Jurgen Klopp hails ‘very important’ Liverpool midfielder Fabinho
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp admits he is now spoiled for choice with midfield options but the one player who holds the key to everything is Fabinho.
The return to fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita, in particular, allowed Klopp to play an attacking match in the 4-1 midweek Champions League win over Genk.
However, that game was not without its issues as Fabinho, who covered the most distance of any player on the night, was left to patrol the wide open spaces as his team-mates pushed forward but despite his best efforts at times they were over-exposed.
Klopp accepted as much but he has so much faith in the Brazil international he has not ruled out revisiting the same midfield three in the future.
“The Genk game was a good example of how important he is. Very!” said the Reds boss.
“It was clear it was not perfectly-tuned with Naby and Ox around because they didn’t play a lot together in this formation, but it is a possible formation for sure.
“Fabi had a lot to do to sort some little gaps which we left open. In that (Genk) game he played as pretty much the only midfielder in some moments.
“The job of the six in modern football is incredibly important and the more offensive the players around you are, the more important it gets.
“But he is not only a gap-closer and a challenger, he is a very good footballer as well.”
Since establishing himself in the side about 12 months ago after a slow start to his debut season, the Brazil international’s importance to the side cannot be under-estimated.
He has started 13 of 15 matches this season – one of the games he missed was the Carabao Cup tie against MK Dons when most of the first team were given the night off – and 40 of the last 48.
Klopp would not admit it publicly but he must be secretly delighted that, despite his impressive performances, Brazil coach Tite chooses not to play him when he calls him up for the international team.
He admits, however, the 26-year-old will have to be rested at some point.
“He only flies in the international breaks, he doesn’t play! That’s pretty much how it is. He is somewhere but not playing,” Klopp said of Fabinho’s international exclusion.
“It’s difficult in my life not to create headlines but I don’t want to create a headline in Brazil. So no comment.
“There will be a moment when we have to think about that, 100 per cent. But we have replacements; Gini (Wijnaldum) can play the position really well and Hendo (Jordan Henderson) played it for a time.”
Fabinho will start at home to Tottenham on Sunday but that game is likely to see the return of Wijnaludm and Henderson, despite Oxlade-Chamberlain’s two-goal performance in midweek.
“No headache, just bigger selection, more players to choose from. If good games from players gave me a headache my life would be really sad,” added Klopp.
“We decided the team for that game because of fresh legs and we will try to find the best line-up for Tottenham as well, and of course the last game is always important information – but not the only one.
“It’s no secret how much I like Ox as person and as a player. At the end it’s about being ready for specific moments.
“He made big steps in the last couple of weeks, but my expectation of Ox is pretty high.
“I’m impressed by the goals but know there is still more to come. He knows that, I know that.”