Liverpool’s convincing 3-0 victory over Leeds United was marred by the shocking injury sustained by Harvey Elliott, but their midfield appears to be in safe hands.
Spain international Thiago put in a stellar performance on his first start of the season, and he was able to play with such courage and attacking freedom thanks to the brilliance of Fabinho.
After collecting three points at Elland Road, Liverpool have now won the last nine games that the duo have started together in midfield, highlighting their effectiveness when paired together.
It perhaps would have been the easier and safer option for Reds manager Jurgen Klopp if he’d kept the diminutive gem on the bench for one week longer, allowing him to match the frenetic, all-action style of Leeds in the engine room.
However, that wasn’t the case. The German manager opted for the alternative option and chose a midfield full of thinkers rather than hard-working sprinters.
“That Liverpool midfield wasn’t perhaps the most athletic or mobile,” said Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville on the Gary Neville Podcast after the game. “Klopp could have played Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Naby Keita to match Leeds up. But it was all about composure.
“Thiago reminded me of the way Paul Scholes played at Anfield. There would be a frantic spell in the game, and all of sudden, there would be a small guy in the middle of the pitch who would get his foot on the ball, and there would be calm and peace.”
And Klopp was rewarded for his tactically brave decision. During the 90 minutes, Fabinho made a whopping five interceptions, far more than anyone else on the pitch, as he constantly cut off Leeds’ attacks before they could really get going.
The South American provided the perfect platform for Thiago to showcase his true talent, and the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich ace duly obliged.
As per SofaScore, the 30-year-old made two key passes during his time on the pitch, created one big chance and capped off his fine afternoon’s work with an assist for Sadio Mane’s long-overdue strike in the final few minutes of action.
It felt like the game when the £27m-rated dynamo, who was once hailed as “extraordinary” by Barca and Spain legend Xavi, finally announced himself to English football after struggling with his fitness and underperforming teammates last season.
Injuries to key centre-backs robbed Thiago of the chance to build up a meaningful relationship with Fabinho in his maiden campaign on English shores, but it appears that the duo are about to make up for lost time in the months ahead.
One man who may suffer as a result is Keita, who failed to impress during his two top-flight starts of 2021/22, but Liverpool’s manager, fans and hierarchy alike are unlikely to care about that given the potential of their new formidable duo in the centre of the pitch.