Jurgen Klopp made a costly error when selecting his team to take on Manchester City in Thursday night’s game at the Etihad. The German boss opted to start Jordan Henderson in the middle ahead of his £44m summer signing alongside James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum, which didn’t have the desired effect.
Having signed from Monaco in the summer, the Brazilian international struggled for game time early on in his Liverpool career as Klopp opted to bed him into the Premier League slowly.
However, in recent weeks, the former Borussia Dortmund boss has trusted the 25-year-old in some huge games, most notably the fixtures against Everton, Manchester United and Arsenal at Anfield, in which Fabinho made a big impression on the side with some dominant displays.
Against Pep Guardiola’s champions, however, the defensive midfielder started on the bench, perhaps due to the amount of games he played in over the busy festive period. Whatever the reason, it was the wrong call from Klopp.
The Reds lacked a presence in the middle of the park, and saw their chances of creating anything going forward stifled by City’s very own Brazilian midfield destroyer Fernandinho – if anything could have shown Liverpool what they were missing by benching Fabinho, it was the former Shakhtar Donetsk man’s heroic display.
As aforementioned, Fernandinho’s performance showed just how important a ball-winner in midfield is in ensuring the rest of the side tick. In his absence, City lost games against both Leicester and Crystal Palace, but immediately looked back to their normal selves upon his return to the side in wins over Southampton and Liverpool.
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We’ve already seen the impact that N’Golo Kante had in two title-winning teams whilst at Leicester and then Chelsea; almost every successful team needs a player of this ilk in their side, and whilst Liverpool do have a very effective one in Fabinho, the game against City was the type of match that he was made for.
Benching him in arguably the biggest game of the season so far for Liverpool was foolish, and Klopp will be praying it doesn’t come back to haunt him.