As Liverpool embarked on the first-leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie, there were staunch questions surrounding the weakened defence.
The Reds have suffered somewhat of an injury crisis in recent weeks – Dejan Lovren picked up a hamstring strain in the opening stages of the cup against Wolves and has only played 13 games this season while Joe Gomez, who enjoyed a brilliant start to the campaign, has been side-lined with a long-term knee injury of late.
All of that on top of Virgil van Dijk’s suspension meant Bayern Munich’s arrival at Anfield came at less than ideal time. In the midst of such occasions comes a rallying call for versatile players, able to fill in the blanks wherever needed.
Fabinho is exactly the type of player you’d associate with a Jurgen Klopp side; a player capable of delivering a professional performance in multiple positions, be it centre-back, right-back, defensive-midfield. Hell, he could probably do a stint in centre-attacking midfield at this point.
It hasn’t been the fastest journey, with the Brazilian initially given time to adjust to life at Anfield and the physical demands associated with Klopp’s high-octane system. Indeed, he went through the same process as Robertson and Oxlade-Chamberlain before him and has since achieved similarly impressive results.
Albeit a frustrating spell given the minimal minutes, since bursting onto the scene, the Brazilian has become an ever-present, emerging as one of Liverpool’s most important players.
A ‘lighthouse to the organised chaos’ as referred to by Pep Ljinders in a brilliant piece by Goal’s Neil Jones, Fabinho is one of the first names on the teamsheet at present, representing a remarkable shift in conversation from a player restricted to the substitutes bench to one fans desperately want to duplicate such is his impressive strength in defence and midfield.
Tuesday’s game was the best representation of the former, with the 25-year-old stepping up to the challenge amid Klopp’s defensive woes. His timing impeccable, his reading of the game spot on and his passing progressive, Fabinho thwarted Bayern on the rare occasions they threatened, sliding into the tackle against Lewandowski in the six-yard box before another tackle on the right.
As for midfield, Fabinho has proven to be a valued asset, adopting a progressive approach that has increased service into the front-three. Where his teammates had previously failed to provide the necessary spark, his forward thinking has driven players on, breaking opposition lines to add an extra dimension to the side.
With Liverpool emerged in a thrilling title chase, the versatility Fabinho offers could prove to be an immeasurable tool in Klopp’s favour. While midfield should remain his primary position such is his influence in a creative sense, Klopp can be safe in the knowledge that should he need to call on his services at the back, he possesses an avid professional, capable of handling the very best in the business.
Fabinho has become an integral member of this team and in many ways embodies the very ethos of his manager; selfless and combative with a visible passion to match, the Brazilian now looks a snip at £44m.
It’s funny what a little time and patience can do.