What makes Fabinho the best holding midfielder in the Premier League? Adam Bate examines the range of skills that set the Liverpool man apart.
“Fabinho, for me, is the best.” That was the reluctant admission of Gary Neville on Monday Night Football, his words being warmly received by Jamie Carragher. A little over a year on from his arrival in the Premier League, and after just 25 starts in the competition, the Liverpool midfielder has established himself as the finest holding midfielder in the country.
Much of the focus on Monday evening was on the impact that a centre-back partnership of Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones could have on Manchester City’s title ambition this season. City’s points per game average with the two men in the team together suggests that they would yield around 82 points if forced to persist with the pairing.
But there is another statistic that should offer just as much encouragement for Liverpool supporters – and be just as worrying for City fans. Those 25 matches in which Fabinho has started have brought 21 wins, four draws and no defeats. Extrapolate that over 38 games and Liverpool are looking at 102 points. The Brazilian has been that good.
That record doesn’t even include the game that he helped turn from the bench against Tottenham in March. It doesn’t include his contribution to the Champions League success – even covering at centre-back when shutting out Bayern Munich at Anfield. It does include the game he played against Brighton at centre-back, resulting in another clean sheet.
“He has a defensive brain,” said his manager Jurgen Klopp at the time, but it is as a holding midfielder that he has really made a difference. Liverpool were already strong – reaching a Champions League final with the trio of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner – but Fabinho’s introduction has helped take Klopp’s team to the next level.