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Fabinho can justify Liverpool transfer decision despite uncertain future – Paul Gorst


It would be stretching the fabric of reality to label events of the last week as Liverpool’s darkest hour.

But whatever your feelings about that hard-earned point away at Everton, events since that bad tempered clash have left the landscape looking a little bleak at Anfield.

The injury to Virgil van Dijk is one that could have severe ramifications for Jurgen Klopp and his aspirations this season.

There is patently no replacement for the £75million colossus and his potentially season-ending knee injury will undoubtedly weaken the champions going forward.

That is an unfortunate truth Liverpool have been forced to swallow.

To many, Van Dijk is one of the very best centre-halves to have to turned out for a club that has had its fair share of them down the years.

ACL surgery now awaits the Netherlands captain and an already threadbare defence is facing up to life without him at a time when the calendar is set to thicken with games.

But while the lamenting will go on for fans about the grey days that potentially await them, perhaps Liverpool’s lighthouse can brighten the scene?

It’s been a strange campaign already for Fabinho at Anfield.

Left on the bench for the first game of the season at home to Leeds, the Brazil international could only watch on as Marcelo Bielsa’s bold upstarts cut swathes through the Reds’ defensive rearguard.

He did, however, have a game-changing impact from the bench when he won the penalty which was belted home by hat-trick hero Mohamed Salah.

Eight days later, Fabinho was back in the side, but this time at the heart of a defence he hoped he wouldn’t have to directly lend his talents to that frequently.

With Joe Gomez and Joel Matip ruled out, Liverpool’s rook was moved backwards alongside Van Dijk and was instantly targeted as a result, not least by the jet-heeled Timo Werner.

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The versatile former Monaco man, who turned 27 on Friday, was excellent as he kept Chelsea’s big-money buys at bay in the 2-0 win.

Despite being primarily a defensive-minded midfielder, Fabinho’s particular skillset emboldened Klopp to steer clear of adding to his centre-back ranks in the market.

The Liverpool boss perhaps did not envision a scenario that would leave him without talisman Van Dijk for so long, but in his absence, it is time for others to assume the responsibility.

For Matip, he must first and foremost prove he is capable of playing regularly. An injury-hit 2020 means he has only completed 90 minutes once in over a year.

For Gomez, the personal challenge is for him to rediscover the form that helped make Liverpool’s defensive setup virtually impregnable between December and January of last season, when just two goals were shipped in 12 first-team games.

And for Fabinho, the gauntlet may be a little more stacked as he continues game to game not really knowing where his square peg fits.

One thing is clear, however, the 27-year-old is already prepared for what he has to do over the coming months.

“It’s not easy but I have to do a little bit what Virgil always does – talk to the team and try to be a leader,” he said after turning in a virtually flawless display in the Champions League win over Ajax.

“Of course, I’m not Virgil but I do my best and I will do my best.”

As Fabinho says, he is not Virgil van Dijk. No-one in world football can lay claim to being at a similar level.

But Liverpool’s “lighthouse” – a phrase first coined by assistant boss Pep Lijnders – is ready to step up to guide Klopp’s side home.

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