Fabinho fails to pass first big test for Liverpool
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In his biggest test yet in a Liverpool shirt, Fabinho flopped.
If there was ever a crash course in top-level Premier League football this was it Fabinho would testify to that.
Frenetic and frenzied, this clash between two of English football’s titans was — as you’d expect —played in overdrive. At times, it was all too much for the Brazilian.
Speaking in September, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp predicted the £43.7million arrival from Monaco might need six months to adapt to English football.
On this evidence, Klopp’s predication seems rather optimistic.
It wasn’t for the lack of work-rate, mind you. Fabinho was trying. Trying so very hard.
But sustaining such a work-rate and not allowing the quality to decline is the true mark of a top-level footballer.
Here at the Emirates, Fabinho had his work cut out in trying to keep up, let alone leave an emphatic mark on the encounter.
Prior to his start against Arsenal, his only other Premier League action was a 21-minute cameo against Huddersfield and 90 minutes against Cardiff last week.
Fabinho, welcome to the Premier League. Arsenal versus Liverpool is serious business — he knows that now.
With Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita returning from injury, Fabinho could well find himself on the sidelines in the not too distant future.
Having already been booked, Fabinho dodged a late red card after clattering into Mesut Ozil late in the second half. But that would have been unjust.
And, of course, it gets significantly easier than this. Not all opposition will be as good as Arsenal were. Indeed, under Unai Emery, the Gunners have shown vast improvement.
And Fabinho has now experienced firsthand what it takes to make the grade at Anfield. It’s up to him to prove he can make the necessary improvements in his game.
The 25-year-old was largely overshadowed in midfield by fellow South American Lucas Torreira, who is growing in stature with every appearance.
Since arriving from Sampdoria in the summer, the Uruguayan has been eased into English football. But since making his first Premier League start against Everton on September 23, he has been a revelation.
Ably assisted by Granit Xhaka, whose improvement under Emery is marked, Torreira helped the Gunners control the midfield for much of this game.
Terrier-like, the midfielder was relentless in his work-rate. Winning the ball back, or collecting it off his back four, before giving it to an attacking player.
All very simple. All very effective. Arsenal have been crying out for a central midfielder of his type for years.
If they had signed one earlier, perhaps a certain Frenchman might still be in the dugout at the Emirates.
And in the end, Torreira and his team got the point their performance deserved. Despite their 12-game unbeaten run — 11 of which were victories — the jury remained out on Emery’s Arsenal.
Those results came against teams they’d expect to beat. The two games against top-six opposition — Manchester City and Chelsea —they’ve lost both.
Liverpool was a test to see how far they have come under Emery. They passed it unequivocally.
Under Arsene Wenger, you would half expect Arsenal to cave in after James Milner had given Liverpool the lead. That isn’t the case any more.
Indeed, Torreira’s steel and doggedness in midfield is one of the keys to Arsenal’s newly discovered backbone.
The Uruguayan has raised his game since arriving in England. Fabinho must now follow suit.