If ever fans needed a reminder of Fabinho’s true quality, then Sunday’s performance against Spurs was surely that reminder. The Brazilian was in inspired form, dictating play from deep, as well as contributing with crucial tackles and interceptions, receiving a rating of 7/10 from Sky Sports and they even compared him to Claude Makelele and N’Golo Kante.
However, what would happen if the defensive midfielder was sidelined with a long term injury? The answer seems simple – drop one of Liverpool’s midfielders into a deeper role and adapt. But the solution isn’t quite as simple as that. Fabinho’s role as the most withdrawn of Liverpool’s midfielders trio is crucial, as he possesses the ability pass as well as dominate aerially, something that nobody in the side arguably can do as well as the Brazilian can. Indeed, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum could certainly deputise admirably, but then you would be losing a crucial player in the advanced midfield positions, with Henderson’s goal against Spurs highlighting that.
Here then, lies the possible solution – Denis Zakaria. If Liverpool do make a move for a Fabinho understudy, then they won’t go far wrong in recruiting the Borussia Monchengladbach man. Zakaria is just 22 years old, meaning he has a great deal of potential moving forward, and will perhaps be more willing to act as an understudy in the short term. In addition to this, he is already one of Gladbach’s best performers so far this season, achieving a 7.36 Whoscored rating in the league alone.
The Switzerland international has played in every Bundesliga game so far this season, garnering an overall 83.7% pass completion. Just to put his stats into context, Fabinho has an 86.8% pass success percentage in the Premier League, as well as making 2.5 tackles, 1.3 interceptions and 1.5 dribbles per top-flight fixture. Zakaria’s stats are surprisingly quite impressive in those three specific areas as he pips the Brazilian for two of the three areas (2.6 tackles and 1.4 interceptions), which is quite astounding when you consider the fact he’s four years younger than the Liverpool man, albeit playing in arguably a weaker division in terms of the Bundesliga.
The young midfielder has started the season very well, but he still undoubtedly has some way to go until his level of performance is comparable with that of Fabinho’s. However, spending a season or two as the Brazilian’s understudy could be ideal for Zakaria, as it gives him somebody to learn from, on and off the pitch.
Indeed, the young midfielder certainly appears to have the foundations in place in terms of his stats in the Bundesliga this season and he’s made three appearances in the Europa League, so it’s not as he’d have to adjust to European football if he were to make the move, but obviously adjusting to the Premier League isn’t always easy, with Lazar Markovic being a perfect example of that.
For now, the links remain tenuous, but if Klopp does choose to bring in cover for Fabinho, then Zakaria certainly seems like a sensible option.