Liverpool never replaced Javier Mascherano.
It’s a simple and obvious statement to make but it’s a true reflection of the scarcity of the tenacious, commanding and cultured defensive midfielder. Every elite team has had this archetypal player, from Patrick Vieira to N’Golo Kante – they come in all shapes and sizes.
10 years on, we’ve witnessed a South-American second coming as Fabinho produced a masterful performance in a 4-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Some doubts lingered, as his performances post ankle injury were sub-standard but Fabinho has re-emerged from football’s three-month hiatus stronger than ever.
Completing 94 passes on Wednesday evening with an accuracy of 98%, the 26-year-old made it all the more impressive by averaging a 46% forward pass rate.
Considering that Henderson and Wijnaldum were the more forward, 13 passes in landing in the final third of the pitch shows he’s not afraid to create from deep.
As shown by the assist, the composure and strength to brush aside Jordan Ayew was that of a classic, brutish midfielder combined with the elegance and vision to spot Salah’s run and loft the ball into his path for an easy finish.
It’s this blend of styles that likens him to the former-Red Mascherano; Fabinho has certainly not lost the fire in his belly to stop the opposition. Six successful tackles from six attempts, four ball recoveries and three interceptions tells you everything you need to know.
He was instrumental to that performance in all aspects, with 109 touches putting him third in the Liverpool side to Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk – also eclipsing Andros Townsend, James McCarthy and Cheikhou Kouyate combined (98 touches – JMC and CK subbed at 66′).
All of this preceding that sensational strike 10 minutes after half-time. Taking the ball from 30 yards out and only having one idea in mind, put your laces through it and make sure it stays hit.
Drawing parallels to a similar Fabinho goal in the 3-1 win over Manchester City at Anfield, extending their lead to 12 points over their strongest rivals.
Liverpool had one hand on the trophy after that win, and ultimately this performance against Crystal Palace has reminded people why this team sits so comfortably at the top.
Almost poetically, Fabinho began the trajectory of this side in November and it continues to soar like that thunderbolt against Palace.
Liverpool’s ascent continues to travel in the right direction, their throne imperious and Fabinho currently occupies that seat with no heir in sight.