Liverpool assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders has heaped praise on “lighthouse” Fabinho for adapting seamlessly to his No. 6 role.
Fabinho was given time by Jurgen Klopp at the start of the season to acclimatise to his high-octane style of play, but since breaking into the starting XI the Brazilian has been a near ever-present.
Why is Fabinho Liverpool’s “lighthouse”? Five key things to know…
- Signed from Monaco for £40m in the summer, Fabinho has proven indispensable since breaking into the first-team picture.
- Lijnders, who returned to Liverpool in the summer, believes Fabinho is Liverpool’s “lighthouse” because of his calming presence.
- The Brazilian brings an aura of composure to the “organised chaos” Liverpool try to create.
- At present, no Liverpool midfielder boasts a better interceptions per 90 minutes (1.3) tally than Fabinho.
- Fabinho’s performances have seen him linked to PSG but he recently rejected the rumours.
Lijnders joined Liverpool from Porto in 2014, but left for NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands last January. However, after failing to guide the club to Eredivisie promotion, he was sacked and subsequently rejoined the Reds in the summer.
This season Klopp has tried to adapt his brand of football, altering between his usually high-attacking panache and a more controlled style of play, a system best utilised through deploying Fabinho in the No.6 role.
Fabinho has been central to that transformation and in an interview with ESPN Lijnders spoke in admiration of the 25-year-old for biding his time and eventually proving his worth at Anfield.
Lijnders said: “To adapt to the intensity of our play, that takes time. Not many can do it, and in certain positions it is easier than others.
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“If you are a front player and you come in, and you are used to playing in an attacking way, then it is easier, depending on the specific attributes you have as a player.
“For him, to play in a midfield three as we did at the start of the season, we knew from the first second, we knew from the videos that it would take time.
“His impulse of defending forward is absolutely of the highest level. The question as a No. 6 is that you are moving more side to side than forwards. Then of course you have to adapt, and then we find a good solution to change to 4-4-2.
“And from that moment it helped so much, and then you saw the real Fabinho. Inside the ‘organised chaos’ that we want, that we like, he is like a lighthouse, he controls it and for me, you can still have the style of the gaffer and how we want to identify ourselves.
“But with a player like Fabinho in the middle, the ball always goes out round. That’s how they say it in Portuguese. His timing, his vision, his calmness, it gives another dimension to our midfield player.”
Why Salah is a “top player”
Among the changes made by Liverpool this season, another drastic alteration has been shifting Mohamed Salah from winger to false No.9 role, and dropping Roberto Firmino into a deeper role.
Lijnders believes Salah deserves huge credit for having no qualms about changing his position, despite enjoying a record-breaking campaign last term.
He said: “I think how this team is constructed anyway, it’s glued by character, ambition and passion. It really fits well. That’s what I try to say what influenced that evolution, you bring in not only world-class players, but you bring in players who are very hungry for training.
“That’s what I like most about our project. If you look to our squad and what we are trying to achieve and what we are achieving, that hunger for becoming better and becoming quicker.
“Mo is a good example of that. He’s always searching for the next step and the next level without putting more pressure. It’s the difference between a good player and a top player.
“A top player can do it constantly. For me, the difference between a good player and a top player is that they can solve problems before it becomes problems or they can solve problems in many different ways.”