Liverpool were in the news constantly over the summer due in large part to the fact that the team was arguably the most aggressive team in England during the transfer window. Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool board weren’t afraid to splash some cash around and they wound up purchasing 3 high-profile new players. Goalkeeper Alisson Becker was the most highly-touted signing, while former Stoke man Xherdan Shaqiri was brought in to provide some attacking depth behind Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The Reds also attempted to fortify their defence by bringing Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho over from Monaco. The 24-year-old had emerged as one of the premier players at his position in Europe during his time in Ligue 1, and Klopp was clearly an admirer. Liverpool also brought Naby Keita over from RB Leipzig after a transfer fee was agreed upon in the summer of 2017.
The new signings combined with the stellar team that was already in place have Liverpool among the heavy favourites to win some silverware this season. Most real money gambling sites have Klopp’s men as the second-favorite to win the Premier League, just behind Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
Alisson, Shaqiri and Keita have seen somewhat regular playing time since joining the side, but Fabinho had to wait until Wednesday’s Carabao Cup fixture against Chelsea to make his debut as a starter for the Reds. His lone non-preseason appearance until this point had been a cameo as a substitute during the team’s 3-2 Champions League win over Paris St. Germain last week.
Klopp has kept the Brazilian on the sidelines in order to give him enough time to adapt to Liverpool’s playing style as well as the rigors of the English top flight. Klopp evidently saw enough progress from the player in training to feel confident about giving him a starting nod in the eventual 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Prior to the game, Klopp said, “A good game would be cool from Fabinho. The eyes are on him pretty much on him after the transfer in the summer. He did not play so far but if he can play as normal as he can get, it would be the best way.”
Klopp preached patience throughout the preseason, however, as he said that the difference in playing style between Liverpool and Monaco was like night and day. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needed time to acclimate to the Reds’ aggressive, high-pressing style after coming over last season from Arsenal, as well.
Fabinho wound up putting in a solid shift in his first start, though the appearance wasn’t without its nervous moments. Fabinho looked downright nervous early in the match, as if he were afraid to make a mistake. He finally got his first touch as Liverpool were building a counterattack. He received a pass from Dejan Lovren and eventually shepherded the ball over to Nathaniel Clyne down the right flank. The Brazilian put in a few necessary challenges, as well, but his most nervy moment came in the 34th minute when he unwittingly had his pocket picked by fellow Brazilian Willian.
Fabinho was eventually shown a yellow for an ill-timed challenge on Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata just before the interim. Fabinho was trying to knock the ball free but instead wound up clipping the player’s ankles, earning himself a booking in the process. He was eventually subbed off in favor of Mohamed Salah with just seconds remaining as Klopp sought an equaliser.
All things considered, it wasn’t a poor debut for Fabinho. The Oxlade-Chamberlain example is a good one to keep in mind. The England international made his debut in red on September 19 of last year in a League Cup tie against Leicester. We didn’t see Oxlade-Chamberlain start again until November 1.
In the end, however, Oxlade-Chamberlain wound up emerging as a vital cog in the side that reached last season’s Champions League Final. He suffered an unfortunate ACL tear late in the season that will cost him all of this season, but the Ox example goes to show that not every player is going to hit the ground running. Some need more time to ready themselves than others. Not every new signing can pay immediate massive dividends like what we saw from Salah a year ago.
This long preparation process compared with an uneven debut won’t have me second-guessing the Fabinho purchase in the least. Based on the quality of players the side have signed in recent years, I would say that Klopp and co. deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to talent evaluation. The Fabinho signing will pay off eventually. It’s just a matter of time.