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Mohamed Salah bagged the headlines last Saturday evening with his two goals against Arsenal as Liverpool went clear at the top of the Premier League with their third win of three, leaving them as the only team with a 100% start to the season. The Egyptian is on three goals for the season, the same in all competitions as Sadio Mane, while Roberto Firmino got off the mark with his strike against Southampton last week.

The Reds haven’t been as assured defensively as they were this time last year, with no clean sheets from their five matches so far this month and six conceded in that time. It took them until 26 September to have that many goals put past them last season, so that is an itch Jurgen Klopp will be eager to scratch against Burnley on Saturday. Their most defensive-minded midfielder has enjoyed a superb start to the season, though.

Fabinho only appeared as a sub in the win at St Mary’s but, in the two Premier League games that he has started this term, he has made a largely unseen yet meritorious contribution from the base of Liverpool’s midfield. He was a frequent yet far from guaranteed presence in the team last season, starting 21 of 38 league matches and seven of their 13 games en route to Champions League glory. Based on what we’ve seen of him so far this month, though, the Brazilian can lay a strong claim to call one of the regular midfield starting berths his own.

Fabinho v Norwich

Liverpool put Norwich to the sword with a clinical first half performance, leading 4-0 at the interval, and Sky Sports named Salah as their man of the match. Fabinho was statistically one of the Reds’ best performers on the night, getting through a mountain of unselfish work as Klopp’s team emphatically punished a Canaries side who gave a far more respectable performance than the final score of 4-1 may suggest.

The 25-year-old won eight tackles on the night, more than twice as many as every other player on the pitch, and six of those came between the 51st and 65th minute, while he also made two interceptions as part of his relentless efforts to break up play. His passing may have been slack at times – he misplaced nine of his 42 passes, ending with an accuracy rate of 78.6% that fell beneath last season’s average of 85.3% – but overall he had an excellent game.

Fabinho Liverpool Tactical Analysis Statistcs

The heatmaps above testify to the large volume of ground he covered not just in the middle of the park, but also further towards the wings (left heatmap), with Norwich using the wide midfield areas far more frequently than going centrally (right heatmap).

Fabinho Liverpool Tactical Analysis Statistcs

Indeed, almost all of Fabinho’s tackles were made out wide (see above), with the midfielder consistently sensing the danger posed by full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, along with wide attackers Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell.

Fabinho v Arsenal

Salah again took the headlines with his brace of goals while Joel Matip was also on target, but Fabinho was again magnificent in midfield as Liverpool preserved their own perfect start to the campaign while ending Arsenal’s in the process. Along with Jordan Henderson, the Brazilian put in a tireless shift to keep some of the Gunners’ most skilful players quiet – Dani Ceballos, for instance, was largely anonymous at Anfield.

He won just two of his three tackles this time around, a significant comedown on his marvellous total against Norwich, but his ball distribution was nothing short of excellent, completing 65 of his 71 passes for a 93% success rate. His total of successful passes was more than any other player in red last Saturday and second only to Granit Xhaka for the Gunners. It was also a marked improvement on last season’s average.

Fabinho Liverpool Tactical Analysis Statistcs

Fabinho was not just passing for the sake of statistics, either. Of his 71 passes (see above), almost half (33) were played in or into Arsenal’s defensive third of the pitch, while nearly three-quarters (51) were played forward rather than backwards or side-to-side. Ten of those 71 were defined as long passes, including his telegraphed ball to Salah that culminated in the Egyptian giving Liverpool a three-goal lead.

Fabinho’s season so far at Liverpool

In the 2019/20 Premier League so far, the Brazilian has a slightly better passing accuracy rate of 85.8% to last season’s 85.3%. From averaging 2.1 tackles per game last term, he has increased that to 3.3 in the opening weeks of this season. His average of key passes per game has rocketed from 0.6 to 1.7, albeit that the current campaign is only three weeks old.

He started 21 league games last season, featuring regularly but finding it difficult to make one of the midfield berths his own. Judging by his performances against Norwich and Arsenal, the 25-year-old has shown himself to be worthy of a more regular place in Klopp’s first XI over the coming months.

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