Man of the Match: Fabinho leaves his mark in first Merseyside Derby

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An afternoon that threatened to end in frustration turned into one of jubilation when Liverpool’s forgotten man Divock Origi turned home the winner following a howler from Jordan Pickford. While it’s hugely tempting to give the Belgian man of the match purely for sending Anfield into another Merseyside frenzy as Sadio Mane’s 94th-minute derby winner had done last season, I’ve tempered my rollercoaster of emotions and turned elsewhere.

It’s not been the fastest of starts for Fabinho since his summer move, with Jurgen Klopp often opting for his counterparts as he bedded into new surroundings, developing an understanding for the German’s fast-paced, gegenpressing system. However, the former-Monaco man has slowly begun to wriggle his way into the side of late, looking to add an impetus and drive that’s been sorely lacking in midfield this season.

Two traits often associated with Oxlade-Chamberlain last season, Liverpool have been lacking that spark this year. Whether that’s because of a more pragmatic approach from the manager or things not yet ticking for the Reds remains up for debate, but Fabinho’s first performance in the Merseyside derby will have pleased Klopp immensely as he looks to solve the puzzle.

Placed alongside Gini Wijnaldum in a midfield two, Fabinho showed exactly what he has to offer. In easily his best performance for the club to date, his desire to be quick into the tackle placed Liverpool directly on the front foot, marking a return to their previous high-intensity pressing style that hasn’t always been as apparent this season. The Brazilian provided the base for several attacks with interceptions across the park. Indeed, it was he who picked Idrissa Gueye’s pocket in the build-up to Shaqiri’s golden chance in the first half.

He showed exactly what Liverpool lacked during their mid-week trip to Paris Saint-German in the Champions League, bringing a bite and impetus to proceedings fuelled by a defensive intelligence that restricted Everton’s ability to drive at the heart of the back-four. In that sense, he seems to have a little bit of everything; possessing the positional awareness to adapt to the movement of Wijnaldum in the middle, breaking up the opposition’s moves before stepping out from his position and playing incisive forward passes, Fabinho made his mark in a pivotal fixture for the club.

Of course, this isn’t to say that any shortcomings within the midfield were totally wiped out on the day, or that they will for the foreseeable future, but this was a marked improvement on prior performances. Fabinho was a key part of that, offering a dynamic to the midfield that his teammates have failed to in prior encounters. It’s still early days into his Liverpool career but based on this evidence, the Brazilian should retain his place. Rest assured, the fans are desperate to see their man in the side more.

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