13 points clear atop the Premier League table, Club World Cup Champions and 4-nil winners over second-placed Leicester, Liverpool are flying at the moment.

Jürgen Klopp’s super team, however, are playing without one of their most important players, midfield destroyer Fabinho.

The Brazilian played a blinder for Liverpool in their biggest game of the season against Manchester City; opening the scoring with a fantastic long-range goal.

It was the sort of goal and performance that etched him in Liverpool folklore and the story of their title campaign. 

Unfortunately, in only the second game after the City performance; he would suffer ankle ligament damage in the Champions League tie 
against Napoli which ruled him out for two months.

Indeed, Fabinho’s absence threatened to devastate Liverpool’s title charge with December approaching. 

“There is nothing good to say about it. We are not 100% sure of the timeframe yet but it looks pretty sure he will not be involved in the Christmas fixtures. We have solutions for the position, we can replace him, we have played good without him and that’s all OK. It’s an opportunity for somebody else.” Were Klopp’s words at the time.
Ironically they have gone stronger since then and look every bit like Premier League Champions-in-waiting without the Brazilian.

Since losing Fabinho, The Reds have surpassed their club-record 31 league games unbeaten, secured qualification to the Champions League last 16 and lifted the Club World Cup in Qatar.

For further clarity, the Merseysiders have kept five clean sheets in the eight games involving the first team since Fabinho got injured.

Naby Keita has taken his chance with both hands. (AFP via Getty)

Naby Keïta has replaced Fabinho in the starting lineup and already looks past his Liverpool struggles. The Guinean scored against Bournemouth and RB Salzburg before netting the opener against Monterrey in the Club World Cup Semifinal.

He is currently on a run of five starts in the last six games and his dynamism at both ends of the pitch is proving a no-brainer in Liverpool’s winning run.

Against Leicester, the midfielder registered six dribbles -the most in the Liverpool team- ,won two fouls and created one chance. Without the ball, he made two interceptions and one tackle in 70 minutes. 

Captain Jordan Henderson has seemlessly taken to Fabinho’s role. (PA)
Replacing Fabinho’s role in the team, however, has been captain Jordan Henderson. Liverpool’s Mr. Durable has seamlessly shifted into the centre of the midfield three and has been admirable as well as inspiring.

His role is important in Klopp’s high-intensity philosophy as he mops up loose possession and keeps it ticking over in attacking areas. As emphatically evidenced by Leicester failing to register a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. 

Pertinently, the mastery of his role has helped Keïta to flourish alongside him in midfield.

Thus far, Fabinho’s absence reinforces Liverpool’s strength at both ends of the pitch in the form of Henderson and Keïta.

Liverpool enjoyed an Alexander-Arnold inspired win over Leicester. (Getty)
Their dominating 4-0 win at King Power Stadium had remarkable quality on show, they now have a 13-point gap from second with a game in hand. 

They might not have the largest squad, but Klopp has fantastic midfield depth that’s capable of executing their relentless gameplan.
The title is certainly theirs to lose now


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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