This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Kenny Cunningham has told Off The Ball that he would rather see Jordan Henderson in the holding role than Fabinho against Manchester City on Sunday.
Liverpool will face the Citizens at the Etihad this weekend in a clash that will have huge implications for the title race. The Reds currently lead the Premier League table by six points from Pep Guardiola’s side.
Ahead of the fixture, former Republic of Ireland defender Cunningham has been talking about how Jurgen Klopp and co can best combat the attacking threat the current champions have. He said: “I’m not totally convinced about him in that holding midfield position.
“We’re not arguing here if he’s a very good player or not, he is a very good player, but, as a purely defensive midfield player, going into this game against Manchester City you need a very specific skill set to deal with what David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are going to bring.
“For me, the first name on the teamsheet would be Jordan Henderson in that holding role. He has the best defensive mindset in that Liverpool midfield and it’s going to be needed.”
So far this campaign, the former AS Monaco man has made 16 appearances, including 13 starts, and all of them have come in defensive midfield. Meanwhile, Henderson has made 14 appearances, 12 of which have been in the first XI, in a slightly more advanced role just ahead of the Brazil international according to Transfermarkt.
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Therefore, it seems their positions are confirmed in Klopp’s mind, but Cunningham may be on to something. The 26-year-old has 2.5 tackles per game in the top tier this season, more than any of his teammates, but Henderson is second with 1.9, and is a player who has regularly averaged more than two in league football down the years.
What is interesting to note about Fabinho, though, is the offensive ability he possesses. Even though he plays deeper than his captain, he has averaged 1.3 key passes per match this campaign in the league compared to 0.5, whilst he is also slightly ahead in terms of dribbles with 0.6 to 0.4.
In a more attacking role, Fabinho may be able to contribute more than the 55-time England international. Even if that does not come in this game against City, it could be something for the former Borussia Dortmund manager to contemplate moving forward as he looks to get as much as possible out of all of his midfielders.