Recognised by the manager for his “incredibly important” performances, finding a way to continue to get the most out of his lighthouse will be key for Klopp next season.

Criminally underrated, Fabinho is never spoken about for the very top honours despite being vitally important to one of the greatest sides on the planet right now.


Best moment: That crucial goal against Villarreal in the second leg

Worst moment: A torrid evening before being replaced at Villa Park

Role next season: Key player, pivotal to any success

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